The 2000 Survey
Chris A. Rutkowski
Errol Bruce-Knapp, MUFON Ontario and UFO Updates
Graham Conway, UFO*BC
Peter Davenport, NUFORC
Michel Deschamps, MUFON Ontario, Sudbury
Geoff Dittman, UFOROM
Stefan Duncan, AUFON
George Filer, Filer’s Files
Eugene Frison, MUFON Nova Scotia
Martin Jasek, UFO*BC
Gord Kijek, AUFOSG
Rhea Labrie, St. Paul UFO Hotline
Don Ledger, MUFON Nova Scotia
Victor Lourenco, MUFON Canada
Steven MacLean, MUFON Nova Scotia
Gilles Milot, AQU
Bill Oliver, UFO*BC
David Pengilly, UFO*BC
Jacques Poulet, CHUCARA
Michael Strainic, MUFON Canada
Joe Trainor, Masinaigan, UFO Roundup
Brian Vike, HBBC
Chris Rutkowski, UFOROM
Data Entry, Compilation and Analyses
Geoff Dittman, UFOROM
Ufology Research of Manitoba
42 La Porte Drive
Canada R3V 1V4
The 2000 Canadian UFO Survey
The year 2000 marked the 11th year that UFOROM has solicited UFO case data from all known and active investigators and researchers in Canada for analyses and comparison with other compilations. Throughout more than a decade, we have collected data in UFO reports with a goal of understanding this controversial and popular phenomenon. No other country in the world has a civilian program of this kind, and there are no comparable reports produced by any other research group.
Since the public generally equates UFOs with alien visitation, it would seem obvious that research on the characteristics of UFO reports is desirable. As well, given the general belief that aliens are present in our Solar System, a thorough examination of UFO reports should provide insight into the nature of this presence.
The Collection of Canadian UFO Data
Although many individuals, associations, clubs and groups claim to investigate UFO reports or otherwise solicit reports from the general public, very few actually participate in any kind of information sharing or data gathering for scientific programs. Many are only interest groups based in museums, planetariums, church basements or individuals’ homes, and do essentially nothing with the case reports they receive. Because there is no way to enforce standards in UFO report investigations, the quality of case investigations varies considerably.
Until 1995, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) routinely collected UFO reports from private citizens, RCMP, civic police and military personnel. Included among the NRC reports were many observations of meteors and fireballs, and these had been added into the UFO report database since 1989. For several years, the collection of such reports was in an effective hiatus, but in 2000, UFO sightings reported to Transport Canada began being referred to UFOROM for research on these phenomena.
For the purposes of this and other scientific studies of UFO data, UFO sightings which have been made to contributing and participating groups, associations, organizations or individuals are considered officially reported and valid as data in this study. The collection of Canadian UFO data is challenging. However, the data obtained for the present analysis yields similar results to previous studies and is useful in understanding the nature of UFO reports in Canada, and can shed light on the nature of UFO reports elsewhere in the world.
UFO Reports in Canada
For this study, the working definition of a UFO is an object seen in the sky which its observer cannot identify.
The following table shows the numbers of reported UFOs per year since 1989.
|Year||Number of cases||Cumulative total|
Report numbers have risen and decreased from year to year, depending on a number of factors. Report numbers increased between 1998 and 1999, and again in 2000. In 2000, report numbers were significantly above the yearly average of 236.8. The number of UFO sightings reported in 2000 was about 2% higher than 1999. The number of UFO cases reported in 1999 had increased 33% over 1998, an amount well above the Canadian average. The year 2000 saw the third-highest number of reports ever recorded for Canada.
Yearly figures are greatly dependent on many factors, especially the cooperation of contributors to the survey. The all-time high count in 1993 was almost entirely due to a single major fireball event which was reported by hundreds of independent observers across the country.
Why Include IFOs in a UFO Study?
There are several reasons for including IFOs such as fireballs and bolides in the UFO report database. First, previous studies of UFO data have included meteor and fireball reports. In many instances, observers fail to recognize stars, aircraft and bolides, and therefore report them as UFOs. That is why some UFO investigators often spend many hours sorting IFOs from UFOs. Historically, analyses of UFO data such as American projects Grudge, Sign and Blue Book all included raw UFO data which later resolved into categories of UFOs and IFOs. Another reason is that observed objects are sometimes quickly assigned a particular IFO explanation even though later investigation suggests such an explanation was unwarranted.
