New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





"UNKNOWN Aircraft Over Dover."

According to the Dover correspondent to the London Times (Jan. 6, 1913) something had been seen, over Dover, heading from the sea.(1)

In the London Standard, Jan. 24, 1913, it is said that, upon the morning of Jan. 4, an unknown airship had been seen, over Dover, and that, about the same time, the lights of an airship had been seen over the Bristol Channel.(2) These places are several hundred miles apart.

London Times, Jan. 21 — report by Capt. Lindsay, Chief Constable of Glamorganshire: that, about five o'clock, in the afternoon of Jan. 17, he saw an object in the sky of Cardiff, Wales.(3) He says that he called the attention of a bystander, who agreed with him that it was a large object. "It was much larger than the Willows airship, and left in its trail a dense smoke. It disappeared quickly."

The next day, according to the Times, there were other reports: people in Cardiff, saw something that was lighted or that carried lights, moving rapidly in the sky.(4) In the Times, of the 28th, it is said that an airship that carried a brilliant light had been seen in Liverpool.(5) "It is stated at the Liverpool Aviation School that none of the airmen had been out on Saturday night." Dispatches from town after town — a travelling thing in the sky, carrying a light, and also a searchlight that swept the ground. It is said that a vessel, of which the outlines had been clearly seen, had appeared in the sky of Cardiff, Newport, Neath, and other places in Wales. In the Standard, Jan. 31, is published a list of cities where the object had been seen. Here a writer tries to conclude that some foreign airship had made half a dozen visits to England and Wales, or had come once, remaining three weeks; but he gives up the attempt, thinking that nothing could have [222/223] reached England and have sailed away half a dozen times without being seen to cross the coast; thinking that the idea of anything having made one journey, and remaining three weeks in the air deserved no consideration.(6)

If the unknown object did carry something like a searchlight, an idea of its power is given in an account in the Cardiff Evening Express, Jan. 25, 1913 — "Last evening brilliant lights were seen, sweeping skyward, and now, this evening, the lights grow bolder.(7) Streets and houses in the locality of Totterdown were suddenly illuminated by a brilliant, piercing light, which, sweeping upward, gave many spectators a fine view of the hills beyond." In the Express, Feb. 6, is a report upon this light like a searchlight, and the object that flashed it, by the police of Dulais Valley.(8) Also there is an account by a police sergeant, of a luminous thing that was for a while stationary in the sky, and then moved away.(9)

Still does the conventional explanation, or suggestion, survive. It is said that members of the staff of the Evening Express had gone to the roof of the newspaper building, but had seen only the planet Venus, which was brilliant at this time.

Then writes a correspondent, to the Express, that the object could not have been Venus, because he had seen it travelling at a rate of 20 or 30 miles an hour, and had heard sounds from it.(10) Someone else writes that not possibly could the thing be Venus: he had seen it as "a bright red light, going very fast." Still someone else says that he had seen the seeming vessel upon the 5th of February, and that it had suddenly disappeared.(11)

There is a hiatus. Between the 5th and the 21st of February, nothing like an airship was seen in the sky of England and Wales. If we can find that somewhere else something similar was seen in the sky, in this period, one supposes that it was the same object, exploring or manoeuvring somewhere else. It seems however that there were several of these objects, because of simultaneous observations at places far apart. If we can find that, during the absence from England and Wales, similar objects were seen somewhere else, a great deal of what we try to think upon the subject will depend upon how far from Great Britain they were seen. It seems incredible that the planet Venus should deceive [223/224] thousands of Britons, up to the 5th of February, and stop her deceptions abruptly upon that date, and then abruptly resume deceptions upon the 21st, in places at a distance apart. These circumstances oppose the idea of collective hallucinations, by which some writers in the newspapers tried to explain. If they were hallucinations, the hallucinations renewed collectively, upon the 21st, in towns one hundred miles apart. One extraordinary association is that all appearances, except the first, were in hours of visibility of Venus, then an "evening star."

