UFO over Trindade Island: Details overlooked or ignored

by Tim Printy © June 2004

Updated March 2005 (updates in yellow)

Martin Shough has posted a webpage arguing most of these points here. You can find it at http://www.geocities.com/parcellular/ufo/trindex.htm. He brings up some valid opposing points of view concerning the topics listed here. In the end, it is up to the reader to decide which arguments are valid and which are not. I would like to point out that one of the purposes of this section was to identify the problems with the case that should have been addressed in 1958 and not in 2004.

How many witnesses?

The number of witnesses that actual saw the UFO is somewhat unclear. Barauna had stated, "I cannot estimate the number of persons on the ship’s deck at the moment of the sighting. However, during the official investigation ordered by Com. Saldanha da Gaina, about one hundred members from the ship’s crew confirmed that they had sighted the UAO" (Fontes). Strangely, there are no official documents that mention any witness number and they do not name any witnesses other than Barauna. In fact, most of the Brazilian Navy documents that have been published about the case seem to indicate that none, or a very small number, of the crew saw the UFO. The number forty-eight would later become the value provided by Barauna. Various UFO books give different accounts on the number of witnesses and demonstrates that nobody tried to figure out exactly who saw the UFO. Most important is that there only three are on record as having seen the UFO. At one point the Brazilian navy would state, "No officer or sailor from the N.E. Almirante Saldanha witnessed the event" (Fontes). This statement seems to be confirmed by the report of the US Naval attaché, Captain Sunderland, in Brazil:

On the morning after the photos of the flying saucer were published in the press (February 22), the ALMIRANTE SALDANHA departed Rio to continue its mission in connection with the IGY. Two days later, however, the ship docked at Santos (February 24) for voyage repairs and this was the first chance that newspapermen had an opportunity to interview officers and men aboard. The Assistant Naval Attaché was in Santos at this time in connection with the visit of USCGS WESTWIND (Aluena Rio IR 36-58 of 10 March) and had an opportunity to visit aboard. The commanding officer, Capitao-de-Mar-e-Guerra (CAPT) Jose Santos Saldanha de Gama, had not seen the object and was noncommittal. The executive officer also had not seen it but, arriving shortly thereafter, had formed the opinion that those on deck had seen it. The captain had reported that his secretary, a LCDR, had seen it but this officer when personally questioned avoided discussing the matter. (Hynek 237)

Claims have been made that the Brazilian Navy had ordered their crew not to talk to the press but allowed members of the diving club to do so. Curiously, Viegas was, at one point, a captain in the Brazilian Air Force. Unless the military in Brazil is unlike the United States military, Viegas could have been directed not to talk as well. Additionally, while lowly petty officers, sergeants, and dentists were being directed not to talk about the situation, high ranking officers were freely talking in the media concerning their opinions on the photographs with many endorsing their authenticity. Exactly what evidence is there that people were told to keep their mouths shut on the matter?

UFOlogists have tried to interpret many of the writings to get an increasing list of witnesses of the event. Vague references to other members of the crew being interviewed and confirming the events or naming individuals who never openly spoke about the sighting is not an adequate substitute for getting facts. What did these unnamed witnesses see? Did they see the UFO or did they see Viegas wildly gesturing in the direction of the island. By most accounts, the UFO quickly disappeared after Viegas called everyone's attention to it, so how many individuals were able to quickly locate it before it suddenly "disappeared". Without any significant statements to read, the high number of eyewitnesses seems extremely inflated.

In order to address the lack of names for the 48 eyewitnesses, UFOlogist Alexandre de Carvalho Borges has written:

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 dos Santos Saldanha da Gama, Carlos Alberto Bacellar, Paulo Moreira da Silva, Jos Teobaldo Viegas,Mauro Andrade, Amilar Vieira Filho, Homero Ribeiro, Farias de Azevedo; a sailor whose first name is all we know, Alosio; and the photographer himself, Almiro Barana. Among these people, some would be indirect witnesses - they were aboard the ship when the UFO was seen, but did not actually see it.(Gevaerd)

This list is way overinflated as one can see below:

