Zig Zagging Meteor (& Test of Memory)
On this page I will be examining a sighting of a strange event that occurred in December 2004. I reported it to a few UFO research organisations not long after seeing it, and it was documented with UFORQ (UFO Research Queensland) a few years later. I have also retold the story a handful of times since but I don't go telling everyone (until now). I also subscribed to the UFORQ newsletter for a year or two to see if anyone else reported a similar event. That was the extent of my interaction with UFORQ until recently when I contacted them to see if they still had a copy of the report. They directed me to the archives on the website where I did find the report listed. At this point though I haven't opened the report because I want to do a test to see how much my recollection has changed between December 2004 and August 2017.
Since witnessing the strange event, I have done many online searches to find anyone else who has witnessed something similar. Negative. I have found nobody describing anything even remotely close to what I saw.
I have also taken an interest in healthy skepticism and evidence based beliefs. I have no evidence leading to the identification of what I saw that night, so I make no assumptions about what I saw. I can tell you what I think I saw, what it appeared to be, and what it appeared to do. It was indeed a UFO from my perspective, because it is Unidentified, it appeared to be Flying or Falling, and I'm pretty sure it was an Object.
Since sighting this object I have come to realise that memory is very malleable. You don't simply store a memory and then bring out the exact same memory from storage whenever you recall it. Research shows that when you recall a memory, you add to, subtract from, and bend that memory before you once again store the memory for later recall. Each time you retell your story you risk storing the memory a little differently from the last time. Changes to the memory may occur simply by interaction with the person to whom you are telling the story. They may occur due to whatever is taking place in your environment at the time you recall the memory. They may even get a little mixed up with other memories you are recalling around the same time.
Accepting all of the above, I realise that my current memory of the event may differ from my memory of the event in 2006, and that that memory may have differed a little from what I actually experienced in 2004. I will however state that at the time I saw the object I was amazed at what it did.
I am very sure that the event really occurred. I had people with me at the time but none of them looked up quick enough to see anything, so I have nobody to corroborate what I saw. I'm reasonably sure it wasn't just a brain fart, but you never know for sure. The brain tricks us all the time, just check out the Colour Changing Card Trick on Youtube if you don't believe that.
What I intend to do here though is to recall the event in as much detail as I can and then open the original report from UFORQ to reproduce it below the current recollection. I am not sure how much detail I included in the report to UFORQ, so there may possibly be aspects I include in the newest version that weren't in the original report. That doesn't mean that I am adding details that didn't happen, it will just mean that I am trying to be more thorough. However at this stage of writing I don't even know if there will be anything new added. I was 38 years old in 2004 and now I am 51, so for all I know the latest recollection might be missing aspects of the earlier one.
Of course to any true skeptic, whether I recall this with 100% accuracy or whether the story is 100% different, this will present itself as simply anecdotal. Nobody apart from me can even verify that I haven't read the original UFORQ report just prior to writing this. I assure you that I haven't, but I can't provide proof of this.
Recalling the Event
August 19 2017 Recollection
It was late December 2004. I was with my wife and my two boys about to embark on a cruise of the Pacific. We had not long boarded the ship which was docked on the Brisbane river and we were doing a little exploring whilst we waited for the ship to sail. I recall the weather being calm and quite warm. I don't remember the time exactly but I have a feeling it would have been around 6pm to 6:30pm. It had only just gone dark, or possibly was still going dark. I remember seeing some stars, not many, but we were close to the city so there were many lights. There were a few large clouds in the sky illuminated by the city lights and very easy to see. I have a memory that the clouds were a little dark, stormy looking clouds and the edges of them glowed whitish due to the city lights. It's possible also that the moon was out that night adding to the glowing of the cloud edges, but I can't say for certain. I don't actually recall seeing the moon.
The Brisbane river where we were docked is close to Brisbane airport and several planes could be seen as they took off or approached for landing. What was about to see was not a plane. I can say that with great certainty.