Upon the night of the 21st, a luminous object was reported from towns in Yorkshire and from towns in Warwickshire, two regions about one hundred miles apart; about 10 P.M. All former attempts to explain had been abandoned, and the general supposition was that German airships were manoeuvring over England. But not a thing had been seen to cross the coast of England, though guards were patrolling the coasts, especially commissioned to watch for foreign airships. Sailors in the North Sea, and people in Holland and Belgium had seen nothing that could be thought a German airship sailing to or from England. A writer in Flight takes up as especially mysterious the appearance far inland, in Warwickshire. Then came reports from Portsmouth, Ipswich, Hornsea, and Hull, but, one notes, no more, at this time, from Wales. Also in Ipswich, which is more than a hundred miles from the Yorkshire towns, a luminous object was seen upon the night of the 21st. Ipswich Evening Star, Feb. 25 — something that carried a searchlight that had been seen upon the nights of the 21st and 24th, moving in various directions, and then "dashing off at lightning speed" — that, at Hunstanton, had been seen three bright lights travelling from the eastern sky, remaining in sight 30 minutes, stationary, or hovering over the town, and then disappearing in the northwest.(12) Portsmouth Evening News, Feb. 25 — that soon after 8 P.M., evening of the 24th, had been seen a very bright light, appearing and disappearing, remaining over Portsmouth about one hour, and then moving away.(13) Portsmouth and Ipswich are about 120 miles apart. In the London newspapers, it is said that, upon the evening of the 25th, crowds stood in the streets of Hull, watching something in the [224/225] sky, "the lights of which were easily distinguishable." Hull is about 190 miles northeast of Portsmouth.(14) Hull Daily Mail, Feb. 26 — that a crowd had watched a light high in the air. It is said that the light had been stationary for almost half an hour and had then shot away northward.(15) In the Times, Feb. 28, are published reports upon "the clear outlines of an airship, which was carrying a dazzling searchlight," from Portland, Burcleaves, St. Alban's Head, Papplewich, and the Orkneys.(16) The last account, after a long interval, that I know of, is another report from Capt. Lindsay: that, about 9 o'clock, evening of April 8th, he and many persons had seen, over Cardiff, something that carried a brilliant light and travelled at a rate of sixty or seventy miles an hour.

Upon April 24, 1913, the planet Venus was at inferior conjunction.(17)

In the Times, Feb. 28, it is said that a fire-balloon had been found in Yorkshire, and it is suggested that someone had been sending up fire-balloons.(18)

In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 1913-178, it is said that the people of England were as credulous as the people of Cherbourg, and had permitted themselves to be deceived by the planet Venus.(19)

If German airships were manoeuvring over England, without being seen either approaching or departing, appearing sometimes far inland in England without being seen to cross the well-guarded coasts, it was secret manoeuvring, inasmuch as the accusation was denied in Germany (Times, Feb. 26 and 27).(20) It was then one of the most brilliantly proclaimed of secrets, or it was concealment under one of the most powerful searchlights ever seen. Possibly an airship from Germany could appear over such a city as Hull, upon the east coast of England, without being seen to arrive or to depart, but so far from Germany is Portsmouth, for instance, that one does feel that something else will have to be thought of. The appearances over Liverpool and over towns in Wales might be attributed to German airships by someone who had not seen a map since he left school. There were more observations upon sudden appearances and disappearances than I have recorded: stationariness often occurred.


The objects were absent from the sky of Great Britain, from Feb. 5 to Feb. 21.

According to data published by Prof. Chant, in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7-148, the most extraordinary procession in our records was seen, in the sky of Canada, upon the night of Feb. 9, 1913.(21) Either groups of meteors, in one straight line, passed over the city of Toronto, or there was a procession of unknown objects, carrying lights. According to Prof. Chant, the spectacle was seen from the Saskatchewan to Bermuda, but if this long route was traversed, data do not so indicate. The supposed route was diagonally across New York State, from Buffalo, to a point near New York City, but from New York State are recorded no observations other than might have been upon ordinary meteors, this night. A succession of luminous objects passed over Toronto, night of Feb. 9, 1913, occupying from three to five minutes in passing, according to different estimates. If one will think that they were meteors, at least one will have to think that no such meteors had ever been seen before. In the Journal, 7-405, W.F. Denning writes that, though he had been watching the heavens since the year 1865, he had never seen anything like this.(22) In most of the observations, the procession is described as a whole — "like an express train, lighted at night" — "the lights were at different points, one in front, and a rear light, then a succession of lights in the tail." Almost all of the observations relate to the sky of Toronto and not far from Toronto. It is questionable that the same spectacle was seen in Bermuda, this night. The supposed long flight from the Saskatchewan to Bermuda might indicate something of a meteoric nature, but the meteor-explanation must take into consideration that these objects were so close to this earth that sounds from them were heard, and that, without succumbing to gravitation, they followed the curvature of this earth at a relatively low velocity that can not compare with the velocity of ordinary meteors.