  1. Saldanha da Gama - This appears to be the ship's commanding officer, who according to Captain Sunderland, "The commanding officer, Capitao-de-Mar-e-Guerra (CAPT) Jose Santos Saldanha de Gama, had not seen the object and was noncommittal" (Hynek 237). There is no record that da Gama ever stated he saw the UFO.
  2. Bacellar - He never saw the UFO. According to his account, "I was not a witness of the sighting because, at that moment, I was inside my cabin; however, I was called to the deck immediately after the event" (Fontes).
  3. Moreira da Silva - Apparently a naval officer who was on board. He was a commander and part of the oceangraphic research branch of the Brazilian navy. UFOlogists like to refer to him as an admiral, which is a rank he attained at a later date (da Silva eventually oversaw the transformation of the Aldmirante Saldanha to a research vessel). He seems to imply that he saw a UFO but his comments are somewhat noncommittal, "I do not wish to advance my opinion, stating categorically that I saw a flying saucer. Yet, I can say that the UFO seen at the Island of Trindade was not a weather balloon, neither an American or Russian guided missile, nor a plane or a sea-gull...."(Fontes). When one examines a Navy report on the matter, we find, "That no officer from the Navy Corps sighted the phenomena registered, with the exception of the two incidents reported by CC Bacellar" (A.P.R.O.). Both of these incidents occurred on the island on other dates than the sighting in question. The lack of any report by Da Silva in this navy document implies that he probably did not see the event. Da Silva's rather ambiguous statements seem to imply second hand knowledge of the event.
  4. Viegas - Known eyewitness
  5. Andrade - Another witness, who did not see the UFO. According to his account, "I was somewhere inside the ship, was alerted by the shouts, and ran outside to see what was happening. Yet I didn’t see the object. But all people I found on deck told me that they had really sighted a flying saucer" (Fontes).
  6. Filho - Known eyewitness.
  7. Ribeiro - The ship's dentist, who ran recklessly across the deck. Apparently this was due to either seeing the UFO or trying to get to a position to see the UFO. According to researcher Luis Noguez, Ribero may have been a member of the diving club or was a close friend of Viegas and had arranged for the group to come along for the voyage to Trindade. If this is true, his association with Filho, Viegas, and Baruana (who might have been participants in a hoax) brings into question that he might not be an independent observer. Since he was never interviewed, we will never know.
  8. Azevedo - The photographer who either could not control his bladder or was on the wrong side of the ship to see the event. He was never interviewed and never spoke up about his observations. The lack of any testimony indicates he saw nothing during the event.
  9. Unnamed sailor Alosio - The only connection this "witness" has with the case is that Barauna showed two group photographs taken on board the Saldanha that included Alosio in both. Alosio appears to be part of the dive club based on his appearence in a dive club group photograph. In one of the photographs, Alosio had a cross by his name which signified "morto" (Dead men tell no tales). Without any written/recorded statement by Alosio, one can not consider him a valid witness.

This eyewitness list is not very informative and is padded with unknowns and people who openly stated they did not see the UFO. The only person that can possibly be added is da Silva and his comments seem to bounce about implying that he may or may not have seen the event. According to Barauna, "There was Prof. Fernando, a geologist, with two assistants, and also a photographer, and a reporter from the newspaper 'JORNAL DO BRASIL'. The three scientists left the ship and went to the island" (Fontes). It is strange that the photographer (probably Azevedo) and reporter from the newspaper are never mentioned in any of the stories. Photographs of the crew running about the deck and a first person narrative of the events just after the sighting by the reporter/photographer seemed appropriate. These stories/photographs do not appear anywhere in popular UFO lore and it seems they did not appear in any of the media.

Additionally, UFO groups love to mention that these photographs were taken during a scientific expedition to the island and make numerous references to the International Geophysical Year (IGY) stuides. If the UFO had been seen by scientists involved with the IGY, one would think they might write about it in their scientific journals or at least comment to the media. Barauna's "Prof. Fernando" is actually Professor Fernando F.M. De Almeida (as noted by Kentaro Mori) who has his papers on the web at http://www.unb.br/ig/sigep/sitio092/sitio092english.htm. Strangely, the good professor makes no mention of any UFO events during his stay on the island. The only link the UFO has to the IGY is that the ship was used to transport the IGY scientists to the island. There is no evidence that any member of the scientific team involved with the IGY ever mentioned seeing the UFO.

