By Scott Corrales
Inexplicata-The Journal of Hispanic UFOlogy
UFO Digest Latin America Correspondent
Ships and Saucers: UFOs at Sea
By Scott Corrales
The waters of the Western Mediterranean, while not as mystery-prone as the legendary Atlantic, have nonetheless been a source of enigmas. In the 1960s, Spanish ufologist Antonio Ribera posited the existence of a “triangle” (it was, after all, the age of the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil’s Triangle, and other anomalous marine geometry) between Mount Canigó in Spain, the Balearic Islands, and North Africa, with the Sea of Alborán – the body of water between Spain and Morocco – being the main scenario for these events. While disappearances of surface vessels and aircraft were few, it made a name for itself in the UFO chronicles of the time.
It is precisely these deep waters that concern us here.
Thirty-three years ago, in the month of February, 1979, a merchant vessel named the Tamames, carrying a load of butane, left the port city of Alcudia on Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, heading to the city of Cartagena in Southern Spain. The butane hauler belonged to CEPSA, a major player in the Mediterranean bunker fuel business. The ship’s captain, Jose Luis González, was a no-nonsense mariner who was very mindful of the delivery timetables, running a relatively tight ship.
The butane hauler’s humdrum routine would be forever interrupted on Tuesday, February 6 of that year – unlike horror yarns or sea stores, no sudden gales appeared out of nowhere, no rogue waves smashed against the ship. At 21:00 hours, only few leagues distant from the island of Formentera, the duty officer approached the captain to say that an unknown vessel was visible to the south of the ship, on a westward heading. The duty officer, however, was unable to see the proper number of running lights on the vessel. Other bridge personnel soon noticed that the object had two lights, suggesting a normal vessel, possibly another merchantman. Their satisfaction at having unraveled a minor mystery soon gave way to alarm as the number of lights on the horizon began to multiply, becoming four, then six, then ten.
Captain González asked for his binoculars and noticed, to his astonishment, that the sky immediately over the lights had turned orange; the lights now arranged themselves into unusual patterns – side by side at times, vertical at others, and finally a horizontal layout. Of particular note was a light that seemed to be producing the kind of smoke associated with a flare. His officers agreed that it was probably a vessel in distress and the Tamames changed course to render assistance. The radar operator, however, noted that he was unable to pick up any objects on the horizon, even thought the coastlines of Majorca, Formentera and the Spanish mainland were crisply outlined. The radio man observed that the stricken ship – if that’s what it was – did not issue any calls for help.
The Tamames assistance mission found itself brought to an abrupt halt when the lights suddenly vanished from sight, along with the odd orange luminescence. Captain González ordered a new course change back to Cartagena, upset, no doubt, at the delay caused by his earlier decision. But the radar – this time witnessed by all present – began displaying highly unusual signals that remained constant until nearly midnight. Bizarre radar echoes plagued the ship, suggesting they were approaching something. The echoes vanished a few miles away from the vessel and reappeared from all directions.
The thoroughly unusual situation prompted the captain to radio other ships in the area to find out if they were encountering a similar anomaly; a lighthouse station near Cartagena replied that no naval maneuvers had been scheduled for the area. The radar echoes kept appearing and disappearing, leaping around the butane hauler like invisible acrobats. The situation was insensibly changing from annoying to disturbing.
At 0300 hours, Captain González contacted the lighthouse authorities again, requesting confirmation that no military maneuvers were indeed being carried out, and describing the conditions experienced by the Tamames. Astonishingly – and possibly a “first” in maritime history – the watch officer at the lighthouse wondered openly if Captain González might be seeing a UFO. Given the strangeness of the situation he found himself in, the captain suggested that any explanation would do at this point. In all his years at sea, he had never faced a similar predicament. The lighthouse officer explained that only a few days later, a foreign ship had reported the presence of a UFO not far from the Tamames’ present coordinates.
In spite of the unusual and frank exchange, the captain never truly believed that his ship was at the mercy of intergalactic pirates and restricted his entry in the ship’s log to the strange lights and bizarre radar echoes.
Things would become “curiouser and curiouser” in coming days, when an official explanation for the anomaly was put forth: the crew of the Tamames had seen students from a military school conducting nocturnal parachute drops carrying flares in their hands. Captain González was far from convinced by the explanation: these alleged maneuvers had taken place seventy five miles away from his ship’s position, and inland, to boot.
