This sighting took place in September 1997 while travelling home from windsurfing on an inland lake in South Africa. The journey took us past the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) buildings on the periphery of the city of Pretoria which we passed on our left. It was dusk and we were travelling in a southerly direction home towards Johannesburg.
My son (who is now a military instructor pilot and captain in the air force) and my wife were present while I was driving, with my son sitting on my left. My attention was drawn to what appeared a very tall tower of stacked disks ahead of us, slightly off to the right of the road, this tower conically tapered towards the bottom disk, i.e. the diameter of the top disk was largest and bottom smallest.
The time taken from first sighting to passing the tower orthogonally to our right was approximately five minutes at a driving speed of some 120 km/h, resulting in a distance estimate of about 10 km.
Each disk was dimly glowing with a reddish evenly distributed light and its equatorial circumference contained several bright orange light sources, about six or seven of these visible on each disk.
We mentioned the phenomenon to each other and began to discuss possible explanations. In order to test that this was not due to some internally reflective optical effect (I was reasonably convinced that it could not be, anyway, but wanted to be as objectively scientific in the observation as possible) I opened the driver’s window and looked at the “tower” from outside – confirming that it was an external, “real” phenomenon – this was further supported by seeing our progressive approach to it and its growing apparent dimensions in our perspective.
We observed that “disks” would periodically, at regular intervals, detach from the bottom of the tower and “fly,” move off, in different directions – some would take approximately parallel courses, others would vary radically in their relative direction to previous disks. Although we followed the flight of these departing disks in some direct, and thereafter peripheral vision, our primary attention stayed with the “tower”.
We observed somewhere between ten to fifteen disks depart this way but did not feel motivated to make an accurate count – continually we had to balance our sense of “reality” against what we were seeing and it was to say the least, an unsettling and surely disturbing phenomenon – it was not easily intellectually digestible. Although the “tower” remained apparently stationary, the disks that flew off certainly appeared to be under intelligent, if not pre-programmed, stochastically robotic control.
Knowing that four parallel fingers of one hand at arm’s reach span about ten degrees I measured the apparent height of the tower shortly after sighting at about thirty-five degrees at the estimated ten kilometers – resulting in an estimated height of 7 km – this result did not surprise me due to the enormity of the “tower” and the time taken to approach and pass it.
The top disk easily spanned four parallel, vertically held fingers, which after some rough trig. works out to an estimated diameter of at least 1,7 km. The bottom disk of the “tower” was some ten degrees above ground, which would put it at 1,8 km altitude – and a resulting “total tower height of approximately 5,2 km. These are of course estimates but I would guarantee them as being within 20% of the true dimensions.
No unusual sound was heard that would have apparently emitted from the “tower” or individual disks during the entire event. No electronic / electromechanical or physiological disturbance was noted, beyond the induced emotional effects of the sighting.
The orthogonal distance to our right as we passed the tower was difficult to judge due to the effect of it seeming to “float” and the near-to-medium foreground under the apparent position of the “tower” drifting in the opposite direction of our travel underneath it. There was no clear relating landmark or beacon that I could later use as distance reference.
We mutually confirmed that we were seeing what we apparently were seeing – during this time the road was quite busy and we could tell from sideways glances, that the occupants of passing cars, and those we passed, were also all looking, and some pointing to the phenomenon – this, believe it or not, was an important objective confirmation to us.
I reported this sighting the next day to personnel at the Johannesburg Planetarium (some of whom I knew personally, having done a course in Astronomy and also having bought a 4″ Newtonian reflector telescope from them years earlier) There was little and if any, skeptical interest – further, I did not hear of any follow up, either privately or via the media.
I am not interested in publicity at all – but think that responsible reporting and thorough follow-up investigation is vital in such cases. My personal opinion is that reporting subjects should be willing to voluntarily submit to polygraph testing with regard to the reported content of sightings – such not only to support the verity and facticity of their reports, but more importantly to support a body of reliable evidence.
I would certainly be willing to submit to any verification supporting procedures.
In conclusion it may appear strange that we did not drastically slow our speed or even stop – this was however a high-speed freeway and stopping is not allowed except in emergency; further we wanted to remain in the right-hand lane, incidentally the fastest, as the “tower” was clearly going to pass on our right. The apparantly slow speed of our approach to the phenomenon was another reason motivating the maintenance of our road-speed.
One emphatically expressed opinion that I will eternally remember being uttered as we passed the tower and we observed another disk departing was: “My God, it’s a mothership and those are ‘daughter-disks’…” Whether that sentiment was anywhere near an accurate assessment we may of course never know.
I would be interested if any party who witnessed this specific event as well, or has seen a similar phenomenon, would supply their view and sighting report.