I had a habit of looking up at the night sky. I would often look out for passing satellites after checking their timing on a website whose name I don't recall. I had also seen my share of meteors (shooting stars) due to regularly looking upwards at the stars. I was quite aware of the differences in appearance between a plane, a satellite and a meteor.
On this particular night, I was looking eastwards along the river towards it's mouth. The mouth wasn't visible from where we were, but I was looking up the river in that direction. I then gazed upwards noticing one quite large cloud eastwards at an elevation starting at the bottom around 45 degrees and spanning about 10-15 degrees arc upwards. The length of the cloud would have covered a good 15-20 degree arc of the sky. It was a quite irregular shape, with the edges brighter and whiter than the centre. More smaller clouds were off towards the south, also illuminated around the edges.
I then saw a bright point type light in the sky which I would describe as having an appearance crossed between a satellite and a meteor. It was much brighter than a satellite but not as bright as a meteor, and it's speed was somewhere between the two but i would say a lot closer to that of a meteor. The light first caught my attention from the south east, and it was heading northwards towards direction of the airport and the large cloud. As it travelled it gradually grew brighter, as you would expect from an object entering the atmosphere, the lower it gets, the thicker the atmosphere and the more friction created causing an increasingly intense glow.
I remember my initial reaction was to think "Wow, that shooting star is going for a lot longer than they usually do." My next thought was that it seemed marginally slower than a meteor and that it even appeared to be slowing a little as it travelled towards the cloud. It was definitely odd in a number of ways, it travelled quickly but without any tail and nothing was breaking off. Often when you see a meteor falling you will also see bits splitting away and burning up a little quicker than the main body. Nothing split off this object, and it just seemed quite solid. It then disappeared behind the cloud, having travelled a good 30 to 45 degrees across the sky from south east to east in about a second or slightly more. I believe the meteor began at about 60 degree elevation and dropped about 10 degrees before reaching the cloud. That should have been the end of it, and even if had been I would have still thought "gee that meteor was the strangest I have ever seen".
Imagine my surprise when within about half a second after disappearing behind the cloud, the meteor (or something) came back out in the opposite direction. It was still bright and this time appeared to be accelerating. It's trajectory was now east to south east and no longer dropping in elevation relative to the horizon. I was dumbfounded at this stage and so caught up in wondering what had just happened that I couldn't even think to call to my family who were standing with their backs to the whole event.
Now if you have ever seen a meteor fall, after it reaches it's brightest point you will often notice that it starts to dim quite quickly as it slows in the atmosphere. There comes a point where you can just barely see it. It loses heat and brightness until you can barely make out some type of object before you lose sight of it altogether. This is the type of effect that came next with my zig zagging meteor except that it didn't get to the point where I lost sight altogether. It lost brightness as it travelled reasonably horizontally towards the south. I was now tracking it as it approached towards the direction where it had started from, only slightly lower and it had once again started to slow a little. This had to be the end of the meteor I thought, still puzzling over the u-turn it had made. But what came next was even more surprising.
As I tracked the meteor now travelling a bit slower from east to south east, it very abruptly turned back again to head south east to east at a slight declination once more. When I say abruptly, I don't mean instantly, but it was definitely a turn that would not be possible by a plane, assuming that the turn happened at all and was not some type of elaborate optical illusion. I had sight of the object the whole time, but it had dimmed to just a faint glow on the turn. What I saw was the object come almost to a stop. It was actually more like it did a parabolic u-turn on a very acute angle of around 10 degrees. As it hit the u-turn the deceleration was like someone slamming on the brakes of a car very hard, and as it came out of the turn it accelerated once again very quickly. It would have been back up to almost meteor speed within travelling about 5 degree arc of sky. Once again the object grew brighter as it travelled towards the same cloud and this time disappearing for good behind the cloud at a lower point.
Well that's what I remember as of today Saturday, August 2017. I have tried to put as much detail in as possible. Obviously the indications I gave of directions and degrees or arc are just estimates, but I have provided them based on what I currently see in my mind. I am pretty sure I would have also given estimates such as these, but in less detail, in my report to UFORQ in 2006. I will now find the original report on the UFORQ website and post it below.
