Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shag Harbour: From Obscurity to International Festival

Shag Harbour Sound LG
By Don Ledger
© 6-26-07

By Don Ledger (B)     The Shag Harbour Incident in October of 1967 was one of those cases that seemed to be a flash in the pan. There was a brief flurry of interest during the week following the reported “crash” of an unidentified flying object into the “Sound” in Shag Harbour; however it quickly faded into obscurity in the months after. The incident received some exposure in FATE magazine and the National Inquirer in 1968 and made an appearance in a comic book. It even made it into Dr. Edward U. Condon’s Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects commissioned by the United States Air force. The Shag Harbour Incident was listed as Case #34. It remained unsolved. Nonetheless the memory of the event faded from view in less than 14 months.

Shag Harbour Sign

Chris Styles became interested in the event in 1993, 26 years later and began an investigation. About 14 months later he introduced me to the case and eventually we wrote a book about it titled Dark Object-by Don Ledger and Chris Styles. It was published in 2001; forwarded by Whitley Strieber. The incident regained momentum once the book was published and its authors began appearing in various documentaries and lectured about the Shag Harbour Incident in Canada and the United States. Year by year the incident in Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia has become more deeply entrenched in that lexicon known as the UFO phenomenon and like Roswell, Kecksburg and Rendlesham it is recognized around the world.

In Shag Harbour some of the citizens began to promote the incident as a matter of local pride in an event that put the little community on the world stage. Cindy Nickerson among others raised awareness by holding an event every two years or so beginning in 2001 - the year Dark Object was published - on or near the anniversary date of October 4. It celebrated the book and the event for the first time.

Cindy Nickerson is the Post Master of the Shag Harbour Post Office. She was instrumental in getting Canada Post to sanction and print a cancellation stamp commemorating the Shag Harbour UFO Incident, which is still available today. The annual event was arranged by Cindy and the other members of the Shag Harbour UFO Incident Society in order to support an interpretation center – museum - in Shag Harbour and provide local businesses with tourist dollars. The primary source of employment in Shag Harbour is derived from inshore and offshore fishing with the spin-off industries associated with that industry, principally fish or seafood processing.

For the first time it has been decided to hold the Shag Harbour UFO Incident Festival in the summer rather than the fall. It will be held on August 8 and 9 with the 8th being festival day while the 9th will be dedicated to the Shag Harbour UFO Symposium.


Not everyone is familiar with the Shag Harbour UFO Incident so perhaps a “brief” review of the events that took place on the night October 4, 1967 is in order.

The skies in southwestern Nova Scotia had been “active” that evening. A few dozen UFO reports had come into local agencies either that night or in the days and weeks that followed. Some of them did not come to light for nearly 30 years.

The weather in Shag Harbour was good. The skies were clear, the winds calm and the air cool; there was no Moon. It was approximately 11:20 pm local. A dozen people were in place in various locales surrounding Shag Harbour and had their attention diverted to the sky and a sequence of 4 to 5 flashing amber or gold flashing lights arranged in a straight line.

Laurie Wickens, 18 and a fisherman, his friend and their girl friends were returning from Cape Sable Island some 13 miles to the east. They spotted the lights at a low altitude on the right side of their vehicle as they traveled west toward Shag Harbour. The lights passed their car and proceeded westward while Wickens increased the vehicle’s speed to keep the lights in sight. They passed through the tiny fishing community and were a mile or so outside of that area when the lights turned to their left and tilted downward at a steep angle and appeared to be about to crash into the water. They lost sight of the lights behind the tree line for a few seconds until they came out on a stretch of road that very close to the water’s edge. They pulled onto the gravel parking lot of what was then an Irish Moss Plant. They went to the shore and watched a pale yellow light either drifting with the ebbing tide or under its own power. The light was about 800 feet from the shoreline.

Wickens and the others were convinced that this was a light on a crashed airplane, perhaps an airliner, so they drove another half-mile further down the highway to Lower Woods Harbour to a payphone at a gas station. Wickens contacted RCMP Corporal Victor Werbicki at the Barrington Detachment and reported what they had seen. Werbicki asked Wickens if he had been drinking to which Wickens, miffed, replied he had not. Werbicki’s other phone began to ring so he got the payphone number from Wickins and told him to stay put. Werbicki received several phone calls in quick succession from various witnesses who thought they had seen an airplane crashing in the Sound or in the vicinity of Shag Harbour. He now took the report seriously and made a radio call recalling two of his constables who were on patrol; Ron O’Brian and Ron Pond back to the detachment. He then called Wickens back and told him to go back to the Irish Moss Plant and keep an eye on the light.