Others have pointed out that Commander Bacellar suggested that individuals at the bow (as well as the stern, where Viegas/Filho were located) also alerted the crew about the UFO. This seems contradicted by the statements of Viegas who clearly stated, "Other people were also alerted by my alarm: a sergeant, sailors, the ship’s dentist (Lieutenant Captain Homero Ribeiro), and other persons..." (Fontes). Notice he refers to the dentist whom Barauna stated came from the bow of the ship. Since Viegas states he alerted the dentist, then those in the bow could not have alerted him. The photographs also seem to show the bow of the ship pointing away from the island in a direction that would make a view from the bow less favorable than the stern or port side of the ship. Again, what seems to indicate a large portion of the crew had seen the object is contradicted by statements made by others.

Despite claims that there were forty-eight or more actual eyewitnesses to the UFO, it seems that only three ever came forward to tell the story. All of them members of the diving club, who knew each other. When some of the crew were interviewed about the events, many seemed to claim not to have been on deck at the time but got the impression that something was seen by those topside. All the yelling and shouting by Viegas could have given the impression to those on deck that something had been seen by some members of the crew. Once they became the center of the inquiry, their version of events could be told with little or no contradiction simply because the non-witnesses could only attest that something was seen by others but they missed it for a variety of reasons (the object was too fast, looking in the wrong direction, etc). Additionally, how many low ranking crew hands would be willing to contradict the word of an officer (Viegas was, at one time, an AF officer)?

Bright light or dull gray?

The story told by Barauna and his diving club associates has some key problems that never were resolved in any investigation. Interestingly, Viegas stated that when he first saw the UFO it was as bright as the full moon. There can be an explanation and that was the UFO was reflecting sunlight or emitting light when it first approached the island. Barauna would later imply that it was like the rays of the sun reflecting off of a car window. Strangely, something this obvious could not be located by Barauna for some thirty seconds and none of these effects were visible in any of the photographs. Even more interesting is that Filho never mentioned the UFO being bright until it started to depart. By Viegas account, Filho was the first to see the UFO and one would think that he might mention the brilliant flashes as it approached the island. Of course, the witnesses just could have recalled the events differently but it does appear to sound like a script that was not quite remembered in the correct order.

Tumbling disc?

A recent release of a Hynek interview with Barauna has Barauna claiming that Viegas stated he saw the UFO tumble as it flew in the sky. .Strangely, this was never mentioned in interviews after the event. The closest to this description was Barauna's statement that the UFO showed movement like a bat. However, Bat's do not tumble. Why would Barauna make the claim of tumbling? This may have been his way of explaining the Navy report by Captain Sunderland, which had noted that one of the images appeared to be an inverted version of another image. This is a potential indicator of a hoax photograph but most UFOlogists seemed more interested in criticizing Sunderland for some humorous comments made at the end of his report than trying to evaluate the inversion issue. Martin Shough correctly points out that the word used was "tipped" by Barauna in the interview. What this means is open to interpretation.

The loss of power

In later interviews, Barauna would state that the ship had lost power when the UFO appeared. In his interview with Dr. Hynek, Barauna had stated "All the electrical systems on the ship, radar and everything else went off...stopped" (Connors) after the UFO approached the ship. Barauna's only indicator that the ship had lost power was the stopping of the winch used to raise and lower the boat. Because a pulley had stopped does not mean all electrical power was out. A circuit breaker could have opened or the pulley may have stopped on it's own. Barauna insisted that this loss of power persisted for about a half-hour and that this could be verified because "a navy officer did report to the navy to that effect" (Connors). I could not find any documentation (as limited as it is) that supported this statement. The APRO document does not mention a loss of power and there is no mention of any navy officer reporting this contrary to what Barauna stated. Commander Bacellar (who seems to be the only officer who reported on the matter) had mentioned, "I was not a witness of the sighting because, at that moment, I was inside my cabin; however, I was called to the deck immediately after the event" (Fontes). If there had been a loss of power, Bacellar would have been alerted to something being wrong (as well as the ship's captain). After all, his cabin lighting would have been lost and he might have mentioned this fact in his report. Additionally, Captain Sunderland's report and none of the key witnesses (Filho and Viegas) mentioned the loss of power (especially if it lasted for a half-hour)!

