Department of Transport PROJECT MAGNET One of the first scientists to suggest that UFOs represented a probable by-product of advanced extraplanetary technology was Wilbert B. Smith, a radio engineer with the Canadian Department of Transport (DOT). Recognized today as the pioneer of UFO research in Canada, he was instrumental in generating DOT-sponsored UFO research in 1950 which yielded some startling findings. At the time, Smith was head of DOT's Broadcast and Measurements Section. As a world expert in electromagnetism and telecommunications, he had little difficulty in convincing his superiors to examine what in effect was his personal fascination with the UFO phenomenon. It was at a North American broadcasting conference in Washington in early 1950 that he first proposed to his superior, DOT Deputy Minister John Baldwin, the need for government- sponsored UFO study. The dramatic increase in the volume of nation- wide sightings during the ensuing months added considerable support to his proposal. Despite mass media's sensationalist portrayal of the UFO phenomenon, public acceptance at that time was surprisingly high. According to a poll taken in july of 1950 by the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion, Half of the adult population of Canada believed that these mysterious disks are not just imagination and that they are not just a natural phenomenon. By December of that year, Smith was given the green light by Commander G.P. Edwards, then Deputy Minister of Transport for Air Services, to go ahead with a UFO study which came to be known as Project Magnet. Authorized by DOT engineers to draw on UFO reports from across Canada, Smith embarked on this historical venture with the assistance of his colleagues from within his own Broadcast and Measurement Section. To this day many of the Project Magnet findings remain classified material, with two notable eXceptions-a small-scale study of twenty- five 1952 sightings, released in May 1968; and the public disclosure of an unprecedented instrument recording of a suspected UFO over the Project Magnet sighting station at Shirley Bay, ten miles west of Ottawa, in August l954. The 1952 study clearly demonstrated that the majority of cases compiled in the eight-month period from May I to December 31 could not be explained as natural identifiable phenomena. Of the twenty- five sightings analyzed, sixteen-or 64 per cent-were either circular, elliptical, ring-like or cone-shaped vessels unlike any known man-made craft. From this cross section of nation-wide cases Smith was able to draw the following conclusions: They are a hundred feet or more in diameter; they can travel at speeds of several thousand miles per hour; they can reach altitudes well above these which would support conventional aircraft or balloons; and ample power and force seem to be available for all required maneuvers. Taking these factor's into account, it is difficult to reconcile this performance with the capabilities of our technology, and unless the technology of some terrestrial nation is much more advanced than is generally known, we are forced to the conclusion that the vehicles are probably extra-terrestrial, in spite of our prejudices to the contrary. Even though DOT had initially given Smith full authorization and co- operation, it soon became evident that his controversial findings led to a downgrading of Project Magnet by subsequent administrations. When portions of its report were declassified on May 9,1968, it became clear that the government had entirely disassociated itself from both the mandate and the conclusion of the project. This was spelled out in a disclaimer signed by Dr. Peter Millman, then head of Upper Atmosphere Research of the National Research Council, and former Chairman of the Project Second Storey Committee: I have been informed by the Department of Transport that although Project Magnet was officially authorized by the Department, work on this Project was carried out almost entirely by Mr. W. B. Smith and was in the nature of a spare time activity. The conclusions reached in this report are entirely those of Mr. Smith and do not represent an official opinion of either the Department of Transport or of the Second Storey Committee. What may have triggered the demise of Project Magnet was Smith's highly publicized instrument recording in August 1954, heralded by the press as the world's first. In the wake of the excitement generated by his 1952 findings, Smith had received approval to set up a UFO detection station at DOT's electronic establishment at Shirley Bay. Open for operations in mid-December 1953, the twelve- foot-square laboratory was equipped with an assortment of sophisticated electronic equipment including a gamma ray detector, a radio wave detector, an ionospheric recorder to monitor activity and changes in the ionized layer of gases sixty miles from the earth's surface, and a gravimeter, designed to detect magnetic and gravity fluctuations in the atmosphere. Assisting Smith were Professor J. T. Wilson of the University of Toronto; Dr. James Wait, a theoretical physicist with the Defence Research Board, and Dr. G. D. Garland, gravitational expert at the federal Mines and Technical Survey Department. Once the station was in operation, Smith and his colleagues instituted a twenty-four-hour vigil. Nothing unusual was recorded until eight months later when on Sunday, August 8, 1954, at 3:01 PM, the station's alarm bells rang out signaling that the gravimeter had been tripped. Fortunately, Smith was on hand to observe the instrument activation. He dashed over to look at it and: the deflection in the line (drawn by an electronically operated pen) was greater and more pronounced than we have seen even when a large aircraft has passed overhead. I ran outside to see what might be in the sky. The overcast was down to a thousand feet, so that whatever was up there, whatever it was that caused the sharp variation was concealed behind the clouds. We must now ask ourselves what it could have been. Although the evidence was inconclusive, Smith was convinced no known natural atmospheric phenomenon could account for the unusual pattern. Uncomfortable with the extensive press coverage sparked by the incident, Department of Transport official's unceremoniously discontinued Project Magnet two days later. This surprise move, described years later by Smith as "premature," coincided with a tightening of military secrecy on UFOs in the United States, following repeated leaks about tragic mishaps and mysterious disappearances of military pilots who had pursued UFOs. It soon became apparent that Smith had been persuaded to publicly down play the Project Magnet findings. When he appeared before the House of Commons Special Committee on Broadcasting on May 17, 1955, he made the surprise admission that: On the basis of our measurements, which were nil, we came to the conclusion we had very little data of any nature to go on. After that, Smith was still allowed to pursue his interests in UFOs privately; but without DOT co-operation he was forced to scale down his research. Prior to his untimely death in 1962, he restated his beliefs in an interview with Weekend Magazine. From the weight of the evidence, I think they come from outer space. But I can't prove it. The best I have is data on which you can put a probability figure. . . look at this way, if a stock promoter told you that there was a 60 per Cent probability that a certain stock would go up, I don't think you'd invest with him. But if the weatherman told you there was a 60 per cent probability that a hurricane was going to hit your area, I think you'd hurry up and bring in the lawn furniture. It's a question of viewpoint. You have to make up your own mind how significant you think the matter is. The documents relating to the Shirley Bay operation have remained classified to this day. The following classical case of parliamentary "double talk" took place in the House of Commons on December 4, 1963, and demonstrates the government's preoccupation with secrecy. Government spokesman Yvon Dupuis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State) responded to questions from Harold Winch (PC-Vancouver East). Winch: Is Canada co-operating with the special United States program for investigation of unidentified flying objects and if so, is this entitled "Project Magnet'? Dupuis: The United States program known as "Project Magnet" is not directed to the investigation of unidentified flying objects. Winch: Is "Project Magnet" an unpublicized, world-wide operation, using specially equipped, super constellations, non- uniformed pilots and civilian scientists? Dupuis: "Project Magnet" is a program conducted by the naval oceanographic office of the U.S. Navy concerned with the compilation of geo-magnetic data covering all the oceans of the world. Winch: Is any data available from "Project Magnet" to the general public? Dupius: It is understood that data obtained in "Project Magnet" in the form of geo-magnetic charts is available upon the application to the Naval Oceanographic Office of the U.S. Navy.
UFO CANADA - Yurko Bondarchuk