The UFO age is usually said to have begun when an Idaho businessman, Kenneth Arnold, reported seeing some anomalous objects near Mount Rainier on 24 June 1947 whilst searching for a missing aeroplane. His description of their motion as being “like a saucer would if you skipped it over water” led to the inspired newspaper reporter Bill Becquette dubbing the objects ‘flying saucers’, despite the fact that Arnold saw them as crescent shaped, with wings but no tails, resembling bats. Although it is now tolerably certain that what Arnold saw were pelicans or geese (see the detailed analysis by James Easton archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine), the sighting caught the popular imagination and over the next few months, huge numbers of sightings were reported, many of which conformed precisely to the shape of an upturned saucer, something Arnold had not described. Arnold’s claims about the objects – that they were 37 km (23 miles) away, flying at 2100 to 2750 kph (1300 to 1700 mph) and each were two-thirds the length of a nearby DC-4 – was based on his mistaken observation that the objects passed behind a peak close to Mt Rainier, whereas the birds had more than likely become invisible against it. Nevertheless, acceptance of his estimates indicated that the objects showed a technology completely unknown on the earth. The ET hypothesis – in which the ‘flying saucers’ were portrayed as extraterrestrial technology – was born.
Last updated 9 December 2006