Something[s] odd went on in New Zealand in late 1969. DATA-NET was getting reports on the happenings and even an insider comment once in a while. Did these things have anything to do with UFOs?? You can read, explore further, and decide. Whatever resulted in this weirdness, here's the DATA-NET "data" ready or not.
The phenomenology is "traces". The groundmarkings were unquestionably real. The mystery is what caused them. This is a larger issue than in most UFO incidents since in these cases almost never was a UFO seen.
A preliminary bit of "history": New Zealand was not exactly a hot-bed of UFO activity. The extremely interesting Blenheim CE3 ["Mrs. Moreland"] case had occurred about a decade earlier , and the famous lights photographed from the plane case [over Kaikoura] not until about a decade later . The ground markings hullaballoo was almost in the middle.
Northeast Australia had a groundmarkings miniflap in 1966 [the "Tully Nests"]. Western Australia had a miniflap of sightings in 1967. The Tully story "had legs" and continued to make news now and then through the 1969 period [with a conspiracy-like story, reported in DATA-NET]. A camera, mounted at the site, had photographed activity at the spot on two occasions in 1968. The film had been sent to the Melbourne Kodak lab for processing. The film can had been returned empty with a note that this is how they received it.
Since the film had been witnessed as being included originally by the Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau, no one believed this, and the matter was referred to the police. Upon investigation, the UFOlogists were ultimately informed that the film was actually in the possession of the Department of the Interior, and that they should forget the whole affair.
Also, possibly related to the Tully affair, a couple of decades later, two old reprobates [ "Doug and Dave" ], now having moved to England, said that they had done most of the early English crop-circles, just as they had done crude circles at Tully earlier. What level of reality lies in this, who knows? All we can clearly say is that they are jerks.
In late 1968, a driver made testimony that a UFO had swept down on his car near Napier, NZ and nearly caused him to have a serious crash. This case had a great deal of publicity as insurance claims were involved. But things were fairly quiet until the fall, when the "circles" began to make news. There are two distinct cases which can be casually confused: the Ngatea Circle of September 1969, and the Puketutu Nests, beginning in October 1969. The picture above is of Puketutu. We will begin however with Ngatea.
The Ngatea Circle was discovered on September 4th, the same day that an "in air" case was reported by two pilots and a radar detection. All the latter says is that there was some UFO activity possibly going on. Later it was stated that some UFO was seen in the actual area of the later-discovered circle in August of 1969. Whatever the UFO-relation, the trace was not discovered in relation to any UFO sighting directly, but rather on a routine inspection by the owner of a seldom-visited part of the property. [The remaining illustrations for the blog today are all of the Ngatea situation: they are from a well-done report by UFOCUS New Zealand website, and I recommend reading of several of the classic NZ sightings there].
DATA-NET's coverage of this began with a September 14th news story. It stated that the farmer "found a 60' circle of native manuka trees with their tips burned as if blasted when something took off". A field investigation had already taken place and a professional "horticulturalist" brought in to study the plants. The horticulturalist was stated as saying that the plants had been damaged by shortwave electromagnetic radiation. If true, this would mean X-rays or Gamma rays. Within the damaged circle were found "indentations" or holes spaced in a triangle 9' on a side. Something like "toes" protruded from these holes to about five feet. Naturally, the UFO group was speculating that a UFO had landed here, left pod-marks on the ground, and damaged the vegetation by its forces generated in take-off and/or landing.
The second DATA-NET article report came from October 7th. "Radiation Cooks Area of Scrub". Here we learn the name of the horticultural scientist, John Stuart-Menzies, and the statement that the manuka scrub has been "cooked instantaneously from the inside out". This has left a bleached 42' diameter circle wherein "every ounce of moisture in the plants had been instantaneously vaporized". Stuart-Menzies continues to believe that this was short-wave radiation, although I can't see why microwaves aren't plenty good enough for this. A side comment stated that the area had increased radioactivity. The pod-marks were better described as V-shaped grooves in a perfect triangle. It was said that members of the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research were investigating samples of plants and turf at the moment.
