UFO Conjectures

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kenneth Arnold and the pelicans


Bona fide UFO researcher Jerome Clark coined an epithet for those who are skeptical about certain UFO sightings that ufologists deem authentic: pelicanists


Mr. Clark’s coinage comes about because one ufologist (James Easton) had the temerity to suggest Kenneth Arnold’s famous flying saucer sighting of June 24th, 1947 was of pelicans.

(Mr. Clark and other ufologists think Arnold actually saw alien spaceships. We’ve suggested elsewhere that Arnold saw a bevy of Navy test airplanes flying out of Whidbey Air Base in Washington State.)

Here is a drawing that Arnold made of his sighting:


Here is Fate magazine’s rendition of the Arnold sighting:


And here is a later version of what Arnold says he saw – we don’t know why Arnold altered his observation):


And here are some pictures of pelicans in flight:










And here is a map of pelican migration patterns:


Also, Mount Rainier (in the Cascades) is subject to temperature inversions, especially between the winter thaw and summer season (June).


Temperature changes at various mountain altitudes causes inversions (when he warm air bumps up against pockets of colder air), distorting observations through those inversions.

Here are two photos of Mount Rainier in June, with weather fronts that evoke inversions:



So while Jerry Clark, whom we respect and admire, has created a bon mot for the UFO skeptic – a barb that lesser UFO lights often employ – in the Arnold case, the suggestion that he (Arnold) saw a flock of pelicans, and mistook them for supersonic aircraft of alien design is not out of the question.


  • Yawwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn...I think they were actually flying snarks!

    Your aggorance and closed minded approach to this subject is appalling.

    Quit hiding behind the anonymity of the 'RRR Group'. Aren't you really representative of CSICOP instead? I read once where you chided someone for their anonimity yet you hide. Such hypocrisy. Why I might also think you Republicans!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, April 05, 2007  

  • Anonymous [sic]:

    Google the RRRGroup and you'll get more than you or anyone would like to know about us....some true, some not.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, April 05, 2007  

  • There are paintings showing craft
    in the sky..no interpretation and I'll cite it later if necessary..obvious metallic craft,
    from at least as early as the 16th century. These could be people's imaginations or they could not. Just like Arnold could have seen pelicans (ah ya...) or not. The point is that the UFO phenomenon did not start with this sighting. It has been recorded for thousands of years. Debunking (or attempting to) the Arnold case will not make the debate go away (so sorry.

    Oh by the way do you have any scientific evidence that inversion can distort a pelican to something the size of a small plane? He was reported to be pretty close during this observation. Possible and probable are two different things.

    Mark R.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, April 05, 2007  

  • Mark:

    Yes, UFOs exist and have been seen since time immemorial, we grant you that.

    What they are remains open to interpretation of course.

    As for Arnold, he changed his story many times, ran for political office, and capitalized on the episode for years.

    What he thought he saw is tainted by his vacillations.

    Were the "objects" as far away as he said? Were they traveling as fast as he calculated?

    We think he saw Navy prototypes, but the point of the pelican piece is to show that there are other possibilities.

    Ufologists weren't extant in June 1947 so none were around to "investigate" the sighting, as if they would have done anything valuable anyway, considering how they've botched almost every other UFO event and sighting they've set their sights on.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, April 05, 2007  

  • As a native of Washington State, who has a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier (from Enumclaw WA - Look it up, you will see how close we are), I can say unequivocally that this theory is pure balderdash.

    I have never seen a Pelican ANYWHERE in the area. Many other flocks of birds, yes...but a Pelican?

    You are showing your ignorance.

    By Blogger David M, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • jezlurkin:

    The migratory pattern allows for pelicans to pass through the Cascades.

    And the original James Easton hypothesis, beleagured by Jerry Clark, had accounts from pilots who've seen birds, in flight, that could be mistaken for UFOs.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • I agree with Jezlurkin. As a native of Washington State and having lived here for more than 46 years, I have never once seen a pelican or even heard of one being seen in Washington.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • Then, anonymous, who agrees with Jeslurkin, may we humbly suggest you Google pelicans and read about the white, brown, and other variety of the species, and their migratory patterns.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • Here's something to consider about Arnold's sighting: Arnold was a pilot, and like all pilots (I am one, and my father was one) he had to be used to observing the sky and his surroundings at all times. This doesn't mean his observational skills were infallible, simply that it had to be more or less second nature with him. The pilot who isn't observant and alert eventually runs into trouble. What has ALWAYS bothered me about the pelican theory is that Arnold saw these objects long enough to have finally REALIZED what they were, had they been something like pelicans or any other kind of birds. I can imagine a pilot being briefly fooled, momentarily puzzled, if an object or objects which should have been recognizable were NOT recognizable for whatever reason---be it temperature inversions or what have you... but for an experienced pilot to remain fooled long enough to make estimates as to speed, distance, etc., in the broad daylight... it just stretches credulity too much for me. I need to make this clear: I'm not saying pilots can't make mistakes. Of course they can. We're human. Once or twice I've seen things that look odd, in flight... but a few seconds of determined observation has always clarified the matter for me, and I realized I was looking at something commonplace that simply appeared unusual for a moment. Had Arnold been seeing merely a flock of pelicans, I think he would have realized it in the time he had to observe them (according to his story). I can even put myself in his mind; seeing these unusual objects, he would have thought, "what the hell is that?" And looked harder. But I can't imagine him not thinking, at some point (no matter how distorted they appeared) that those MUST be birds (if they WERE birds). It's just asking a bit much for us to believe that he could have stared that long at these things without having that realization come to him... HAD THEY BEEN BIRDS. That he did not (at least according to him) says to me rather that he did NOT see anything as commonplace as a flock of birds... OR that he did and for some reason decided to lie about it. Those are the two choices for me. He had ample time during the flight back to consider the matter. Even if at the point he concluded the observation he hadn't yet accepted totally what they were, he would have surely brought himself to the realization that what he'd seen was simply a flock of birds. "HAD to be," he would have thought. But instead he landed and reported unusual objects flying in an unusual manner, at unusual speeds. Pilots don't openly report such things lightly. Not just because they're afraid of ridicule or censure, but because it just isn't done unless one is sure. Arnold, it seems to me, was SURE of what he saw. That, or he simply flat-out lied. And why he would hoax something like this, I can't fathom. Though of course people do such things. But if we accept Arnold's veracity... then to me, the bird theory is shot full of... well, bird-shot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • Anonymous pilot:

    Your points are well-taken. We actually think Arnold saw aircraft, not UFOs or birds.

    The point of the pelican hypothesis is that is raises reasonable doubt (arguably).

    That is, the possibility is that Arnold mistook pelicans for flying saucers, and his later drawing seems to show that -- no UFO has ever been seen that replicates his boomerang (pelican-like) craft.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 06, 2007  

  • pelicans fly fast

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, April 09, 2007  

  • Blue Cheerios...

    Apparently they do.

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, April 09, 2007  

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