The Shag Harbour UFO Incident was the reported impact of an unknown large object into waters near Shag Harbour, a tiny fishing village in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on October 4, 1967.
The impact was investigated by various civilian (Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Coast Guard) and military (Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force) agencies of the Government of Canada. The RCN conducted at least one underwater search to attempt to locate the remains of any associated objects. The Government of Canada declared that no known aircraft was involved and the source of the impact remains unknown to this day. It is one of very few cases where government agency documents have formally declared an unidentified flying object was involved. Several military witnesses that were interviewed, including a RCN diver involved in the search, have claimed an alien spacecraft was responsible.It was also claimed by several of the witnesses that units of the United States armed forces were involved in the search. The case was also briefly investigated by the U.S. Condon Committee UFO study, which offered no explanation.
On the night of October 4, 1967, at about 11:20 p.m. Atlantic Daylight Time, it was reported that something had crashed into the waters of the Gulf of Maine near Shag Harbour. At least eleven people saw a low-flying lit object head towards the harbour. Multiple witnesses reported hearing a whistling sound “like a bomb,” then a “whoosh,” and finally a loud bang. The object was never officially identified, and was therefore referred to as an unidentified flying object (UFO) in Government of Canada documents. The Canadian military became involved in a subsequent rescue/recovery effort. The initial report was made by local resident Laurie Wickens and four of his friends. Driving through Shag Harbour on Highway 3, they spotted a large object descending into the waters off the harbour. Attaining a better vantage point, Wickens and his friends saw an object floating 250 m (820 ft) to 300 m (980 ft) offshore in the Gulf of Maine. Wickens contacted the RCMP detachment in Barrington Passage and reported he had seen a large airplane or small airliner crash into the Gulf of Maine.
Search and rescue efforts
Assuming an aircraft had crashed, within about 15 minutes, three RCMP officers arrived at the scene. Concerned for survivors, the RCMP detachment contacted the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Halifax to advise them of the situation, and ask if any aircraft were missing. Before any attempt at rescue could be made, the object started to sink and disappeared from view.
A rescue mission was quickly assembled. Within half an hour of the crash, local fishing boats went out to the crash site in the waters of the Gulf of Maine off Shag Harbour to look for survivors. No survivors, bodies or debris were located, either by the fishermen or by a Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue cutter, which arrived about an hour later from nearby Clark’s Harbour.
By the next morning, RCC Halifax had determined that no aircraft were missing. While still tasked with the search, the captain of the Canadian Coast Guard cutter received a radio message from RCC Halifax that all commercial, private and military aircraft were accounted for along the eastern seaboard, in both Atlantic Canada and New England.
The same morning, RCC Halifax also sent a priority telex to the “Air Desk” at Royal Canadian Air Force headquarters in Ottawa, which handled all civilian and military UFO sightings, informing them of the crash and that all conventional explanations such as aircraft, flares, etc. had been dismissed. Therefore this was labeled a “UFO Report.” The head of the Air Desk then sent another priority telex to the Royal Canadian Navy headquarters concerning the “UFO Report” and recommended an underwater search be mounted. The RCN in turn sent another priority telex tasking Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic with carrying out the search.
Two days after the incident had been observed, a detachment of RCN divers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic was assembled and for the next three days they combed the seafloor of the Gulf of Maine off Shag Harbor looking for an object. The final report said no trace of an object was found.
Alleged military search near Shelburne
While the official story of the incident ends here, further evidence attributed to various military and civilian witnesses might imply a highly secretive military search involving a small flotilla of Royal Canadian Navy and United States Navy ships about 50 km (31 mi) northeast of Shag Harbour near Shelburne (see map above), site of HMCS Shelburne, a top secret submarine detection base jointly operated by both navies as part of the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS).