In the meantime, Puketutu appeared on October 8th, adding yeast to the plot. But more about that later.
In November [n.d.] DATA-NET got another article/report. Here it was stated that John Stuart-Menzies himself had tested the manuka with a geiger counter and found increased radioactivity. The plants had been found to be "bone dry and brittle", which he said was very unusual as such a state takes a long time in natural conditions. More puzzling was the fact that "The cells in the medullary rays were burst by the sudden vaporisation of cell sap." It is at this point that Stuart-Menzies says that this is like microwave cooking of meals "but on an enormous scale". Even more puzzling than that [at least to me] was that "the energy received has reduced the pith to black carbon, without the outside showing any signs of burning". This whole business reminds me strongly of the enigma faced by Ed Ruppelt when he brought back the plant samples from the Desverges case and had cooking-of-roots-under-the-soil on his hands. Ruppelt was never able to shake that mystery.
Another DATA-NET article of November 5th again repeated Stuart-Menzies' claims, but said that government scientists were writing the marking off to "saprophytic fungus". The farmer said that he knew perfectly well what such fungus results looked like and that the government "solution" was baloney. Other people claimed that the marks were due to pig rooting, which the farmer poo-pooed. An actual government bulletin was released stating that the effect was caused by a virus.
One of the more interesting things to me about the DATA-NET coverage was that the ham operator in New Zealand turned out to know Stuart-Menzies through an agricultural organization to which both belonged, and gave him a good competency rating. This ham-operator stated that the general area of the marking has been a somewhat frequent area for UFO incidents in the past. He also cited two automobile cases, one which was a scary stalker type, and the other an engine stopper. He then made a sarcastic remark about "viruses" stopping truck engines. The case resulted in press coverage like the headline below.
The "other" case was Puketutu. As remarked above, the first finding of such a mark in that area was October 8th. DATA-NETs primary article on this was from October 16th. It stated that a mysterious circle of blackened water plants was found "near Te Kuiti". These NZ cases were often located by differing names [just to confuse us, I guess]. Once again, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was "on the case". They would test for cause of death and radioactivity.
The farmer involved was Charles Blackmore. He found a 15' diameter circle of the weed, dead, and "appears to have been burnt, pressed down, and spread outwards in a spiral pattern". Animals were shunning the area, both birds and cattle. Even the lake's frogs were no longer in evidence. Blackmore himself reported a continuous headache since discovering the circle.
Another DATA-NET article said that Blackmore's cattle "suddenly turned and rushed away" when he was herding them to the spot. His dog would also not drink there --- an unusual behavior for it. Although that's all the information [so far anyway] that I've seen in DATA-NET through this time period, other resources indicate that Blackmore had an unusual cattle behavior incident on January 14th, 1970 [a neighbor did too] followed by discovery of another circle, and discovered a third circle [rotated plants flattened clockwise] on September 13th, 1970. Sometime in the winter, Blackmore himself saw a 20' diameter UFO in the air on his property.
Regarding other NZ stuff: it was stated that sometime between Ngatea and Puketutu, a farmer saw two bright orbs of light following in line in the Kaharoa area. Shortly an enigmatic ground marking was found by another farmer of the area. Two circles were of burnt grass. A third circle actually straddled a fence leaving the fence itself unmarked. And, in non-circular news [not reported in DATA-NET but in FSR], on October 30th, 1969, three different residents of the Waipukurau area had UFO encounters independently. One was a close encounter with a 60' diameter disk, one was of a "circular" object which was placed so as to indicate that it was very likely the same UFO seen from a different perspective, and one was of a non-UFO observation, but a severe simultaneous animal disturbance which woke the sheep farmer and forced him to go out to investigate. All three of these things happened in the same area at about 3am.
So, what was going on down under in 1968-1970?? The UFOs, if such they were, were being unusually "private" about their business and making life tough for weeds on farms without even showing themselves off for the human audience. Pretty weird, says I.