Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trindade Island UFO Revisited

Back on January 1, 1958, a photographer on the Brazilian ship, Almirante Saldanha, took four pictures of a "Saturn-shaped" object as flew over the island of Trindade off the coast of Brazil. Almiro Barauna developed the film about an hour later. He and Captain Viegas entered the ship’s darkroom together. After developing the negatives, Barauna at first, thought that no image had been picked up, but Viegas, looking carefully, spotted the UFO. (One of the photos seen here and another below.)

That, in a nutshell, is the story. There are, according to some sources, many witnesses to the craft. Skeptics suggest that few others saw anything at all. That is a matter for another time.

What brings all this up is that a Brazilian TV network, Fantastico, just broadcast a story that suggests, finally, an answer about authenticity of the pictures has been found. According to Fantastico, "This Sunday (August 15), for the first time Fantastico reveals the truth about the Trindade Island UFO. A friend of the family told what she heard from the photographer himself [Almiro Barauna] he had hoaxed the images, it was a montage. ‘He got two kitchen spoons, joined them and improvised a spaceship, using as a background his fridge. He photographed the fridge door with the object in perfect illumination. He laughed a lot about it,’ revealed Emilia Bittencourt. Barauna’s files are in possession of his niece, who didn’t want to record an interview, but confirms the hoax."

The idea that the pictures were faked has been around almost from the moment they were taken. Donald Menzel, the Harvard astronomer who never met a UFO case he liked, claimed, at first, that an aircraft, "flying through humid but apparently super-cooled atmosphere," could become so completely enveloped in fog that it could take on the appearance of a Saturn-shaped object.

Okay, but I’m not buying this.

And apparently Menzel wasn’t either because later, in his book The World of Flying Saucers, he wrote that the case was a hoax. He said that Barauna had faked the pictures with a double exposure.

More likely than the fog-shrouded airplane but a statement without a fact to back it up. You can’t just declare something a hoax because you don’t like it and have no other evidence except your opinion that it is a hoax.

My first thought on reading this latest revelation from Fantastico was that the explained the case.

My second thought was, "Not so fast."

Yes, I’m aware of work done by many researchers in their analyses of the pictures and that some have said they found evidence of fraud in the photographs. Some of it is impressive work.
But I’m also aware of the claim that there were many witnesses to the object’s flight, and it would mean that a couple of dozen were in on the hoax and never breathed a word about it... until now.

But the person making this new claim of hoax is not a relative, or a witness for that matter, but a neighbor and she has no evidence to back up her accusation. There is also a niece, unidentified other than as a niece, who says she has Barauna’s files and she confirms it is a hoax.

Here’s the deal... and I’m sure even the skeptics will agree with this. Let’s wait on the final pronouncement until the files surface and prove the hoax. In the last few years, we’ve had several people come forward explaining that their UFO photographs, none quite as famous as these, were faked. I have no problem with the photographer telling me he or she faked the pictures. That seems to be solid evidence.

In this case, however, we don’t have the photographer, but a neighbor. And the niece who has the files. Let the documentation from the files be reviewed before we completely close the case. If it is a hoax, so be it, but let’s wait until we have the absolute proof before we label it. That might be coming soon.


Frank Stalter said...

I can see the spoon configuration and the series of pics does show that the UFO is a three dimensional object. Merits a closer look. The pic in the link below has always been my favorite UFO photo.


Lance said...

I've always loved how the supporters of this case gloss over the fact that the same photographer took admitted fake UFO photos for a magazine article called something like "How to fake a UFO photo"!

In typical Saucer Logic the proponents are shocked, shocked I tell you, when anyone calls into question the authenticity of his other photos.

I can't imagine why UFOs have such a low station scientifically. Seriously, why all the laughter?



cda said...

I'd be interested to see Jerry Clark's reaction. He and John Rimmer (of Magonia) had quite a ding-dong a while back on the UFO UPDATES forum about these photos.