Fontes did find another source that certain devices were not working:

I am going to tell you something about the flying saucer sighted at the Island of Trindade; something not yet printed in the papers. I cannot vouch for it, but my source is the best possible. According to my informant, more than the sighting of the flying saucer itself, what really made a deep impression on the Navy was the report that instruments Eke radio transmitters, and apparatus with magnetic needles, ceased operating while the flying object remained in the Island’s proximity. The Navy decided to canister this a top-secret fact. (Fontes)

I could not determine what an Eke radio transmitter (Martin Shough has pointed out that this was an error and the words "Eke" should not have been listed) was but they do not mention loss of electrical power on the island. Considering the source is anonymous, it is hard to determine the validity of such a statement. Strangely, there is no mention by Fontes from this source that the ship had lost power during the event. When it comes down to it, the loss of electrical power is based solely on Barauna's testimony.The lack of this event being mentioned by key witnesses at the time or in official reports suggests that this is more myth than fact.

Radar contact!

Early on, questions were asked if the UFO had been detected by Radar. Barauna would respond, "The radar was not in operation at the time. The object was already gone when it was put to work" (Fontes). However, when interviewed by Hynek in the 1980's Barauna would change this to, "...on the day it appeared the radar saw...detected it about fifteen minutes before they saw it..." (Connors). As always, Barauna's later interviews tend to contradict statements made shortly after the event. It is also contradicted by Commander Bacellar's statements that it was the shouting by individuals on deck that raised the alarm about the UFO. Certainly, if they were tracking it on radar 15 minutes prior to it's arrival, some alarm might be raised by the technicians to those on deck to be alert for an approaching unidentified aircraft. At least the captain would be alerted. Instead, Captain da Gama was in his cabin, no alert was given, and it was the eagle-eyed Filho who first saw the UFO.

Oliver Fontes stated that a UFO was tracked the day before by the ship's radar,

According to the radar technicians, the ship’s radar set had picked up a target flying at supersonic speed the day before Barauna’s sighting, at about 12:05 p.m. The operator had tried to switch the set to automatic tracking, but failed, and the strange body was not identified. However, as they were not alerted about flying saucers at that time, the radar technicians admitted the possibility of a defect in the set and rechecked it. They found that everything was normal.(Fontes)

It is interesting that these same technicians never mentioned anything about detecting the UFO the day of the photographs. It also seems possible that this radar sighting could easily have been random targets that the operators assumed to be the same target on successive sweeps. One can not verify this to be the case without more information, which most of these cases seem to be lacking. Additionally, Fontes statement does not confirm Barauna's claim that the UFO was tracked by the crew of the Saldanha prior to the photographs being taken. However, one can propose that it may have been an error by Barauna in his dates that caused this erroneous claim. Barauna may have heard the story about the radar contact the day before and thought it had occurred on the date he took his photographs.

The easiest thing to confirm is if the Almirante Saldanha actually had an air search radar. Unfortunately, Jane's fighting ships for the time period does not list the types of radar placed on such vessels. One must realize that this was a vessel not designed for air defense and, therefore it seems that an air search radar would be highly unlikely. It was a training ship and what is more probable is that it had a surface search radar for navigation. Photographs of the Saldahana do not show any radar (post modification photographs when the sails were removed clearly show two radar but this was after 1959) on any of the major masts but there is a feature that may be a radar on a short mast between the fore and main mast. Although the photograph is not clear, it appears that the "antenna like feature" is similar to the type of antenna used by surface search radar (air search radar often incorporated an "orange peel" shape in the vertical axis. This is not correct, as Martin Shough points out. "Orange peel" radar antenna are used for height finding and not air search).

The most common type of surface search radar in use during WWII by the US Navy was the SG series. While the Saldanha may have not had the SG, it is likely that the radar in use (if it had one) would have been something similar. Information concerning the SG radar can be found at http://www.microworks.net/pacific/equipment/sg_radar.htm. Other radar types of the time period can also be found at http://navalhistory.flixco.info/G/119907/8330/a0.htm. After reviewing this information one can see that most surface search radar of the time period had a horizontal beamwidth (the width of the beam in the horizontal plane) of about 2-4 degrees. This means the beam only extended away from the antenna at an angle of 1-2 degrees above the horizontal. The net result is that low flying aircraft/UFOs would enter the beam briefly but, unless it descended as it approached the ship to stay in the beam, it would exit that beam and disappear off the radar scope. According to the SG radar website, the SG radar could spot a low flying bomber (500 ft) at 15nm (about 17 miles). However if this same aircraft were flying at 500 feet at a distance of 2-3 nm, it may not be detected because it would be outside the radar's beam. One must understand that a surface search radar was not specifically designed to track aircraft. Instead it was more important for it to track other ships and sea-level obstacles in poor visibility. Martin Shough has correctly pointed out this as an erroneous statement. I did not research this section well and relied on my faulty recollections of Electronics Technician school when I was in the US Navy. This is the reason for the strikeout above. However, I left the text for all to see what was orignally written. When I asked Martin if he knew what type of radar was in use, he did not know. However, he did confirm that the feature I thought might be the radar is correct. When I was examining radar types, I noticed that the antenna feature may belong to an AN/SPS-6 air/surface search radar, which had began appearing on US battleships in the early 1950s. However, close examination of the apparent size indicates the antenna has the wrong dimension for an AN/SPS-6. The fact remains that existence of an actual radar type and ability can not be readily confirmed. Additionally, it seems likely that if there was a radar in operation, it probably was may not have been designed for tracking aircraft. Further research in this area could shed light on this matter and could determine if the events occurred as Barauna had stated.