The issue of including IFOs in studies of UFO data is an important one. One could argue that once a sighting is explained, it has no reason to be considered as a UFO report. However, this overlooks the fact that the IFO was originally reported as a UFO and is indeed valid data. It may not be evidence of extraterrestrial visitation, but as UFO data, it is quite valid. It must be remembered that all major previous studies of UFOs examined UFO reports with the intent to explain a certain percentage of cases. These cases were the IFOs - definitely part of the UFO report legacy.
IFOs, however, are problematic in that they are not interesting to most ufologists. In fact, many UFO investigators do not record any details about UFOs reported to them which seem easily explained as ordinary objects. This may be a serious error. The UFO witness is conscientiously reporting an object which is mysterious to him or her - the exact definition of a UFO. Therefore, even the late-night anonymous telephone calls which are obviously reports of airplanes or planets should be logged as UFO reports. It is the opinion of the authors of this study that all UFO reports be included in statistical databases and in later studies on the phenomenon, regardless of the cases’ later downgrading to IFOs.
Since most UFO reports can be explained and reclassified as IFOs, we can observe that this attests to the reality of the objects seen. UFO reports actually reflect real events which occur. When a UFO is reported, a real object has been seen and was not just a fantasy of a witness’ imagination.
Data for each case was received by UFOROM from participating researchers across Canada. The information then was coded by members of UFOROM and entered into a Microsoft Excel database and statistically analysed.
An example of the coding key is as follows:
Example: 2000 01 09 1530 Vernon BC DD 900 silver 2 ps 6 5 UFOBC p four obj. seen
Field: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Field 1 is a default YEAR for the report (UFOROM is now coding to allow for the next millennium).
Field 2 is the MONTH of the incident.
Field 3 is the DATE of the sighting.
Field 4 is the local TIME, on the 24-hour clock.
Field 5 is the geographical LOCATION of the incident.
Field 6 is the PROVINCE where the sighting occurred.
Field 7 is the TYPE of report, using the Modified Hynek Classification System.
Field 8 is the DURATION of the sighting, in seconds (a value of 600 thus represents 10 minutes).
Field 9 is the primary COLOUR of the object(s) seen
Field 10 is the number of WITNESSES
Field 11 is the SHAPE of the object(s) seen
Field 12 is the STRANGENESS of the report.
Field 13 is the RELIABILITY of the report.
Field 14 is the SOURCE of the report.
Field 15 is the EVALUATION of the case.
Field 16 includes any COMMENTS noted about the case.
Analyses of the Data
Distribution of UFO Reports Across Canada
In previous analyses, British Columbia had between 30% and 40% of the total number of reported UFO cases per year. In 2000, the percentage was 39%, again showing an over-representation of cases due to the aggressive and successful marketing of ufology in BC by UFOBC. Ontario and Quebec together constitute more than 60% of Canada’s population, but had only about 29% of the total number of UFO reports in 2000, and this does not vary much from year to year.
For the fifth year in a row, there was a larger than normal number of UFO sightings reported in the Northern Canada. About 10% of all Canadian UFO reports came from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories in 2000, much more than might be expected if sightings were somehow tied to population.
Monthly Trends in UFO Reports
The monthly breakdowns of reports during each year tend to show slightly different patterns. While the 1999 cases had no clear peaks in monthly report numbers, the year 2000 saw a very significant set of peaks in August and October and troughs in May and June. This is most curious, because UFO reports often are said to peak in summer and trough in winter, presumably due to the more pleasant observing conditions during the summer months, when more witnesses are outside. In fact, during the last 12 years of this data compilation, the opposite of what is usually imagined was true: there were peaks in winter, and relative troughs in summer. In general, there are more UFOs reported in the winter than the summer. This seems counter-intuitive, and we have no explanation for this result at this time.