According to one military witness, he was allegedly briefed that the object had originally been picked up on radar coming out of Siberia. After crashing in Shag Harbour, it traveled underwater up the coast and came to rest on top of a submarine magnetic detection grid reportedly located off Shelburne, where it was supposedly joined by a second vehicle. Navy ships were allegedly anchored off HMCS Shelburne‘s facilities at Government Point for a week, according to the witnesses, in an attempt to recover the object. A barge was said to have been brought in from the United States to assist in the recovery, as reported by another military witness. Regional newspaper stories did mention a barge with “atomic furnaces” being brought to the government wharf at Shelburne Harbour on October 6 for emergency repair, theorized by some as a cover story to explain its presence there.
One American diver, known only as “Harry” in the book Dark Object by Styles and Ledger, stated that the object wasn’t from planet Earth. “Harry” claimed photographs were taken by the divers and some foam-like debris brought up. Another military witness claimed that there were actually two objects, one perhaps trying to assist the other. The naval search was suddenly called off on October 11. That night, a seemingly identical UFO was reported departing the area by witnesses near the original Shag Harbour crash site.
The most recent History Channel documentary about the incident, which aired on August 10, 2006, also reported that one of the divers involved in the Shag Harbour search did come forward during the mid-1990s, refusing to allow his identity to become known publicly. Once the researchers verified that the man in fact had served as a diver during that search, he recounted his version of what had happened at Shag Harbour.
In this recounting, by the time the divers reached Shag Harbour, they already knew that nothing would be found there, because the target had already been located off the coast at Shelburne. He went on to further say that the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force as well as the United States Air Force and United States Navy monitored the “unknown objects” by radar and sonar, and that the objects were underwater. This monitoring continued for at least three days, until a Soviet Navy submarine was detected entering Canadian waters northeast of Nova Scotia. With that, the navy ships departed to intercept the submarine, and by the time they had returned, the “unknown objects” had evidently departed.
However, unlike the event at Shag Harbour, no official documentation or confirmation has yet emerged to support witness stories of a second search near Shelburne. There has been nothing to substantiate the diver’s claims, with the exception of archived records that indicate a substantial amount of search and monitor activity in the Shelburne area during that 10 day period.
Today, no known RCMP reports of this sighting remain. However, several other Canadian government documents do mention the event. The first was a “UFO Report” Priority Telex message on the morning of October 5 to CANFORCEHED (Canadian Forces Headquarters) — later known as National Defence Headquarters since unification of the Canadian Armed Forces would take place in February 1968 — from RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) Halifax, advising that a “UFO” (also referred to as a “dark object”) had impacted in Shag Harbour. The report named the RCMP officer in charge as a witness, mentioned six other witnesses, summarized sighting details, and said possible conventional explanations such as aircraft had been ruled out.
This was followed by another Priority message, October 5, “Subject: UFO”, was from CANFORCEHED to CANMARCOM (Canadian Maritime Command) — also known as the Royal Canadian Navy which was renamed to Maritime Command in February 1968 — and written by the head of the Air Desk. It requested their department investigate the “UFO report” and recommended an underwater search of the area as soon as possible.
CANMARCOM then sent another Priority Telex on October 5 to CANCOMDIVELANT (Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic). It gave instructions for the unit to task out of HMCS Shelburne on the auxiliary diving vessel HMCS Granby (J264), proceed to Clark’s Harbour, and provide a diving officer and 3 divers for a search for the crashed object reported by the RCMP in the Gulf of Maine off Shag Harbour. The latitude and longitude and the approximate distance from the shore were given. The unit was to work with the RCMP officer in charge and be advised by him of the object’s likely location. Written in the top right hand corner was the name of the head of the Royal Canadian Air Force Air Desk in Ottawa, then the clearinghouse for all civilian and military UFO reports in Canada. The word “UFO” was printed in capital letters and underlined 3 times.
There is also a less detailed summary of the event from Canada’s Department of National Defence files located in the Canadian National Archives.
Several other RCMP UFO reports from the night of October 4 also turned up. Another RCMP report was filed from a family of a very similar object to the Shag Harbour crash object seen leaving the area exactly 1 week later. The report alludes to the October 4 event and recommends further government interviews with witnesses. This sighting was also reported in the Halifax newspaper.