You are right: just as we should not accept historical testimony about an event such as 'Roswell was ET', so we should apply the same logic and principles to 'Trindade was a hoax'. I personally have been satisfied it was a hoax for many years. But in fairness we ought to wait for final confirmation, if we ever get it.

The hoax was prompted by a series of earlier sightings (genuine but explainable) on Trindade Island during the previous Noveember and December.

KRandle said...

Gentlemen -

Here's the deal. If you read the various accounts,it seems that most mention the fact that the photographer was known for his trick photography. I suppose the qualification, "glossed over" is a fitting interpretation. In my book, Scientific Ufology, the fact is mentioned, but as part of the evidence cited by Donald Menzel.

However, there have been a number of close examinations of the pictures by both skeptics and proponents that suggest the pictures were faked.

I'm just suggesting here, that before we completely close the book on these photographs, we make sure that the evidence for trickery, which is alleged to exist in the files of the photographer, be examined. That would answer the question about the trickery once and for all.

Paul Kimball said...

Hi Kevin,

I have always thought this case was overrated, and a probable hoax - but I agree with you that this "report" that disbelievers seem to have immediately latched on to as proof of a hoax is nothing of the sort. Indeed, if a ET believer was to present the same type of "evidence" to support the proposition that a particular case was ET in origin, the disbelievers would be the first to criticize, and rightly so.

Logic and objective analysis abhors any sort of double standard, which is what we're seeing here.


Lance said...

Hi Paul,

Where did you see skeptics uncritically "latching onto" this story?

The main critical (of this case) site that I am aware of:


took a rather measured tone towards the story.

Where is the most egregious example of this double standard that you are writing about?



Paul Kimball said...

Hi Lance,

Look at the URL / title that you posted (which reflects the gist of what was presented):


The title of the article is the same.

This is grossly inaccurate, and misrepresents what is really going on here.

All that we have is someone else's statement that he made such an admission. We lawyerly types call that hearsay, and it's the weakest of all forms of "witness" testimony, which is why it's rarely allowed.

I know enough about marketing and media manipulation to know that how you present a story defines what people tend to take away from that story.

Again, if UFO believers were to use this tactic, you would be all over them - and rightly so. I would expect that in fairness you would be equally appalled at how this story was titled and presented.


Gilles Fernandez said...


Kentaro Mori study is out the matter of this case, or ?


Lance said...

Wow Paul, as I said the discussion on this page about this new story is measured in tone and not uncritical of the story. Did you look at it or just the URL (which is a rather odd place to find such duplicity and bias).

If you had read the actual page, you would see that the URL title is an old one for the page and is undoubtedly referring to another hoax that the photographer also admitted to (something with skeletons, it seems). This new story is just an addendum to that original page.

I don't disagree with you or Kevin that the story itself is poor as evidence for fraud (there was quite enough of that kind evidence available for years). I was just looking for this groundswell of uncritical support by skeptics that you alluded to.

Otherwise very weak.


Lance said...

And by the way--when I say another hoax the photographer admitted to, I mean that the page has HIM on video admitting it, not a relative or whatever.


Paul Kimball said...


You're missing my point. It's all about the presentation, and frankly it's the presentation and titling that offends me. I took Frank Warren to task a couple of years ago, so I'm an equal opportunity stick in the mud when it comes to sensationalism.

And I have no doubt that if it was some true-blue, pro-ET person writing a similarly sensationalistic headline to attracts eyeballs, you would be all over them for it (the word "huckster" might even pop up).

And it does have an effect. As A.J. Gevaerd wrote at UFO Updates:

"However, by using 'Trindade Photographer Admits Hoax' in his
message, Kentaro Mori knows very well that this title will be
linked and referred over and over to by robots and Internet
mechanisms, such as Google, and echoed eternally as simple and
true fact. And that fact will be connected to his name."

It's the principle of the thing, and I'm sorry for you that you are incapable of seeing that it's wrong.