UFO Report Types
An analysis by report type shows a similar breakdown to that found in previous years. The percentage of cases of a particular type remains roughly constant from year to year, with minor variations. Nocturnal Lights (NLs), for example, comprised 60% of all reports in 1989, with a high of 76% in 1993 and a low of 51% in 1997. In 2000, NLs were 69% of the total.
The percentage of DDs has also varied over the years. In 1991, there were only 7.9%, but in 1997 there were 18.4%. There were 10% in 2000.
NL and ND cases together comprise almost 81% of all 2000 UFO reports; about four out of five UFO sightings occur at night.
Only about 3% of all reported UFO cases in 2000 were close encounters. This is an important statistic, because the current popular interest in abductions and sensational UFO encounters is based not on the vast majority of UFO cases but on the very tiny fraction of cases which fall into the category of close encounters. The endless speculation of what aliens may or may not be doing in our airspace is almost completely unrelated to what is actually being reported as a UFO.
For those unfamiliar with the classifications, a summary follows:
NL (Nocturnal Light) - light source in night sky
ND (Nocturnal Disc) - light source in night sky that appears to have a definite shape
DD (Daylight Disc) - unknown object observed during daytime hours
C1 (Close Encounter of the First Kind) - ND or DD occurring within 200 metres of a witness
C2 (Close Encounter of the Second Kind) - C1 where physical effects left or noted
C3 (Close Encounter of the Third Kind) - C1 where figures/entities are encountered
C4 (Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind) - an alleged "abduction" or "contact" experience
RD (Radar) - UFOs observed on radar
PH (Photograph) - photographs of a UFO, but no actual sighting
The category of Nocturnal Disc was created by UFOROM for differentiation within its own report files.
There also were nine 2000 cases which did not fall into the above categories, and were considered Unexplained Events (UX), such as an anomalous sound which was heard or a physical traces found, but no actual object was observed. These were not listed in the table above.
The hourly distribution of cases has usually followed a similar pattern each year, with a peak at 2200 hours local and a trough around 1000 hours local. Most sightings occur between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. Since most UFOs are nocturnal lights, this is not unexpected. The number of possible observers drops off sharply near midnight, and we would expect that the hourly rate of UFO reports would vary with two factors: potential observers and darkness. In 2000, this smooth, bell-shaped curve was again evident.
The category of Duration is interesting in that it represents the subjective length of time the UFO experience lasted. In other words, this is the length of time the sighting lasted as estimated by the witness. Naturally, these times are greatly suspect because it is known that people tend to misjudge the flow of time. However, some people can be good at estimating time, so this value has some meaning. Although an estimate of "one hour" may be in error by several minutes, it is unlikely that the correct value would be, for example, one minute (disregarding the claims of "missing time" during the abduction category of experiences). Furthermore, there have been cases when a UFO was observed and clocked accurately, so that we can be reasonably certain that UFO events can last considerable periods of time.
The average duration of a sighting can be calculated as the summation of all given durations divided by the number of cases with a stated duration. This value has varied somewhat, from 7 minutes in 1994 to 25 minutes in 1996. In 2000, the average duration of all cases was quite low, between 5 and 8 minutes.
Previous analyses have shown that long-duration sightings tend to occur in the early morning hours, from about midnight until 6:00 a.m. It is probable that the majority of observations at this time are those of astronomical objects, moving slowly with the rotation of the Earth.
Extremely short duration events are usually fireballs or bolides, while very long duration events of an hour or more are very probably astronomical objects. In between, there can be no way to distinguish conventional objects from UFOs solely with Duration data. A Canadian study by an Ontario UFO group which timed aircraft observations found that the duration of such sightings varied between 15 seconds to more than 8 minutes. There does not seem to be a clear relationship between the number of reports and the Duration of UFO sightings.
In cases where a colour of an object was reported, the most common colour in 2000 was "multicoloured" (40%). The next most common colour was white (19%), followed by red (10%) and then gold (7%). Since most UFOs are nocturnal starlike objects, the abundance of white objects is not surprising. Other colours such as red, blue and green often are associated with bolides (fireballs).
