In December of 1978, a series of unexplainable events took place off the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. These events, collectively known as the Kaikoura lights incident, have been considered some of the best and most credible footage ever captured of an unidentified flying object. The film, taken by a national network news team from the cockpit window of an Argosy cargo plane, made headlines all around the world.
What made the sightings even more bizarre was that they were captured on air traffic control radar too. The story of the Kaikoura lights incident starts in Blenheim, New Zealand, where a warrant officer in ufandel of the Royal New Zealand Air Force was completing final security checks before signing off at Woodburn Air Force base. At 11:30 pm, he noticed what he initially thought to be the landing lights of an aircraft coming in to land, which struck him as odd since there should have been no aircraft in the area at that time of night. He contacted the local air traffic controller, who was equally bewildered but suggested it could be the landing lights of an airplane approaching Wellington, around 80 miles to the north.
Upon contacting the New Zealand central air traffic control tower in Wellington, radar operator John Cordy reported that he had unidentified blips showing on his air traffic control radar. Meanwhile, in Blenheim, police were being inundated with calls from locals reporting strange lights in the night sky out east towards the coast.
At around 2:30 am, an Argosy freighter was on a routine newspaper delivery run from Wellington to Christchurch when Captain Vern Powell and First Officer Ian Perry reported a series of large flashing lights following alongside their aircraft. The lights followed the aircraft for 40 miles before the plane made its eventual touchdown at Christchurch.
The next time the lights appeared, a major network news film crew was on hand to capture it. A Channel Zero news team led by renowned Australian television reporter Quinton Fogerty was sent to Wellington to cover the event. Although it would be the same route but different pilots, Network bosses in Australia had arranged for Fogerty and his team to go up in the Argosy on a nighttime mail run to film the location with the sightings had happened.
Around half an hour into the flight, as the plane tracked along the Kaikoura coast towards Christchurch, Fogerty and his crew heard an urgent call to get up onto the flight deck. They witnessed walls of light that would appear in the sky, pulsating and growing from small pinpricks into great globes of light. Like the earlier incident, the objects appeared on air traffic control radar, and the lights followed the aircraft for around 15 minutes.
The event and subsequent footage taken on board that night made world headlines. To this day, many consider the footage and the events of that night to be one of the best and hardest to explain unidentified flying object sightings ever. The Royal New Zealand Air Force and the New Zealand Police were tasked with investigating the event. The New Zealand Ministry of Defense attributed the events to lights from a squid boat reflecting off the clouds or another natural but unusual phenomenon like Venus atmospheric conditions, a meteor, or even lights from cars or trains.
Declassified military documents from 1978 released under the official information’s act in 2010 stated that the sightings were unique because of a large amount of documented evidence which included countless eyewitnesses, two tape recordings, and the detection of unusual ground and aircraft radar targets. Whether its origins are a rational Earthly explanation or something more difficult to explain, the Kaikoura lights incident remains one of the most intriguing and unexplainable unidentified flying object encounters ever.