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The Controversial Trindade Island Incident

Alexandre de Carvalho Borges, Brazilian UFO Magazine

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: The photographs of a UFO over Trindade Island, on January 16, 1958, are considered a landmark in Ufology worldwide and a very strong evidence of extraterrestrial life existence. However, they still arouse controversy and new criticism.

The photographs of a UFO over Trindade Island, on January 16,
1958, are considered a landmark in Ufology worldwide and a very
strong evidence of extraterrestrial life existence. However,
they still arouse controversy and new criticism. Actually, the
criticism is old and was raised at the time of the incident, but
it was renewed based on presumed new studies. In national and
international debates two particular critiques were raised
against the major pieces of evidence of the incident: the matter
concerning the number of witnesses aboard the ship Almitante
Saldanha who claimed to have seen the UFO and the photographs
taken by Almiro Bara=FAna. In the first case, skeptics allege that
the UFO researchers do not have the names or the testimonies of
all the 48 witnesses who supposedly were aboard at that time.

In the UFO literature the number of the mentioned witnesses
varies between 10 and 48, a fact that has been pointed out by
the critics as a failure from the UFO researchers. The witnesses
that we know so far are Jos=E9 dos Santos Saldanha da Gama, Carlos
Alberto Bacellar, Paulo Moreira da Silva, Jos=E9 Teobaldo Viegas,
Mauro Andrade, Amilar Vieira Filho, Homero Ribeiro, Farias de
Azevedo; a sailor whose first name is all we know, Alo=EDsio; and
the photographer himself, Almiro Bara=FAna. Among these people,
some would be indirect witnesses - they were aboard the shipe
when the UFO was seen, but did not actually see it. Such fact is
also criticized by the incident debunkers, but a current effort
in order to obtain documents of that time which contain the
names of all the witnesses - whether it was 48 or less - and an
attempt to obtain their testimony would be sufficient to
neutralize the skepticism.

The second question recently raised on the Trindade Island
incident is against the photographic evidence obtained by
Bara=FAna, which is the key factor that led the incident to
acquire worldwide fame. In the last months a controversial
article against the legitimacy of the photographs was published.
The author, Martin Powell, rekindles the discussion that the
photographs taken by Bara=FAna were a hoax in which the technique
of double exposure had been used to fabricate the UFO over the
island. Powell argues that Bara=FAna had taken pictures of an
airplane in the sky somewhere and afterwards photographed
Trindade Island, thus causing the double exposure. He goes on to
say that the UFO seen on the second photograph of the sequence
is the same UFO seen on the first photograph, but in an inverted
position. He also states that the remaining photos would be
degraded through a process of successive copies taken from the
first picture by Bara=FAna.

Notwithstanding the great debates aroused on the Web, the
article has many flaws; firstly because Powell presents his
analysis based only in low quality copies of the photographs
that were not directly obtained from the original ones; and
mainly because he never analyzed the negatives - something that
would have been essential. An assessment of such material is
vital if one is to raise suspicion over the entire incident,
since nothing else can be said about it. And without such
analysis, no study, such as Powell's, can be taken seriously. As
far as we know, at the time of the incident the negatives were
analyzed by independent laboratories and no degradation of
photos was found, let alone the evidence that they were obtained
by a double exposure hoax. The copies used by Powell when he
tried to cast doubt on the veracity of the incident were
degraded because they were taken from a low quality printed

Other researchers also raised suspicions as to the correct
sequence in which the photos were supposedly taken. The main one
- the claim about the UFO's inverted position from photograph
one to photograph two - doesn't hold water either. If the object
exhibited in one photograph is the same exhibited in the other,
on condition that one of them was inverted, the objects should
have been of the same size, since they were the same object.
However, the photographs show the UFO with apparent different
sizes, as expected. In the path followed by the object while
flying over Trindade Island, it came from the sea, flew over the
place, and went back to the sea [See the sequence of the four
photos]. And when the UFO was exactly over the sea, its apparent
size seemed to be smaller than when the object was flying over
the island, near Desejado peak [Photo 3]. In fact, it was at
that point that the UFO was closer to the ship; thus its size
was apparently bigger. Due to this feature, and some others,
that shot turned out to be the best among the four snapshots
Bara=FAna had taken.

Photograph annalists gave their opinion about the article and
did not agree with its results either. The engineer and co-
editor of UFO magazine in Brazil, Claudeir Covo, and the
photograph annalist of the North American Mutual UFO Network
(Mufon), Jeffrey Sainio, are radically against Powell's
"findings". Claudeir, for example, points out that a double
exposure would certainly have been detected on the negatives,
despite the fact that the photos were soon developed aboard the
ship, which denies the allegation of fraud. The discussions
continue and, in spite of the flaws, the article attracted
publicity, which favored the all-time skeptics and finally
aroused a conflict between them and the present researches. But
both groups agree that new analyses conducted on the negatives
would completely eliminate any fragments of doubt concerning the
photographs of the Trindade Island incident, although no pixel
of hoax has been found so far, nor any fact that might discredit
Bara=FAna's reputation.

The sighting of this UFO by the crewmembers of navy's training
ship Almirante Saldanha was not the only incident that took
place on Trindade Island. At least seven previous observations
had occurred, and had been documented since November 1957. On
two occasions the appearance of a UFO over the site was followed
by interference on the island radio station that used to contact
weather balloons launched for scientific research. Such a fact
is parallel to the sighting of the UFO over Almirante Saldanha
because on that occasion the machinery of the ship also suffered
interference. We also have the information of a UFO seen by a
sergeant who was stationed on the Island; but little is known
about that incident. Anyway, the irreproachable reputation of
Bara=FAna, the previous occurrences and the excellent quality of
the photos taken give us a strong basis to support the famous
Trindade Island incident, in spite of all the contradictory work
done by the critics.

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Trindade Island