The ‘multicoloured’ designation is problematic in that it literally covers a wide range of possibilities. Some studies of UFO data have adjusted the category of colour to include both "primary" and "secondary" colours in cases where the observed UFO had more than one colour. The multicoloured label has been used, for example, when witnesses described their UFOs as having white, red and green lights. (Many of these are certainly stars or planets, which flash a variety of colours when seem low on the horizon. Aircraft also frequently are described as having more than one colour of light.) For the present study, the Colour classification refers only to the primary colour in the witness’ description.
The mean number of witnesses per case between 1989 and 2000 is approximately 2.00. This value has fluctuated between a high of 2.4 in 1996 to as low as 1.4 in 1990. In 2000, the average number of witnesses per case was 1.5.
This indicates that the typical UFO experience has more than one witness, and supports the contention that UFO sightings represent observations of physical phenomena since there is usually a corroborator present to support the sighting.
Although witnesses’ descriptions of the shapes of UFOs varied greatly, in 2000, 25% were of ‘point sources’ - that is, starlike objects. The next most common shapes were a ball and triangle, with 21% each.
The assigning of a Strangeness rating to a UFO report is based on a classification adopted by researchers who note that the inclusion of a subjective evaluation of the degree to which a particular case is in itself unusual might yield some insight into the data. For example, the observation of a single, stationary, starlike light in the sky, seen for several hours, is not particularly unusual and might likely have a prosaic explanation such as that of a star or planet. On the other hand, a detailed observation of a saucer-shaped object which glides slowly away from a witness after an encounter with grey-skinned aliens would be considered highly strange.
The numbers of UFO reports according to strangeness rating show an inverse relationship such that the higher the strangeness rating, the fewer reports. The one exception to this relationship occurs in the case of very low strangeness cases, which are relatively few in number compared to those of moderate strangeness. It is suggested this is the case because in order for an observation to be considered a UFO, it must usually rise above an ad hoc level of strangeness, otherwise it would not be considered strange at all.
The average strangeness rating for UFO reports during 2000 was 3.6, where 1 is considered not strange at all and 9 is considered exceptionally unusual. In 2000, this level increased to 4.9, suggesting that overall, UFO reports were of a much more unusual nature than in previous years. The shift in strangeness is likely related to changes in subjective evaluation by investigators and data analysts and may not be of significance. Most UFOs reported are of objects which do not greatly stretch the imagination. Hollywood-inspired flying saucers are, in reality, relatively uncommon in UFO reports.
The average Reliability rating of reports in 2000 was slightly greater than 5, indicating that there were about the same number of higher quality cases as those of low quality. Low reliability was assigned to reports with minimal information on the witness, little or no investigation and incomplete description of the object(s) observed. Higher reliability cases might include actual interviews with witnesses, a detailed case investigation, multiple witnesses and other supporting evidence.
The Reliability and Strangeness ratings varied together in classic bell-shaped curves. In other words, there very few cases which were both highly unusual and well-reported. Most cases were of medium strangeness and medium reliability. However, there were also very few low-strangeness cases with low reliability. Low-strangeness cases, therefore, tended to be well-reported and probably had explanations.
The breakdown by Evaluation for 2000 cases was similar to results from previous years. There were four operative categories: Explained, Insufficient Information, Possible or Probable Explanation, and Unknown (or Unexplained). Readers are cautioned that a classification of Unknown does not imply that an alien spacecraft or mysterious natural phenomenon was observed; no such interpretation can be made with certainty, based on the given data (though the probability of this scenario is admittedly never zero).
In most cases, evaluations are made subjectively by both the contributing investigators and the compiler of this report. The category of Unknown is adopted if the contributed data or case report contains enough information such that a conventional explanation cannot be satisfactorily proposed. This does not mean that the case will never be explained, but only that a viable explanation is not immediately obvious.
The average proportion of Unknowns since 1989 has been about 13%, and 2000 was perfectly in line at 13%. This is a relatively high figure, considering that this would imply that more than one in ten UFOs cannot be explained. However, there are several factors which affect this value. The level and quality of UFO report investigation varies because there are no explicit standards for ufologists. Some "believers" might be biased to consider most UFO sightings as mysterious, whereas those with more of a skeptical predisposition might tend to subconsciously (or consciously) reduce the Unknowns in their files.
