Guest post: Janet looks for UFOs (and birds) in Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia

Friends, you are in for a treat today. Film blogger extraordinaire and long-time bestie Janet of Popcorn Dinner took a trip to Nova Scotia’s South Shore to settle one of our province’s most mysterious mysteries: whether UFOs visited in 1967.

This summer, I enlisted my Mom to make a pilgrimage to Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia. Located on the very tip of the province’s South Shore, Shag Harbour was the site of a certified UFO incident on October 4, 1967 and the subject of considerable interest for locals and sci-fi aficionados alike. She was keen to come to do some birding as that part of the province is prime for migratory shorebird sightings you may not see anywhere else. So we headed off in search of flying objects, of both the unidentified and identifiable varieties.

Our first stop was Sand Hills Provincial Park in Barrington, Shelburne County.

Sandhills Beach Park Nova Scotia

When we arrived about mid-day on a Sunday, the large parking area was completely empty, so we had the place to ourselves for most of our visit. Because Sand Hills Beach is also a provincial park, it has plenty of well-maintained amenities like change facilities and a nice picnic area. A short walk through the woods (mosquito repellent a MUST) and we arrived on a beautiful white sand beach with rolling dunes and lots of sand flats.

Sand Hills Provincial Park Nova Scotia

Mom took out her scope, but aside from a few plovers, there wasn’t much bird activity on land or in the air. She advised that wasn’t really a surprise as the tide was too high to provide a good window for spotting more varied species.

Flying Objects of note = none.

Shag Harbour

Our next stop brought us to the main attraction, Shag Harbour, a small fishing village in Shelburne County situated on the coast between Cape Sable Island and Woods Harbour.

Before hitting the UFO-themed attractions, we strolled along the wharf and took some pics.

Shag Harbour fishing boats

Shag Harbour buoys

Now the main reason for our trip… allow me to introduce you to the Shag Harbour Incident Centre where you can find various clippings, articles, and books telling the story of the incident. The Centre also has many souvenirs for sale, an exhibit on celestial patterns, “Alvin” the museum’s mascot, and a framed picture of the Fonz. I kid you not. Delightfully random award!

Shag Harbour UFO Incident Museum

Shag Harbour Incident Museum

Shag Harbour Incident Museum

Shag Harbour Incident Mascot Alvin

The museum is staffed during the summer (Mid-June to early October) through student grants. When Mom and I went, we spoke with a volunteer who provided us with some details about the infamous story. It goes something like this:

On October 4, 1967, several residents were coming home from a local dance and saw an object in the sky (about 60 feet long with four flashing lights) crash into the water offshore. The object could then be seen floating in the ocean and seemed to give off a yellowish glow along with a trail of yellow foam. By this time, a fair number of people had gathered to watch this unfold and one of them called the local RCMP detachment. An officer arrived on the scene in time to see the trail of foam. The Coast Guard, along with local fisherman, searched the crash site but the object sank leaving behind only traces of the yellowish discharge. Divers continued to search the area, but found nothing. According to the museum’s materials, the dozen or so accounts of the incident “were neither contradictory or exaggerated”. It was apparently the authorities involved in the case that suggested the possibility of an extraterrestrial explanation and the story took hold. The mystery has been the subject of various TV documentaries and also a book, “Dark Object: The World’s Only Government-Documented UFO Crash” (available on Amazon and Google Books).

Verdict: I enjoyed the museum, the town and people involved in the incident seem to take it pretty seriously. It would be kind of fun to see the museum embrace the campiness of UFO / sci-fi culture as a way to promote and draw people to the area. There’s a lot of interesting reading material highlighted in exhibits, but some sort of AV presentation or video, possibly involving interviews from those who directly witnessed the event, would enhance this considerably. Of course, the museum exists solely through donations provided by visitors, so lack of funding likely makes regular upgrades difficult.

We followed our visit to the museum with a visit to the actual crash site, which provided a beautiful view, but sadly, no UFO action today. [Ed note: You sure about that?]

Shag Harbour UFO Incident

Shag Harbour UFO Incident site

To learn more about the Shag Harbour incident, visit the Shag Harbour Incident Society. There’s also an annual Shag Harbour Incident Festival every year the first weekend in August with tours, a BBQ, a parade, conversations with the first-hand witnesses, and UFO experts.

Flying Objects total = still 0

Birding on Cape Sable Island

Before heading home, we decided to make one more stop in our efforts to locate Flying Objects. We headed to Cape Sable, not to be confused with Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia with the ponies. No ponies on Cape Sable Island, but if you’re into birding, it is an internationally-designated “Important Bird Area” (IBA).

Cape Sable Island Bird Area

We saw lots of shore birds grazing on the low tide sand flats, but none that were especially noteworthy, according to my mom. There’s also a great view of the Cape Sable lighthouse, or what the locals call Cape Light. You can also take a boat out to the view the lighthouse up close and personal. A local resident has a sign posted to contact him to arrange a time. By all accounts Mr. Smith is quite accommodating, friendly, and knowledgeable about the area. There’s no fee – it’s a service offered for free (but he will accept donations).

Cape Light, Cape Sable Island Nova Scotia

Cape Light sign

Final tally in the epic South Shore Search for Extraterrestrial or Extraordinary Flying Objects, 2012 = 0

But there’s always next year…

See for yourself: 

Sand Hills Provincial Park:  from Villagedale, 6 km south of Hwy 103, Exit 29. (Barrington), features a 2.5 km white sand beach. At low tide there are wide sand flats which warm the water when the tide comes back in. Spectacular sand dune system backs the beach area. Change facilities and picnic tables.

Shag Harbour: From Halifax, take Highway 103 west to Barrington Passage (Exit 29). Follow Route 3 (“the old highway” locally) through Barrington Passage, passing Cape Sable Island to Shag Harbour. According the Shag Harbour Incident Society, this route is history-filled. The RCMP was based in Barrington and the Coast Guard was dispatched from Cape Sable Island on the evening of October 4, 1967.




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