In southern Spain, UFO researcher and author Jose Manuel García Bautista has looked into the possibility that an "extraterrestrial submarine base", for want of a better name, may exist in the water of the Sea of Alborán. Sightings in these water go back at least thirty years: in 1974, passengers aboard the ferry Virgen del Africa were witnesses to a strange artifact that emerged from the water, remained suspended in mid-air for a minute, and then plunged into the sea once more. On August 20, 1976, three irregular-sized lights would to the same thing: emerge from the water, plunge into it again, and then re-emerge. This event was witnessed by a group of vacationers.
"I was able to ascertain," writes García Bautista in an unpublished paper, "the manner in which these waters are been customarily a place for intense UFO sightings. This location meets a series of highly attractive characteristics: the location between two continents; the presence of foreign bases such as Gibraltar, Rota and Morón, where experimental spy-plane prototypes have been tested; a number of electric generating facilities ranging from simple reservoirs to nuclear power stations; significant mining installations near Rio Tinto." Factors which could be taken into account, suggests García, if an aliens were to locate a base or lookout point anywhere in the Mediterranean.
Garcia's theory has been substantiated in recent years: In August 1999, four youngsters rented a pedal boat in the sea town of Chipiona near Cádiz and went quite far from the shore, plunging into the water and keeping the pedal boat nearby. While Diego Moreno, Elena Delgado, Rafael Dominguez and Paula Gomez frolicked in the warm Mediterranean water, they suddenly became aware of a huge, bright light underneath them. Paddling furiously toward the precarious safety of the pedal boat, the now terror-stricken vacationers noticed how "a thing" of considerable size moved around beneath them. According to the witnesses, the light was neither the reflection of the sun nor a diver using an underwater light source. To make matters worse, the object appeared to sport with the frightened onlookers, spinning around their pedal boat and threatening to overturn it. The experience with the unknown came to an end when a lifeguard motor launch sped toward them, advising them to return to the beach line.
A second experiences took place the same month, this time in the town La Jara, not far from Chipiona. Amparo and José Hidalgo, two young beachcombers enjoying the sunset, were startled when a strange luminous sphere descended slowly into the water as it changed colors. Once underwater, the witnesses saw the object follow a trajectory leading it to deeper waters, "to some hidden point under the waters near Cádiz", as García Bautista suggests.
That same month, other unidentified objects were seen along the Cádiz littoral and were reported to both the Spanish Navy and Red Cross.
There are times when the unidentified objects don’t take great pains to conceal themselves, such as the July 1970 case involving a young scuba diver engaged in underwater fishing in the waters off Alcocebre (Castellón de la Plana, Spain) at one o’clock in the afternoon. Some 70 meters from the beach, and at a depth of 8 meters, the diver was surprised to find a stubby cylindrical object, seven meters long by three meters wide. It had no rivets or seams, and shone like brushed steel in the sunlight hitting the seabed. Bravely, the diver pulled out his knife and attempted to score the perfect surface without effect, and the object gave no signs of having magnetic properties, either. Bracing himself against a rock, the diver tried to exert pressure against the object, hoping to make it move. His efforts in vain, the diver returned to his normal pursuits before leaving the water altogether.
At three in the morning, the diver – this time with his girlfriend – was aboard a small rowboat in the same vicinity, watching the stars. The young woman told him that she had seen “something shoot out of the water” skyward, but he himself was unable to see anything. Upon returning to the site where the cylinder had rested on the sea floor, he noticed it was no longer there.
Long-time readers of INEXPLICATA may remember a similar case that took place nineteen years later and thousands of miles away. In July 1989, Inocencio Cataquet, an expert skin-diver from northwestern Puerto Rico, was on a fishing venture in the late afternoon when he saw a huge object moving underwater, estimating its size at two hundred feet in diameter. Fearlessly, the diver reached for his equipment and plunged into the water, managing to touch the object. The object in the waters off Puerto Rico was not metallic, but rather porous and filled with small holes. The driver was driven away by the fact that the water began to heat up around the object; subsequently he would see it moving away at high speed underwater, eventually breaking the surface and heading skyward as a "tiny little point of light."
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