During the first few years of these studies, an evaluation of Explained was almost nonexistent. Contributors at first tended to ignore UFO sightings that had a simple explanation and deleted them as actual UFO data. However, because many IFO cases such as fireballs and meteors are initially reported as UFOs, the Explained category is necessary for a full review of UFO data. Early American studies of UFO data included such cases, so present-day comparative studies should include such data as well. Furthermore, since there are no absolutes, the subjective nature of assigning Evaluations is actually an interpretation of the facts by individual researchers.
|Explained||Insuf. Info.||Poss. Explan.||Unexplained|
There were 34 Unknowns out of 263 cases in 2000. If we look only at the Unknowns with a quality or Reliability rating of 7 or greater, we then are left with 12 high-quality Unknowns in 2000 (4.6% of the total). (As a comparison, USAF Blue Book studies found only 3% to 4% of their cases were "excellent" Unknowns.)
It should be emphasized again that even high-quality Unknowns do not imply alien visitation. Each case may still have an explanation following further investigation. And of those that remain unexplained, they may remain unexplained, but still are not incontrovertible proof of extraterrestrial intervention or some mysterious natural phenomenon.
Summary of Results
As with previous studies, the 2000 Canadian UFO Survey does not offer any positive proof that UFOs are either alien spacecraft or a specific natural phenomenon. However, it does show that some phenomenon which often is called a UFO is continually being observed by witnesses.
The typical UFO sighting is that of two people together observing a moving, distant white or red light for several minutes. In most cases, the UFO is likely to be eventually identified as a conventional object such as an aircraft or astronomical object. However, in a small percentage of cases, some UFOs do not appear to have an easy explanation and they may be given the label of "unknown."
What are these "unknowns?" From a completely scientific standpoint, we have no way of extrapolating a definitive explanation based on this data. Biases for or against the view that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft often hinder the scientific process and cloud the issue. A ‘debunker’ who has a strong belief that UFO reports are all fabrications or misinterpretations may tend to dismiss a truly unusual case out of hand, whereas a ‘believer’ who believes aliens are indeed visiting Earth may read something sinister into a case with a conventional explanation.
All that a study of this kind can do is present the data and some rudimentary analyses. The recognition that there really are only a handful of true unknowns among the UFO cases might lead a debunker to believe they, too, might find an explanation if enough effort were to be expended, but to a believer this might be the required proof that some UFOs have no explanations.
The Evaluation value is a subjective value imposed by the investigator or compiler (or both) with a scale such that the low values represent cases with little information content and observers of limited observing abilities and the higher values represent those cases with excellent witnesses (pilots, police, etc.) and also are well-investigated. Naturally, cases with higher values are preferred.
The interpretation of the 34 Unknowns is that these cases were among the most challenging of all the reports received in 2000. It should be noted that most UFO cases go unreported, and that there may be ten times as many UFO sightings that go unreported as those which get reported to public, private or military agencies. Furthermore, it should be noted that some cases with lower reliability ratings suffer only from incomplete investigations, and that they may well be more mysterious than those on the list of Unknowns. And, above all, these cases are not proof of extraterrestrial visitation.
Throughout the past eleven years, the rate of UFO reporting in Canada has been approximately 20 per month. The numerical average is 236 UFO reports per year.
UFO witnesses range from farmhands to airline pilots and from teachers to police officers. Witnesses represent all age groups and racial origin. What is being observed? In most cases, only ordinary objects. However, this begs a question. If people are reporting things that can be explained, then the objects they observed were "really" there. Were the objects we can't identify "really" there as well? If so, what were they?
These are questions that only continued and rational research can answer, and only if researchers have the support and encouragement of both scientists and the public.
2000 Canadian UFO Survey: Summary of Results
- The number of UFO reports made in Canada appear to hover around an average of 236 cases per year. There were 263 UFO sightings reported in Canada in 2000 - about 11% more than the yearly average.
- There were about 2% more UFO reports in 2000 than 1999.
- In 2000, more UFOs were reported in the late summer and fall than any other time of the year.
- In 2000, about 13% of all UFO reports were unexplained. This percentage of unknowns falls to about 5% when only high-quality cases are considered.
