UFOs and Strange Vanishings at Australia’s Mysterious Bass Strait Triangle

Some places in this world seem to draw to them mysterious forces beyond our understanding, little corners of the world that for whatever reasons have mysteries gravitate to them. Running through the expanse between the Australian state of Victoria and the island of Tasmania is a stretch of sea called the Bass Strait. The strait measures  300 km (190 mi) wide and 200 km (120 mi) from north to south, and although known for rough currents and winds it is a major shipping lane, and also sees a lot of air traffic, so it is not a particularly remote or uncharted place in modern times, yet the Bass Strait has long had a reputation as a place of mysterious phenomena and strange vanishings for centuries. Indeed, such is its reputation for weirdness, U̳F̳O̳s, and its hungry habit of swallowing ships and planes that this swath of sea has earned its nickname “The Bass Strait Triangle.”

The ominous reputation of the Bass Strait goes back to its very discovery in 1797, when the vessel Sydney Cove, one of the first ships to ever visit the east coast of Australia, wrecked on Preservation Island while delivering goods from Calcutta to Port Jackson. A salvage operation was launched to collect the ship and the handful of survivors who were castaways on the island, and one of these rescuers, the ship Eliza vanished off the face of the earth. The salvage operation led to the discovery of the Bass Strait, collected the first scientifically studied specimen of a wombat, and cemented early the strait’s reputation for disappearing ships. Over the ensuing decades the area would become notorious for ships just disappearing into thin air, and the 19th century had many notable instances of this through the 1800s, such as the British warship HMS Sappho, which vanished with 100 people aboard and left behind not a scrap of wreckage, as well the vessel Harlech Castle, and many, many others. Indeed, the strait became so notorious for ships going missing that few dared to make the north to south journey until Melbourne was established in 1835, and even then at least seven major vessels vanished without a trace travelling to the new port in rapid succession between the years of 1838 to 1840, their wrecks and crews never found. This was perhaps most likely due to poor sea conditions, hidden dangers such as reefs and the rocky coast, all compounded by inadequate charts, but it is still a high concentration of vanishing vessels compared to other areas at the time, and rumors were already brewing that this was an unlucky, possibly even cursed, treacherous place of mystery.

The early 1900s would see ships continue to disappear in the strait at a good rate, such as the coal ship SS Federal in 1901, the German cargo ship SS Ferdinand Fischer in 1906, and numerous other smaller vessels. In 1920 one of the more notable ship vanishings would occur here, with the disappearance of the schooner SS Amelia J, which went missing soon after entering the strait. During the ensuing major search and rescue effort launched by the military, another vessel in the operation, the SS Southern Cross would also vanish, as would a military Airco DH.9 aircraft. Oddly, some crew members involved with the search aboard the HMAS Swordsman would report having seen strange lights in the sky during the search operation.

It was not only ships that would vanish here, as in addition to the disappearance of the Airco DH.9 there were other major aircraft vanishings in the Bass Strait. In 1934 the airliner Miss Hobart flew off the face of the earth with 11 people on board during a routine flight in perfect flying conditions and despite the fact that it was at the time a new, state-of-the-art Havilland DH86 aircraft. Not even a scrap of it was ever found, and making it all eerier was that the plane’s final transmission is the pilots explaining that the plane was surrounded by an unusual buzzing sound before contact was lost. Just one year later, in 1935 another airliner, the aircraft Loina went missing under very bizarre circumstances. In this case, the Loina was actually making its final approach into Hobart with two pilots and three passengers aboard, but the plane’s radio communications suddenly went silent for no discernible reason right after the pilot informed of their approach and the plane disappeared. Wreckage of the Loina would be found with a piece of floor holding an intense scorch mark just a few centimeters across, although what this means is anyone’s guess. None of the bodies of any of the five people aboard were ever found.

It was around this time that the strait became associated with a good amount of U̳F̳O̳ activity, with strange things frequently reported from the skies here. Indeed, throughout World War II there were accounts of pilots encountering U̳F̳O̳s, such as one pilot who claimed to have been followed by a large bronze disc, another who was followed by a large dark shadow, and many others. These strange sightings may or may not have something to do with the large number of military planes that went missing over these waters during the war, but they disappeared at a good clip. At least 17 military aircraft were lost here while on training flights out of airbases such as RAAF Base East Sale near Sale, Victoria, with wreckage never being found in most cases. Is it just coincidence that this was going on during so much U̳F̳O̳ activity? It is hard to say, but U̳F̳O̳s definitely feature in arguably the most famous disappearance associated with the Bass Strait.

Probably the most well-known and bizarre of any of the cases here is that of Frederick Valentich, who on October 28, 1978 departed on a training flight over the Bass Strait in Australia aboard a Cessna 182 Skylane light aircraft, on his way to King’s Island. During the flight, Valentich radioed Melbourne air traffic control to tell them that he was having engine troubles and that he was being followed by what first appeared to be some sort of large aircraft with four bright lights on it about 1,000 feet above him. He was then told that there were no other aircraft scheduled to be in that area at the time, nor were any showing up on radar, but Valentich insisted that he was witnessing one and that it was moving at very high speeds and getting closer, seemingly toying with him as it made several passes overhead. Valentich would say:

Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like it’s chasing me. What I’m doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also. It’s got a green light and is sort of metallic like, it’s all shiny on the outside.

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