As for the disbelievers latching onto it, I encourage you to monitor the debate at UFO Updates.


Lance said...

Naturally, I think it is you that are missing the point. :)

The photographer DID directly admit his involvement in a hoax (not the Trindade UFO one). It had something to do with skeletons--he is on video making the admission.

The story that Kevin is talking about where the friend of the family SAYS that the photographer admitted faking the Trindade photos is second hand and should be viewed with suspicion.

But both of these stories are on the same page we are discussing. The URL is accurate. The title is accurate.

And the story of these photos is so stupid that it deserves very little further discussion.


cda said...

Barauna had admitted to being a hoax photographer soon after Trindade anyway. He had done some underwater trick photography. But this did not deter the believers from steadfastly clinging to his Trindade photos as authentic.

Time will tell on this one. If they do prove to be fakes, it will be a severe blow for ufology as these were presented for decades as among the best UFO photographic evidence of all time.

It will make fools of Coral Lorenzen, Dr Olavo Fontes, Dick Hall, maybe Hynek, and countless others no longer with us.
But we can only await further developments.

Two spoons put together. Boy that takes some beating for trickery!

starman said...

cda: "Time will tell on this one."

Lol, it it's been a half century already. Ample time to debunk an old fake.

"Barauna had admitted to being a hoax photographer..."

Did he ever admit to hoaxing Trinidade photos specifically? And what about the many other witnesses? Weren't they scientists and naval people? Did any of them ever admit to going along with a hoax? Why would they jeopardize their careers?

Lance said...

"Did he ever admit to hoaxing Trinidade photos specifically? And what about the many other witnesses? Weren't they scientists and naval people? Did any of them ever admit to going along with a hoax? Why would they jeopardize their careers?"

I am sure that if the photographer had admitted to hoaxing one of the Trindade photos, the next question would be, "Did he specifically admit to hoaxing the other ones?" :)

Since it is a UFO case the number of witnesses seems to be a rather organic number, apparently depending upon factors unrelated to reality. The number could be 48 or 150 or whatever you want it to be. I like to use 1000!

Examination of the actual contemporaneous evidence shows that the number of actual witnesses may be down to 3, all friends of the photographer and only 2 have ever made any kind of statement.

See this nice article for a more detailed exploration including some embarrassing behind the scenes details of how UFO paragons like Jerry Clark and Dick Hall operate to make sure that their UFO stories aren't fettered by annoying facts.



cda said...

As Lance says, the true number of witnesses is unknown. That is indeed part of the problem with this case, and always has been.
As for half a century being ample time to debunk an old fake, the first debunking came within a few weeks of the event, namely from the US Naval Attache at Rio, who notified Project Blue Book to this effect on March 11, 1958.

And that, as far as Blue Book was concerned, was the end of the matter.

The latest revelations, if they turn out correct, are merely a confirmation of what was officially said 52 years ago.

It is the methodology of the trickery that tickles me.

Terry the Censor said...

> Kentaro Mori knows very well that this title will be linked

At UFO UpDates, Kentaro offered a mea culpa (literally) for the title.

There is a lot of disagreement there and here about what the niece actually said to the television producers. An obvious explanation comes to mind, but I won't speculate until I can find answers to these two questions:

Has anyone seen the negatives since 1958? If not, does the niece refuse access to them now?

I defer to the greater knowledge of Kevin and the commenters here.

Unknown said...

How many good, attestant photographs remain of U.F.Os.? Surely enough to warrant our open-mindedness as to the reality that something is "there" though "it" may appear in various guises. Would it be possible to call a hoaxed product a counterfeit, a "Frankenstein" monster compared to what it is trying to imitate?

Unknown said...

How many good, attestant photographs remain of U.F.Os.? Surely enough to warrant our open-mindedness as to the reality that something is "there" though "it" may appear in various guises. Would it be possible to call a hoaxed product a counterfeit, a "Frankenstein" monster compared to what it is trying to imitate?