- UFO incidents usually have more than one witness; in fact, most sightings have two witnesses.
- The typical UFO sighting lasted between five and eight minutes in 2000.
The most important findings of this study include the fact that UFO sightings have continued to be reported at a more-or-less constant level over the past several years. People still report observing unusual objects in the sky, and some of these objects do not have obvious explanations. Many witnesses are pilots, police and other individuals with reasonably good observing capabilities and good judgement. Although most reported UFOs are simply lights in the night sky, a significant number are objects with definite shapes observed within the witnesses’ frame of reference.
Popular opinion to the contrary, there is yet to be any incontrovertible evidence that some UFO cases involve extraterrestrial contact. However, the continued reporting of UFOs by the public suggests a need for further examination of the phenomenon by social, medical and/or physical scientists.
For further information, contact:
Ufology Research of Manitoba
St. John’s Haunted Hike
National UFO Reporting Center
Maritime UFO File
e-mail: (Don Ledger)
e-mail: (Tom Theofanous)
e-mail: (Nick Balaskas)
e-mail: (Drew Williamson)
e-mail: (Bud Sherlock)
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michel Descamps)
HBBC UFO Research
e-mail: (Brian Vike)
e-mail: (Don Vanden Hoorn)
e-mail: (Dave Pengilly)
Ufology Research of Manitoba
e-mail: (Chris Rutkowski)
e-mail: (Geoff Dittman)
La Prairie, Quebec J5R 3Y1
e-mail: (Jacques Poulet)
Newfoundland UFO Research
St. Paul UFO Museum
MUFON Nova Scotia
e-mail: (Eugene Frison)
UFO Yukon Research Society
e-mail: (Martin Jasek)
e-mail: (Michael Strainic)
Department of National Defence
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Highest-Reliability Canadian ‘Unknowns’ in 2000
Note: an asterisk (*) indicates cases with the highest reliability.
January 2, 2000 1:15 am Mission, BC
A witness watched a silver, saucer-shaped object hovering near his home. The object was "larger than a van" and made no sound. An entity was observed concurrently with the sighting.
January 17, 2000 11:15 pm Burnaby, BC
A cigar-shaped object with multicoloured rotating lights around its middle was watched by five people for 20 minutes until it suddenly vanished "as if a light switch turned off."
March 30, 2000 5:00 am Little Fox Lake, Yukon *
A witness driving on a highway came upon a blue disc-shaped, domed object hovering silently 90 metres away, about 60 metres above the ground. The object suddenly moved quickly across the road, then stopped again. The car’s tape deck stopped working and the headlights dimmed during the encounter.
April 23, 2000 Orangeville, Ontario
An object with red lights was seen spinning and making zig-zag movements in the sky.
May 6, 2000 9:18 pm Kamloops, BC
A triangular object was observed as it hovered 100 feet above the ground. A bright white light shone out and the object disappeared.
May 15, 2000 10:50 pm North Vancouver, BC *
While skygazing, two witnesses observed a large, silent, boomerang-shaped object gliding overhead.
May 18, 2000 10:45 pm Sorrento, BC
A witness saw an orange, oval object flying nearby. Later, he had dreams about aliens.
August 3, 2000 11:00 pm Duncan, BC
For two hours, five people watched numerous multicoloured lights flying erratically in the sky. Some witnesses said they experienced "very deep base vibrations" during the observations.
October 10, 2000 9:30 pm Melmerby Beach, Nova Scotia
Throughout the night, a witness observed many different disc- and triangle-shaped objects performing maneuvers, hovering and travelling throughout the sky. A "whispering jet"sound was heard intermittently.
October 11, 2000 Melmerby Beach, Nova Scotia
The same witness as in the previous case reported seeing the same objects again during that evening.
October 19, 2000 8:00 pm Sherwood Park, Alberta
Two people watched six beige objects moving silently and rapidly across the sky.
November 2, 2000 11:20 pm Burnaby, BC
A witness was startled to see a large "thimble-shaped" object above him, making a "locomotive sound." The witness was bathed in white light and felt a "vibration" throughout his body. Nearby dogs were barking and howling fiercely. After his encounter, the witness was very thirsty and found that his hands were sunburned.