The radar contact story, like the 48 eyewitnesses and loss of electrical power, is based solely on one person's testimony. It is my opinion that there is no validity to this story. I base this upon several key points:

Some UFOlogists have declared this a "radar-visual" case based solely on what Barauna has stated. Clearly, such declarations are not only premature, but seemed to be based more on wishful thinking than close examination of known facts.

Darkroom antics?

According to the Brazilian Navy report, Commander Bacellar reported:

After the sighting, the photographer took out the film from the camera in the presence of CC Bacellar and other officers; later, together with CC Bacellar, he went to the ship’s photo-lab dressed only in a shirt and shorts; the processing lasted about 10 minutes and then the negatives were examined by CC Bacellar... (APRO)

Additionally, Bacellar had stated that Viegas escorted Barauna into the makeshift darkroom, "The AF Captain Jose Teobaldo Viegas (retired) went with him into the darkroom, holding a flashlight during the film’s development, while I waited outside"(Fontes). The story thus stands that both men entered the darkroom with a flashlight and came out about ten minutes latter with the dripping wet negatives. Is this possible?

The basic process for developing negatives (Barnes 201)

The use of a flashlight in a darkroom to develop negatives is not necessary. While negatives are being developed, they can not normally be exposed to light until the fixer has been applied (there is a desensitization process that allows use of a safelight, not a flashlight, but this extends development time). So what was the purpose of the flashlight?

According to Bacellar, Baruna and Viegas went into the improvised darkroom for ten minutes and then came out with the wet negatives. Assuming Barauna had to place the film in a developing tank, it would have taken several minutes to insert the negatives into the takeup spool (this does not take into account the significant "emotional distress" that Barauna had experienced). The developer (#1 in the above diagram) would then be applied. The time required to develop the negatives varies between films, developer type, and developer temperature. Kodak's Pamphlet No. F-16 (July 1960 revision) lists Tri-X and Verichrome Pan (two of the most common films available during the time period) at 8 and 12 minutes in room temperature D-76 (a commonly used developer). In 1955, publication No. F-1 lists longer development times (12 and 16 minutes). Even when using fast developers like DK-60, developer times in Publication F-1 are about 5-7 minutes. Since D-76 is most commonly used by photographers, it seems these times are most appropriate and using a time of 10 minutes a good average. After the developer has been drained, the developing solution needs to be fully removed from the tank. This usually requires several fills and drains of the tank with fresh water and sometimes uses a "stop bath" (#5). This takes a few minutes depending on how fast the tank drains. Lastly, the film needs to be "fixed" to remove the films light sensitivity (#7). Modern fixers usually take between five and ten minutes with the minimum being five (Rapid fixer takes 2-5 minutes). Any less time would present the possibility of ruining the negatives. Lastly, the films need to be rinsed. This usually takes some time to ensure all the chemistry is removed and the negatives are cleared. This process would have taken 2-3 minutes as a minimum. Some people use an agent (#10) to prevent spotting of the negative (I often used photo-flo). Considering the importance of the photographs, one would think that Barauna would have made sure he had properly fixed and developed the negatives and not have skimped on any of the times (like trying to cut corners on fixer/developer time). The result is the whole process should have taken about twenty minutes or more and not ten to produce the negatives. Was Bacellar's time off by a factor of two or was he accurate in the time portrayed? If he was being accurate, it makes one wonder how Barauna was able to walk into the darkroom and produce the negatives in a mere ten minutes.

I can see the UFO!