Two witnesses who did not report the incident were Norm Smith and Dave Kendrick who were also returning from the same function on Cape Sable Island. [Note: Cape Sable Island is about a half mile from the mainland and is connected to it by a causeway]. The spotted the lights as well but Kendricks went home after dropping off Smith who spotted the lights again, woke his father and showed him the lights as they dipped down toward the harbour not far away. They decided to drive over there fearing a airplane crash.

The area next to the little Moss Plant was getting crowded with vehicles including the three Mounties. They observed the light on the water which one RCMP Telex stated appeared to be a Dark Object on the water’s surface about 60 feet wide by ten feet high displaying a pale yellow light drifting further away from shore. While concerns mounted for possible survivors of what was assumed to be an airplane crash the light extinguished raising further concerns that it might have sunk.

Werbicki went in search of phone to contact some of the local fisherman about using their boats for a rescue attempt while Const. O’Brian contacted the rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in Halifax, the Capital City of Nova Scotia. Two fishermen, Lawrence Smith and Bradford (Brath) Shand volunteered their 35 foot cape Island Fishing boats and just after midnight the Mounties, the witnesses and others were motoring out of the western entrance to Shag Harbour and across the sound in the presumed area of the stricken “airliner” their eyes peeled for the sign of b survivors, bodies or wreckage. Instead they found a slick of foam about 80 feet wide, a half-mile long and 3-5 inches thick floating on the surface of the water. Smith and Shand were not fussy about sailing into it but had no choice considering the circumstances. The foam had the consistency foam shaving cream but with a glittery gold surface. Attempts at picking some of it up were met with only wet hands and arms. The fishermen are insulted by comments that this was natural sea foam. “Jesus Christ, no by’ (local for boy)”, Norm Smith stated emphatically nearly 30 years later when Chris Styles and myself interviewed him. Somehow he had been missed as a witness. He stated that he had seen sea foam all of his life and this stuff was nothing like it. At the time they assumed it had been the result of some chemical reaction of jet fuel or aviation gas to seawater. Their nerves were in knots, each of the impromptu search party convinced they were going to find bodies in various states of trauma due to an airplane crash. They searched for more than an hour. Coast Guard Cutter 101 from Clarks Harbour on Cape Sable Island arrived on the scene about an hour into the search. They had a report from RCC, Halifax for Const. Ron O’Brian. “No aircraft, private, commercial or military had been reported missing anywhere along the eastern seaboard of Canada or the northern United States. This news quickly spread through the fleet of 6 fishing boats now present. Their crews were deeply puzzled. “What the heck were they looking for then?”

Over the next few days the searching continued. Royal Canadian Navy divers were brought in from the Fleet Diving Unit in Halifax to search the bottom of the Sound. By Saturday the conservative newspaper, the Halifax Chronicle Herald-Mail Star reported with glaring red, 2 inch high headlines Could Be Something Concrete in Shag Harbor UFO-RCAF. The RCAF was the Royal Canadian Air Force and it was the RCAF’s Air Desk in Canada’s Capital City of Ottawa that first called this Dark Object a UFO in one of their Canadian Forces Action Orders CFAO 71-6 UFO reporting forms a UFO.

The divers were ordered to stay on site to search fro evidence on the bottom of the Sound until they were released on Sunday October 8 even though they were convinced on the 6th that there was nothing down there.

By Monday morning things were settling back to normal in Shag Harbour but the fishermen would not sail through the waters near where the foam had been spotted on their way to their fishing grounds.

What happened the night of the 4th and through until the 8th is the beginning of one of the most bizarre events in UFO history the Shag Harbour portion of which is supported by government documents, newspaper articles and live (on film) television coverage. There is too much to cover here but essentially the events at Shag Harbour spread northeastward and covered a period of seven days, almost to the hour.

This UFO event and others will be presented at the Annual Shag Harbour UFO Incident Festival in Shag Harbour as noted above. See the roster of speakers at the official website. The southwestern region of Nova Scotia is littered with mysterious little coves and replete with history extending back to the 1400s. The people are friendly and the seafood is delicious.

See you there!

Don Ledger - Symposium organizer.

1 comment :

  1. Don!

    Congrats and kudos! I'll be checking the mailbox for my first class ticket so I can attend and read my Vogon poetry! [g].
    >> AVG Blog --
    >>> U F O M a g a z i n e --


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