2006 Recollection Reported to UFORQ
Brisbane, December 27 2004 [reported November 2006]
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
This took place on 27th December 2004 just after night fell on the Brisbane River. I did report it to several online UFO research sites, but I have only just found your site. My wife, my two youngest children and I had just boarded the Pacific Sky cruise ship for a New Year cruise of the South Pacific. We were standing out on the deck waiting for the ship to sail, and I was looking over the railings along the Brisbane River towards the sea [east]. Just then, a light caught my eye at about 60 degrees elevation heading towards the airport. It wasn't a plane. It travelled an arc of about 30-40 degrees northwards, looking more like a cross between a meteor and a satellite, except that it appeared to slow a little as it disappeared behind a cloud. It re-emerged a split second later travelling in the opposite direction and slightly downwards. That's when I got interested. This time, it seemed to peter out after another 30-40 degrees southwards, but I could still see the object very faintly as it once again came to a very quick stop and reversed. This time it travelled back towards the airport and disappeared once again behind the cloud. It didn't reappear. I've never seen a plane, satellite or meteor do two almost 180-degree turns like that, and the speed seemed way too fast for a plane or satellite, and not quite as fast as a meteor. I felt sure that other people would have seen it too, but on checking for reports when we returned from our cruise, I found none.
For me, the evidence that something took place is my memory of the event. Evidence that the event took place as described is somewhat corroborated by the similarity between my recollection of the event in 2006 and my recollection in 2017. There is also some evidence there for the malleability of my memory over that time, but not enough for me to think that the event didn't occur at all.
For anyone else, there is no hard evidence that this event even took place. All you have to go on is my story, and my assurance that I am not making this up. Even if you believe I am not making it up, how can you know that I saw what I think I saw. How can you know that I was sober at the time or in no way cognitively impaired. I assure you I wasn't, but that proves nothing.
I notice that the main discrepancy between my memory in 2006 and my memory today is the direction. In 2006 I had the object starting in the east and travelling northwards. I now have it starting south east and travelling northwards towards the east. This concerned me a little but then I remembered checking the direction of the river in it's final leg prior to doing the first report, and not doing the same this time. I always think of the river as running west to east, and indeed during this experience the ship would have been aligned WNW to ESE. I believe that after checking the map prior to my first report I may have thought the ship was aligned south west to north west and concluded that I was looking towards the east being further down river around where the map shows the words "Brisbane River". It may be a false memory, but I recall looking at about a 45 degree angle off to the right of the ship when I first saw the object.
Another discrepancy is that my current recall is that the object declined in elevation on the first leg, levelled out on the second leg and declined again on the third leg. My original 2006 recollection was of level on the first leg, decline on the second and level on the third.
My memory is tainted a little for sure. As to the nature of the object I saw, I am at a loss to explain it. I like to think that I know what I saw, but I am highly aware that I may have been mistaken or that something may have been happening causing an optical illusion. I am troubled by the fact that I found no evidence anywhere of either another witness to this event or even another witness to a similar event. The whole incident would have taken about 4-6 seconds, so you would think that somebody in this city would have been looking up at the same time as me. I would be highly grateful if somebody could explain what I saw. I will do another search online and if I do find any reports of similar events I will post links to them below.
The reports below have similar headings but none are close to what I saw. The last one of a meteor doing a single zig (changing direction once) is the closest.
Reports online of splitting shooting stars - nothing like what I saw.
Report online of shooting stars with a wavy path - not like what I saw, no reversal of direction.
Report of a star moving in a zig zagging path - not like what I saw, too slow by the description given.
Report of zig zagging light - much slower than what I saw.
Report of erratic moving light with colours - not like what I saw.
Report of meteor doing a single zig but no zag - similar but not the same
Addendum (20th August 2017)
After being puzzled by this event for the past 13 years, I awoke this morning shortly after 3am with a possible plausible explanation. I need to do a little more research before posting the idea. Stay tuned.