The examination of the negatives by various witnesses seems somewhat odd. We are never really told which witnesses examined the negatives and exactly what did they see? The camera used by Barauna was a "medium format" type camera, which normally creates 6X6CM negatives (actually the size of the image on the negative ends up being 56X56mm). Such a negative is good for examination but we are also told that Barauna overexposed the film by (apparently) several f-stops. So, the negatives would be dark and wet and not being examined in a dark room environment. Based on the scale of the images in the photographs, the actual size of the UFO on the negative would have been about 2mm. However, this is the entire width of the UFO with the ring. The actual circular body was actually smaller and would equate to about 1.25mm on the negative. When one was trying to locate such a small low contrast object (the ufo is not that distinct in the prints) on a dark and wet negative under less than ideal conditions, one has to wonder exactly what did these witnesses see.

In order to make the scenario of identifying the UFO on the negatives more plausible, some UFOlogists have suggested that the crew had magnifying glasses readily available to examine the negatives. Having served in the United States Navy, I rarely (if ever) saw any deck hands walking about with a magnifying glass in their possession. Where did these magnifying glasses come from and how experienced were these individuals in using them to look at negatives? This is not a matter of looking at negatives on a light table where it is easy to examine details but a situation where the wet negative strip is being held up to the sky for examination. This latest variation on the story seems to be created in order to answer the question about how people could identify the object on the negative as the UFO that was seen.

To demonstrate the difficulty in seeing small objects in dark negatives, I conducted a little experiment. These images show an aerial object that is the same size as the UFO was in Barauna's negative. The film was exposed using TMAX film (ISO 400) and a medium format Holga camera (1/100 sec F8). The negatives were held up to the sky that was cloudy and the digital image taken from a distance of about 12-18 inches.

A 6X6 negative of an aerial object viewed from about 12-18 inches

The aerial object was a small ball that was thrown into the air, which produced an image on the negative about 1mm in size. It was a rather dark color and contrasted well with the mostly clear sky. Compare this to the grayish UFO (described as "dull gray") visible in the images produced by Barauna. In the above image, one can identify that something is there, but it is difficult to make out any details. Specifically, it seems highly unlikely that the "ring" would have stood out at all.

It is hard to believe that a photographer would allow precious photographic negatives to be handled by crew members with greasy hands as well as exposed to salt water. Negatives are very delicate and can be scratched easily, especially when wet (When wet, negatives tend to be tacky and can attract dust, dirt, salt, etc that can adhere to the negative). Based on the popular story, Barauna readily exposed these valuable images to this hostile environment in order to have the whole crew closely examine the negatives! A more likely scenario is that Barauna held the negatives to the sky so that others could examine them. However, in order to prevent damage to the negatives, the "viewing" was probably minimized to a few individuals from a distance of about a foot. These few individuals would probably include those who saw it the longest and were in the best position to verify it, Filho and Viegas.

Why overexposed?

As noted, Barauna stated he had overexposed the image by taking his photographs at F8 with a speed of 1/125th of a second. However, in a later interview with Dr. Hynek, he implied that the exposure setting was 1/200th at F5.6. These values may be mistranslations since there is no 1/200th of a second exposure time on the camera. Would Barauna's stated exposure time cause an overexposure error? Getting the correct exposure on a roll of film is based on getting the right amount of light onto the emulsion. Sky conditions, film speed, and how much light the camera lets in during the exposure time will determine if the image is correctly captured.

We know what the sky conditions were that day. Barauna stated early on that conditions were, "cloudy, clear, with no shadows" (Fontes). However, in the interview with Dr. Hynek, Barauna contradicted himself and stated, "There was only some cirrus in the sky" (Connors). If you reexamine his early testimony to the press, he often referred to the UFO being silhouetted against the clouds making one question what was stated in the Hynek interview. The photographs also show many clouds with only a few clear spots making his original statement seem the most accurate. Unless the "cirrus" was a heavy cirrus cloud cover, it seems Barauna's later statements are not accurate at all.

We don't know what film Barauna was using and Hynek, despite asking technical questions regarding the images, never bothered to ask. In fact, I can not find any information concerning the type of film used, which makes one question how thorough the evaluations of the images really were. Considering he was shooting daylight shots, it is likely he would have been using a daylight film. In 1956, Kodak had released its Verichrome Pan film, which would have been well suited for daylight photography (Kodak already had Plus-X and Verichrome film available with similar speed ratings). With an ASA rating of 125, it was considered a pretty fast film for its time. Despite this high speed, it seems the stated exposure time should not have overexposed the image at all. According to the Kodak technical bulletin on Verichrome Pan film:

Lighting Conditions

Shutter Speed (Second)

Lens Opening

Bright or Hazy Sun on Light Sand or Snow 1/125 f/22
Bright or Hazy Sun (Distinct Shadows) 1/125 f/16*
Weak, Hazy Sun (Soft Shadows) 1/125 f/11
Cloudy Bright (No Shadows) 1/125 f/8
Heavy Overcast or Open Shade** 1/125 f/5.6
*Use f/8 at 1/125 for backlighted close-up subjects.

