1976 Canary Island UFO sighting
- Duration: the encounter lasted over 40 minutes.
- Multiple locations: The UFO was observed in Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera, Gran Canaria and by a ship at sea.
- Multiple witnesses: The UFO was witnessed by several hundred people, including both civilian and military personnel.
- Detail: It is one of the few accounts to include details of the occupants inside the craft.
The official report on the incident, by the Spanish air force, was declassified in June 1994, but much of its content had already been released to the public in 1977, after journalist J Benitez obtained a number of military files and used them as the basis of a book on UFO cases.
At 9:27pm local time on the night of June 22, 1976, the Spanish Navy corvette Atrevida, located 5.5 km off Punta Lantailla, Fuerteventura Island, reportedly observed a bright yellow light traveling above the horizon. At first the crew believed the object to be an aircraft with landing lights on, but continued observation showed that it returned no radar signature.
Shortly after observation, the yellow light ceased, and was replaced by a 'luminous' rotating beam that persisted for approximately 2 minutes. A glowing halo then developed around the object and it split into two components, a smaller component which split away from the bottom and went out of view, and a larger component which rose from the top of the halo and climbed away at a 'rapid and irregular' spiral pattern.
Reports indicate that the halo persisted for some time after the objects had separated from it, and its light could be seen reflecting off the water and illuminating nearby land. It was observed by the entire ship's complement.
The first non-military sightings of the object began at approximately 9:30pm local time, when residents on Gran Canaria also observed the unidentified object, or one similar to it. Reports also came in from the islands of Tenerife, La Palma, and La Gomera, the most controversial of which came from Doctor Francisco Padron Leon.
According to testimony provided to the Spanish air force, the doctor was traveling by taxi from his home in Guia to see a patient in Las Rosas, Gran Canaria. As the taxi was rounding the last bend towards the house, he encountered a glowing blue sphere that appeared to be hovering close to the ground in front of the cab. The doctor confirmed to the taxi driver by saying "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?", to which the taxi driver replied "By God, what is that?".
He described the sphere as having a radius of approximately 30m and being sufficiently transparent for him to make out the stars in the night sky beyond and also two figures inside working at consoles that were mounted on a metal platform occupying the lower third of the sphere. He described the sphere's occupants as being 2½m to 3m tall, and dressed in red. The sphere was then reported to have filled with "bluish smoke" from inside the sphere, expanded significantly to the size of approximately a 20 storey building, and then risen into the air before flying off in the direction of Tenerife.
The sphere was also witnessed by the taxi driver and several residents of Las Rosas.
The incident was investigated by the Spanish air force, which considered a number of possible explanations:
- Missile test
- Meteorological balloon
- Naturally occurring aurora
- Naturally occurring weather patterns
- Meteor activity
After reviewing witness testimonies, the investigating officer was unable to rectify their descriptions with any known man made object or natural phenomena and was forced to rule out the above explanations. The investigating officer expressed some doubt at reports given by some of the civilian witnesses because of the unusual nature of their reports, but the presence of trained military personnel meant that a hoax was also ruled out for the Type I reports.
Officially, the object is recorded as being 'Unidentified' and the event is recorded as being 'unexplained'.
According to the Spanish UFO group Fundación Anomalía (Anomaly Foundation), the 22 June sightings, and four other alleged UFO sightings that occurred between 1974 and 1979, correspond directly with times and dates that the US fired submarine based Poseidon intercontinental ballistic missiles from its eastern missile range, which reaches from Cape Canaveral to Ascension Island.
Fundación Anomalía cites astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell as having reached this conclusion after obtaining declassified US records.
- Benitez, J J (1977), “OVNIS: Documentos Oficiales del Gobierno Español/UFOs: Official Documents of the Spanish Government", Plaza & Janes
- Flying Saucer Review Vol23#3 (1997)
- "Deposition No. B-07", (Deposition of the Captain of the Atrevida, declassified 1994)
- Fundación Anomalía: Canary Islands UFOs in the 70s - Space Experts Confirm They Were Missiles, (October 2006)
- About.com: 1976-Canary Island Alien Sphere
- UFO Phenomena at Close Sight: Observation in the Canary Islands in 1976