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Meet the two Australian women chasing UFOs across the outback

In recent years, NASA has admitted that we may not be alone in the universe, but two Australian women who’ve been investigating strange lights in the sky for decades already knew that.

In March last year, a Queensland woman drove north towards Charleville. It was a hot, still afternoon — a clear 37°C degree day with no hint of a breeze. The long road ahead was deserted but, up in the sky, something caught the woman’s eye. An eerie, vast, green solid mass, about 50 metres long, was travelling towards her at speed.

“At first, she thought it was a giant plague of locusts, but it seemed too high and the edges of this shape were sharp. She described it as a huge, mint-green plume shape, similar to a teardrop,” explains Sheryl Gottschall, a veteran investigator with UFO Research Queensland. The volunteer organisation has been running for 65-plus years and records and researches possible UFO sightings.

“As it came towards her, a powerful burst of wind suddenly blew her vehicle clear onto the other side of the highway. She quickly steered back onto the correct side of the road and as she gripped the steering wheel, she heard a crackling, sprinkling noise going over the roof of her car. She could hear it above the engine and air conditioning.”

The strange green mass passed over the woman’s car at a speed she’d never seen – she estimates it was travelling at “thousands of kilometres” per hour. “It was there one second and gone the next, without leaving any trail,” adds Sheryl.

Sheryl has been a UFO hunter 35 years.

In Charleville, the shaken driver reported the incident to police and at the council offices but there had been no similar reports that day.

“She was adamant that it wasn’t a whirlwind or her imagination. There was no space junk expected that day because space junk is tracked, and weather reports show there was no lightning,” says Sheryl.

While shocked by what she’d seen, the woman had the presence of mind to collect some of the strange green residue on her car with paper towels. Those samples are currently being analysed by scientists in Australia and the US. Initial results have confirmed that the residue contains a copper-barium alloy that “exhibited an unknown origin or standard arrangement ratio which is somewhat surprising and unexplained”. Scientists said it was unlikely it had come from a meteor and further analysis is being undertaken.

Reports like these don’t surprise Sheryl who has been investigating potential UFO sightings across Australia for 35 years. As a kid in Brisbane’s suburbs, she remembers staring at the stars and wondering if there were other life forms out there. She’s gained her investigative skills through on-the-ground experience and many hours of recording and studying strange phenomena.

“My family were not interested at all but when I got my first job, I bought magazines about space and aliens. My former in-laws were also interested in the subject and nurtured my curiosity,” she says.

A witness sketch of a UFO appearance at Tweed City.

“When I began researching, there was a lot of ridicule and people were uncomfortable talking about their experiences. Attitudes have changed a lot since scientists have talked about the possibility of other life in the universe. The credibility of witnesses coming forward now, such as high-ranking military officers, is also having an impact.”

Moira McGhee is a long-time volunteer UFO researcher and an author of books on the subject. She has been documenting cases since the mid-1970s and has been a member of the British UFO Research Association, the Australian Centre of UFO Studies, and the international Mutual UFO Network or MUFON. Run by a mix of interested and curious lay volunteers and scientists, the organisations have been an important part of keeping the debate around the potential existence of UFOs alive.

Moira co-founded UFO Research NSW, an organisation of interested volunteers and scientists who record sightings and seek to explain what witnesses report. Moira grew up in Wales, in the UK, and even as a child was fascinated by stars and space.

“We lived on an isolated dairy farm with no gas or electricity and my nighttime entertainment was looking at the stars with Dad. He’d show me different constellations and I’d wonder what was up there,” recalls Moira, who now lives in regional NSW.

After her family migrated to Australia, Moira worked within government but in her spare time, she became a respected UFO hunter and investigator.

Moira has been a UFO hunter since the 1970s, following strange lights across Australia since the 1970s.

“I think five or ten percent of reported cases are genuinely unidentified – others can be explained by satellites, space junk or aircraft,” she says. “Venus can sometimes be very bright and people mistake that for a UFO.

“But then there are sightings of objects moving incredibly fast and performing manoeuvres that aren’t possible for a human pilot. After all these years of investigating, I am certain there is something.”

Nobody knows exactly how many people across Australia witness unexplainable sightings in the sky. Sheryl receives about 100 reports a year but says many go unreported, often because people fear ridicule. When Moira began investigating in the mid-1970s, there was no internet so she’d travel to sites to gather evidence and talk to eyewitnesses.

“If we had a sighting or UFO landing, I’d gather photographic evidence and check any markings on the ground for radiation,” she recalls. “I’d talk with air traffic control to see what was in the skies in the area at that time and I’d call meteorologists to check if any weather events could explain what people saw. I have filing cabinets filled with a few thousand reports.”