**Subject shaded from the sun but lighted by a large area of clear sky.


Even if there were a hazy sun, Barauna would only have been off by one f-stop. In another twist, The Brazilian Navy document implies only two of the four UFO negatives were dark. One has to wonder what occurred during the 14 seconds that could make sky conditions change so drastically that a negative would go from being properly exposed to heavily overexposed.

Scans of Plus-X (IS0 125) negatives for a CLEAR sky. While the 1/125th second is slightly darker than the 1/250th second exposure (which was the correct exposure according to the meter), the negative is not "very dark".

If Barauna was using ISO 400 film (which was had become available a few years before), it is possible that he could have created a "very dark" frame as demonstrated below.

Scans of Tmax (ISO 400) for a cloudy sky. The shot on the right is 1/250th of a second at F8 which is what the camera metered as the correct exposure time.The shot on the left was 1/125th of a second at F8 and might qualify as "very dark".

The resultant overexposure error of "very dark" negatives is only explainable if Barauna was using very high speed film (ISO 400 or higher). However, it could also be suggested that some form of trick photography was used that produced the overexposure error when using lower speed film. For those defending the "reality" of these images, it would have been in their interest to clear up such an issue.The lack of any information concerning the speed of the film used is another example of important details being omitted despite the case being thoroughly scrutinized..

Is this map accurate?

The Trindade map commonly shown in books and websites (Lorenzen 166)

Whenever this case is discussed the same map appears to demonstrate the UFOs flight path during the event. The diagram above appparently originated from Barauna's statements to the newspaper O' Globo, which published the map in the February 22, 1958 issue. Barauna seems to have confirmed this in his interview with Hynek, "This distance was calculated by the Navy itself...the object had passed at 14KM from the ship..."(Connors) and where he made a rough sketch of the event. However, the flight path in his sketch went in the reverse direction as shown on the map above (#6 was where P1 was taken and #1 was where P6 was taken). The map and sketch (as well as Barauna's testimony) implied that the ship was a great distance from the island.

However, the images and testimony do not agree with this map at all. First of all, the ship was anchored near the naval base in order to transfer personnel. The distance involved would not be too great but the position in the map above is some 3-4 km to the northwest of where the actual base was located. Small boats do not fare well in the open ocean especially when they are transporting large numbers of personnel and equipment. Large vessels try and anchor as close as possible so as to minimize the transit time and provide for the best possible route for the launch. As a result, the ship would be anchored only a short distance from the island.

There is also a problem with the interpretation of Barauna's statement about "Galo Crest". The map above refers to it as a peak but in reality Barauna was referring to the point (Pta. Crista de Galo) on the shore as one can see in the map at Brazil'sVitoria City Hall website (Thanks to Martin Powell for identifying this source).When one places all the images together as Kentaro Mori has done (http://www.geocities.com/airsmither/pan1.jpg), it is easy to see that the ship was apparently anchored in the vicinity of the island and not far out to sea as popularly depicted.

In examining Mori's panorama, I tried for some time to figure out the ship's exact position to coincide with the angles between the peaks and the heights of the mountains. At first, I assumed that Barauna's version of the peak being Desajado was correct but the math never quite worked out. Using the standard camera FOV of 38.6 degrees (see later discussion below), I computed the angle between these peaks was roughly 50 degrees. I also determined the angular height above sea level to be about 12.5 degrees for Obelisco and 21.9 degrees for Desajado (based on Mori's rescaled images). However, if the large peak had been the towering Desajado peak, the ship could not match the distances I was computing for the peaks based on the measured angles. The end result was some confusion on my part until Mori placed the photographs on his website of the island and it's peaks at http://www.geocities.com/airsmither/trinpos.htm. I consider his work extremely helpful in correcting my estimates. Most important is that the image at P3 was nowhere near Desajado peak. Instead the peak visible next to the UFO was actually an unnamed peak. Mori seems to think that it is a 309m peak on the map halfway between Pta da Valado and the Monumento. I disagree with this conclusion.