Canada’s Department of National Defence has officially stated that this sighting remains unsolved. To some, use of the term “UFO” in the government documents implies “extraterrestrial or extra-dimensional.” To others, it merely means official sources don’t know or for some reason will not say what the people of Shag Harbour witnessed. However, two of the government documents do state that conventional explanations had all been ruled before undertaking a search for the object. One from October 6, 1967, by the commander in charge of the search (again labeled “UFO Report”), stated, that the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax had investigated and “discounted the possibilities that the sighting was produced by an aircraft, flares, floats, or any other known objects.” This would suggest that authorities truly did not know what was responsible for the incident and were taking it very seriously.
Condon Committee interest
The Shag Harbour crash happened at the same time that the so-called Condon Committee UFO investigation was underway. A summary of the case was provided in the final report as “Case 34, North Atlantic, Fall 1967.” It was stated that their investigation consisted of a few phone calls to sources in the area. The concluding remarks were, “No further investigation by the project was considered justifiable, particularly in view of the immediate and thorough search that had been carried out by the RCMP and the Maritime Command.”
After noting that no aircraft had been reported missing, no alternative explanation was offered. The case is therefore considered one of the unsolved ones in the Condon Report.
The Shag Harbour crash received extensive front page coverage in the normally conservative provincial newspaper The Chronicle-Herald. The paper ran a headline story on October 7 titled, “Could Be Something Concrete in Shag Harbor UFO — RCAF.” The article, by Ray MacLeod, included witness descriptions of the object and crash, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) search and rescue effort, and the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) underwater search that was underway, including that three additional divers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic had been tasked.
The head of the RCAF’s “Air Desk” in Ottawa, Squadron Leader Bain, who recommended the RCN undertake an underwater search , was also quoted, saying the RCAF was “very interested” in the matter. “We get hundreds of reports every week, but the Shag Harbor incident is one of the few where we may get something concrete on it.”
The article also mentioned UFO reports that immediately preceded the crash, including one from a woman in Halifax around 10:00 p.m.
Another of these witnesses was Chris Styles, age 12, who says he came within 100 feet of the object in Halifax. The sighting left a deep impression on Styles, who 26 years later was to resurrect the Shag Harbour case and become its principal investigator. Don Ledger, another Nova Scotia resident and an aviation expert, would later join Styles. Their investigation was recounted in their 2001 book Dark Object: The World’s Only Government-Documented UFO Crash.
The Chronicle-Herald ran another story on October 9 titled “UFO Search Called Off,” stating that the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) had ended “an intensive undersea search for the mysterious unidentified flying object that disappeared into the ocean here Wednesday night.” As to what was found, the RCN stated, “Not a trace… not a clue… not a bit of anything.” The story of the search being called off for the “mysterious” “dark object” was also carried by the Canadian Press in some other Canadian newspapers.
On October 12, The Chronicle-Herald ran a story of another sighting of a seemingly identical UFO departing the area the night of October 11, exactly one week after the initial crash. The report came from Lockland Cameron, Woods Harbour, only about one half mile north of the first sighting (see map above). Cameron said that he, his family, and relatives had all witnessed the object. Their attention was initially drawn by interference on the TV screen around 10 p.m. Cameron went outside to investigate and noticed six bright red lights, about 55 to 60 feet length, at an altitude of between 500 to 600 feet, and about three quarters of a mile off shore. It sat in a stationary position for 7 or 8 minutes and then disappeared. When it reappeared, only four orange lights were showing and seemed to be at a 35 degree angle. An hour later, a string of yellow lights appeared rapidly departing to the northeast. The RCMP investigated and found Cameron to be “sober and sincere.”
On October 14, The Chronicle-Herald ran a final editorial on the incident. It stated that “numbers of people have described similar objects on at least two occasions. They are agreed upon such essentials as lights, length of the object or objects, and its speed. In the second, there was some physical evidence – that yellowish foam discovered by searchers – which gives yet more credibility to the sightings. Imagination and or natural phenomena seem to be the weakest, not strongest, of explanations. It has been a tough week for skeptics.”
Also, the 7th episode of the second season of the TV show Mystery Hunters featured a section on the Shag Harbour incident.