One case that stands out for her took place in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast and involved mass sightings around Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1995.

“I received a call from the local newspaper and the Gosford Police, so some colleagues and I went to Gosford to speak to witnesses,” Moira tells The Weekly. “I thought I might get a dozen witnesses but the sailing club where we set up was absolutely packed. Everyone reported a cigar-shaped object hovering over the Broadwater. Dogs were barking, people were running out of their homes and this object was humming and hovering.

“A grandmother told me that, on that New Year’s Eve night, she sent her grandson to the pub to get some beer and he didn’t come home. Finally, he arrived at her house much later with two police officers who said they’d found him unconscious in the park. His wallet was untouched and so was the beer and he couldn’t remember what had happened.”

But in that family’s home at five o’clock the next morning there was a strange humming and vibration throughout the house. Unnerved by what they had seen and heard, the family fled. There were hundreds of witnesses to the events in Gosford during that time and there is no explanation for the mass sightings.

A Gosford police officer, Sergeant Bob Wenning, was on duty at the time and later said that the station received dozens of calls from locals reporting similar sightings.

“All the people that I spoke to had exactly the same thing to say, there was no variance whatsoever in the object that was sighted,” he said. People described a huge, shiny ball-shaped object with white lights.

In another case west of Gosford, Moira and a fellow investigator received a call from a woman who said that she’d gone onto her front veranda for a quiet cigarette and had seen an illuminated craft in the sky.

“It hovered over some trees and then crashed into the gully below her. She called us and I travelled to her home and we went to where she said this object had crashed. There was no debris but all the moisture had been drained from the trees. A strange column of mist also rose up from the site for a couple of days,” says Moira.

Sheryl also uses a process of elimination to investigate reports. She checks online information, such as the location of the International Space Station and scientific, astronomical and weather data. She has been left with a series of intriguing cases that she can’t explain.

One of her most striking investigations was in the mid 1990s at Twin Towns RSL on the Gold Coast.

“Two gentlemen were standing outside the RSL Club one night, having a cigarette, when they saw a massive, disc-shaped object appear about 100 metres offshore. It sat about 50 metres above the water,” says Sheryl.

“One of the men was an artist and he sketched what he saw. They could see the moonlight shining on the object, picking up different facets. It hovered and hovered for a while and then suddenly took off. But as it did so, it silently flew through the nearby multi-storey buildings. The witness said it cut through those buildings ‘like they were butter’.”

n July 2023, a former US Department of Defence official belonging to the Pentagon’s task force on UFOs made headlines when he told a congressional hearing, under oath, that the US military have “absolutely” recovered crashed UFO debris, including “non-human” biological material. David Grusch, a former US Air Force Major and intelligence officer in the US government’s highly secretive Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) Task Force, revealed he was aware of a secret “multi-decade UAP cash retrieval and reverse engineering program” in the USA.

During the same hearing, Commander David Fravor of the US Navy described his own encounter with a white Tic-Tac-shaped object over the Pacific Ocean in 2004 when he was a fighter pilot. Fravor and three other pilots saw an unidentified aircraft manoeuvre and travel at supersonic speeds. He described the craft’s design as “superior to any known human technology”.

However, there is still scepticism in some scientific circles about whether life exists elsewhere in the universe – let alone life that has the know-how and inclination to traverse the vast distances required to visit earth. For decades, the SETI Institute in Silicon Valley has been using the latest technologies to search for signs of extra-terrestrial life and, as yet, has found “no clear indications of life, past or present, beyond the Earth”.

SETI does add, however, that “we live in a galaxy with several hundred billion stars, and there are approximately 2 trillion other galaxies in the part of the universe we can see. It would be extraordinary if we were the only thinking beings in all these vast realms”.

Popular astrophysicist, Brian Cox, believes that while microbial life might be common throughout the universe, intelligent life is probably scarce. “It took the best part of four billion years to go from the origin of life on earth to a civilisation,” he told the BBC. “That’s a third of the age of the universe … So life like us may be extremely rare.”

If that’s the case and these sightings and events are not alien spacecraft, what else might they be? A NASA UAP discussion panel in 2023 said that, while not all seemingly strange sightings can be explained, most reports involve aircraft, weather balloons or natural weather events that cause “observational misconceptions”.

This lingering scepticism does not, however, deter UFO hunters Sheryl and Moira and other investigators across Australia.

“I think UFOs are interested in our technology and I think they are also taking DNA samples because there are many reports of people being abducted and waking with strange markings. Are they harvesting our cells?” asks Sheryl.

“I think it’s possible that as our own technology has advanced, we’ve appeared on other radars out there and these other species are studying us to discover what kind of neighbour we are.”

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