If now accepted that again, the next day, objects were seen in the sky of Toronto, but objects unlighted, in the daytime — I suppose that to some minds will come the thought that this is extraordinary, and that almost immediately the whole subject will then be forgotten. Prof. Chant says that, according to the [226/227] Toronto Daily Star, unknown objects, but dark objects this time, were seen at Toronto, in the afternoon of the next day — "not seen clearly enough to determine their nature, but they did not seem to be clouds or birds or smoke, and it was suggested that they were airships cruising over the city."(23) Toronto Daily Star, February 10 — "They passed from west to east, in three groups, and then returned west in more scattered formation, about seven or eight in all."(24)


1. "Unknown aircraft over Dover." London Times, January 6, 1913, p. 6 c. 3. The observation was made at 5 A.M. on January 4; attention was drawn to the object first by its noise and then its light; and, the noise was also heard by a tradesman and police constable.

2. London Standard, January 24, 1913, (could not find here).

3. "Airship over Cardiff." London Times, January 21, 1913, p. 10 c. 4. The time of observation was said to be "a quarter to 5." Correct quote: "It was much larger and moved faster than the Willows airship, and left in its trail a dense volume of smoke....It disappeared quickly."

4. "Airship at Cardiff." London Times, January 22, 1913, p. 10 c. 7.

5. "Aircraft over Liverpool." London Times, January 28, 1913, p. 13 c. 6. Correct quote: "...none of the airmen there were out on Saturday night."

6. "Mystery airship." London Standard, January 31, 1913, p. 7 c. 4. The list of cities was: on January 4, at Dover and Chatham; on January 15, at Yarmouth; on January 18, at Cardiff and the Bristol Channel; and, on January 25, at Liverpool and Aberystwyth.

7. "Phantom airships." Cardiff Evening Express and Evening Mail, January 25, 1913, p. 2 c. 5. Correct quote: "...lights were to be seen sweeping skywards...which, sweeping upwards, gave the many spectators fine views...."

8. "Eyes skyward." Cardiff Evening Express and Evening Mail, February 6, 1913, p. 4 c. 4.

9. "The mystery airship" Cardiff Evening Express and Evening Mail, February 6, 1913.

10. "That strange airship." Cardiff Evening Express and Evening Mail, February 10, 1913.

11. Cardiff Evening Express and Evening Mail.

12. "Air mystery." Ipswich Evening Star, February 25, 1913, p. 3 c. 1. Correct quote: " dashed off towards the south-west at lightning speed."

13. "Nocturnal visit." Portsmouth Evening News, February 25, 1913, p. 8 c. 5. Also: "Lights in the air." Portsmouth Evening News, February 26, 1913, p. 6 c. 6. "The airship scare." Portsmouth Evening News, February 26, 1913, p. 8 c. 5.

14. Kingston-Upon-Hull is more than 200 miles from Portsmouth.

15. "An apparition." Hull Daily Mail, February 26, 1913, p. 5 c. 1.

16. "The airship rumours." London Times, February 28, 1913, p. 5 c. 3. One location was Papplewick, (not Papplewich). Correct quote: "...the clear outline of an airship...."

17. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1913. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1911, 668.

18. "The airship rumours." London Times, February 28, 1913, p. 5 c. 3.

19. "L'étoile du soir, les aéroplanes et les dirigeables." Bulletin de la Société Astronomique de France, 27 (1913): 179-80.

20. "The reported visits of airships," and, "Bright lights in the air." London Times, February 26, 1913, p. 8 c. 5. "Airship rumours." London Times, February 27, 1913, p. 6 c. 1.

21. C.A. Chant. "An extraordinary meteoric display." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (May and June, 1913) 145-215. C.A. Chant. "Further information regarding the meteoric display of February 9, 1913." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (November and December, 1913): 438-47.

22. W.F. Denning. "Notes on the great meteoric stream of 1913, February 9th. Seen in Canada and the United States." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (November and December, 1913): 404-13.

23. C.A. Chant. "An extraordinary meteoric display." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 7 (May and June, 1913) 145-215, at 165. Correct quote: "...suggested at the time that, perhaps, they were airships...."

24. "Fleet of airships cruised over city." Toronto Daily Star, February 10, 1913, p. 5 c. 2. Correct quote: "They passed from west to east in three groups of two each, and then returned west in a more scattered formation, about seven or eight in all."

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