When I computed the positions using the 309m peak, I still came up with problems. Using the values of 309m I determined the distance to the ship would have to be roughly 770 meters from the peak and could not be in the ocean if we went in the direction of the Pta da Valado. Instead one would have to move closer to the NW position of the island but this would shorten the distance from the Obelisco to the ship, which I had computed to be roughly 2KM. Faced with this confusing situation, I reexamined Mori's pictures. After close examination, I believe that Mori made an error and it was not the 309m peak in the photographs but the 345 m peak halfway between Pta da Valado and Trindade peak. Missing from Barauna's photograph was a small peak (157m)that would have been visible between the 309m peak and the ship. This series of peaks is seen below the UFO in the P2 image (the 157m peak is just below it with the 309m to the left). Additionally, to the right of the peak in the photograph, the cliffs move significantly inland while to the left, the cliffs seem to be equidistant. This seems to conform with the landscape associated with the 345m peak instead of the 309m peak. When the 345m peak is used the distances now suddenly become more in line with the height and peak separation angles observed in the photographs. One can see this in the below diagram (all values are approximate).

Ships position and angles (approximate values) to peaks (Section of map obtained from Brazil's Vitoria City Hall website)

This position can not be considered a final solution. Kentaro feels that there may be problems with the topographic survey that produced this map and the values may not be accurate. Additionally, I discovered some errors in my estimated position. Cross checking the distance between the two peaks and the angle observed resulted in some error that may be due to the angle measurements being less than 100% accurate. Considering the problems with the different image scaling of the prints, lack of access to the original negatives, and potential errors associated with the camera/lens system, I feel these errors were acceptable. One can only state with some certainty that the position of the ship was somewhere very close to the Pta do Valado.

Of course, this brings into question the actual position of the UFO with relationship to the island. Using a map of the island, I have drawn rough sighting lines of the UFOs location for the photographs in question (Labeled P1, P2, P3, P6).

UFO sighting lines in relation to island and ship (approximate values). (Section of map obtained from Brazil's Vitoria City Hall website)

What becomes clear from all of this information is that nobody really bothered to examine where the ship was truly positioned for the past 40 years. For those investigating the UFO case it is strange that this error was not corrected long ago. The erroneous map is even part of the CUFOS website, which is interested in the scientific research of UFOs. One can only assume that, instead of actually researching the case, the map was simply "accepted" as a matter of fact by all UFOlogists because Barauna said this was the case.

Ignorance is bliss

There appears to be a recurring problem with the case. Despite prominent UFOlogists thumping their chests and proclaiming the case has withstood scrutiny, it seems the amount of investigation was minimal at best. Otherwise, there would be no need for the "Trindade Resarch project" to exist! Most of what has been written is simply repeating the early work by Fontes, who seems to have obtained most of his information from the media. There just have not been enough critical questions asked about the numbers of eyewitnesses, the exposure issue, the loss of electrical power, the radar contact, or the ships location/UFO flight path. If this is the case, how critical have the investigations been about the photographs themselves?

Works Cited

A.P.R.O. "New evidence on IGY Photos." APRO Bulletin. January 1965: 1,3-8. Available WWW: http://www.cufos.org/Trindade_New_Evidence_article.html

Barnes, A. J. and Company ed. Pictoral Cyclopedia of Photography. Focal Press Ltd., Cranbury, N.J. 1968

Connors, Wendy. "Trindade Isle Radar/Visual case of 1-16-1958 - Almiro Barauna interview by Hynek". UFOlogy: A primer in audio 1938-1959. CD-ROM. 2003.

Fontes, Olavo. "The UAO sightings at the island of Trindade". APRO Bulletin. Available WWW: http://www.cufos.org/trindade_fontes_article1960.html

Gevaerd, A. J. "Trindade Material - Part II" 1 December 2003. UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2003/dec/m01-008.shtml

Hynek, J. Allen. The Hynek UFO Report. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1997.

Kodak. Kodak Verichrome Pan film technical publication F-7. Available WWW: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/f7/f7.jhtml

Lorenzen, Coral E., Flying Saucers: The startling evidence of the invasion from outer space. New York: New American Library, 1966


Next: What is wrong with this picture?

Back to: Trindade Island index

Back to My skeptical opinion about UFOs