A Response to Tim Printy's "UFO over Trindade island: Details Overlooked or Ignored"

Martin Shough

(back to Trindade index)

Tim Printy points to numerous flaws and suspicious inconsistencies in the evidence, some of which have been highlighted by other researchers:

Printy's critique thus draws together a number of issues to give us a useful overview of the case. These issues are addressed in order below.

Missing military witnesses?

Following other critics Tim Printy contends that there is no convincing evidence of any witnesses other than the civilians on board. He says:

"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."

It is a fact that no crew members are named as witnesses in Navy documents. Is this suspicious?

It would be if it were the case that there are a number of official documents available in which we ought to expect names of crew members to be given, but in which they are not. But this is not the case.

In fact the only substantive Brazilian Navy document of any kind that we have is the 12-page report compiled by Capt. Brandao summarising the findings of the Intelligence Department in respect of all the five incidents at Trindade Island. The other four non-substantive documents are merely short covering letters and the like (between them referencing two other messages - Capt. Bacellar's original radio report from the island and an answering query from the Navy High Command - neither of which we have).

One of these letters - February 13, 1958, Confidential, from Antonio Maria de Carvalho, Chief of the Navy High Command, to the General-Director for Hydrography and Navigation - refers to "a number of witnesses" in connection with the five UFO reports made from Trindade Island and from the ship. Four of these were made before the arrival of the Almirante Saldanha and have nothing to do with the shipboard sighting. None of these witnesses is named. Barauna is not named.

As for the Navy Intelligence report itself, it summarises Capt. Bacellar's reports of these incidents but does not cite any individual testimony. It mentions "many" witnesses in these cases, both civilian workers and enlisted men; but with a single unexplained exception - the Medical Officer - none of them is named.

It refers to "Officers" other than Capt. Bacellar who viewed Barauna's photographs aboard the ship, but none of them is named. It refers also to the civilian witnesses aboard the ship, whose identities we know well from other sources. None of them is named.

The fact that this document several times refers to "members of the ships crew" as witnesses of the UFO, without naming them or citing individual testimony, is therefore not "strange" but typical. It isn't evidence that testimonies did not exist. It isn't evidence that such testimonies, if they existed, were any more or less deficient than any other witness testimony. And it certainly isn't evidence that the witnesses did not exist.

Turning to newspaper reports, Printy points out that according to a statement quoted in Ultima Hora, Feb 21 1958,

"No officer or sailor witnessed the phenomenon [emphasis added]".

This appears in a Navy press statement issued in the heat of the first day of the story breaking. But O Globo, on the same day, quoted a contradictory Navy spokesman saying that

"On the morning of January 16, 1958, over the Island of Trindade, the crew of the school ship ‘Almirante Saldanha’ sighted an unidentified aerial object ..."

It is plain from the historical context that there was internal confusion about the Navy's official public position on the incident at this time (it hadn't expected to need a public position until the President leaked the story!) and there were some uncoordinated attempts to distance the Navy from the controversy.

It was said that the Navy had no connection to the photographs, other than the fact that they were taken from a Navy ship - which was the truth, as far as it went - and that the story was being received with "utmost reserve". But by this time UFO reports at Trindade had already been under confidential Navy investigation for seven weeks, and the Intelligence Department report on the Barauna photographs had been in the hands of the Navy High Command for two weeks, so the affectation of surprise is unconvincing in hindsight.

But as soon as the next day, Feb 22, a carefully-worded three-paragraph statement of the Navy position was issued from the Minister's office and published in a number of newspapers. It sought, it said, to counter the perception generated the previous day that the Navy was reluctant to take a position on the matter. It contained the assertion that the photographs were taken

"in the presence of a number of members of the NE ‘Almirante Saldanha' crew".

What did that mean, precisely? The press would have loved to clarify it by speaking to the crew, but the ship had sailed from Rio rather smartly as soon as the furore broke the previous day.

However according to Fontes:

"On February 24, 1958, the NE 'Almirante Saldanha' arrived at Santos, S. P. Members of the crew were permitted to visit the town and there, for the first time, were contacted by the press. Their declarations were printed in two of Sao Paulo’s newspapers (FOLHA DA TARDE and 0 ESTADO DE SAO PAULO, of February 25). All of them confirmed the passage of the UAO over the Island, watched by all members of the crew on the ship’s deck at the time. Several of them had been eye-witnesses of the event."

How does this sit with the press statement quoted on the first day that "no officer or sailor" had been a witness? The Navy's own Intelligence Department report on the affair contains what appears to be the true middle ground:

"No officer from the Navy Corps sighted the phenomenon [on Jan 16] . . ."

the report said [emphasis added]; but the UFO was witnessed by

"members of the crew".

The initial alarm was

"given by members of the crew";

the negatives were shown to

"members of the ship’s crew who had witnessed the phenomenon; they recognized the object appearing in the photos as identical with the one they had sighted in the air";


"A strong emotional upset was observed in all persons who sighted the object, including the photographer, civilians and members of the ship’s crew [emphasis added]."

Now it is true that these statements are reported as information acquired from Capt. Bacellar and no direct statements from named members of the crew are given. And Bacellar, let us remember, was the Commanding Officer of the Trindade Island garrison and not a ship's officer, even though his naval rank was equal (at least) to that of the Captain of the Almirante Saldanha. So it is possible to argue that Bacellar misinformed himself about the events on deck; that Navy Intelligence investigators, relying unwisely on his report, never in fact sought any direct information from the Officers and crew of the ship; and that if they had done so they would have quickly discovered that Capt. Bacellar was mistaken.

At the same time there is no faintest reason for supposing that this one document is the sum total of the Navy's file on the affair. If it was we would have reason to infer a seriously negligent investigative procedure - especially so given that the Navy's conclusions would be under close scrutiny not only by the press but also by Congress, and evidently by the President of Brazil himself.

Consider that the Report we have was forwarded to the Navy Minister by the Chief of the Navy High Command four days after a Congressional Inquiry on Feb 27 had noted that

"the Navy Minister’s Office declared (officially) that a large number of people from the NE Almirante Saldanha crew had sighted the strange object photographed over the Island of Trindade"

and requested specific confirmation of this fact from the Navy Minister, Admiral Alves Camara. The text of the House inquiry was published in many papers on Feb 27 and 28. By this time the affair had been a front-page sensation across Brazil for a week and the Navy was under pressure.

In response the Navy Minister in turn sought confirmation from the cognizant authorities in the Navy High Command. The pursuant report was sent from Fleet-Admiral Antonio Maria de Carvalho to the Navy Minister on March 03 with a covering letter stating that the report contained the conclusions reached by his Navy High Command Intelligence Department. It contained the statements quoted earlier to the effect that the object had indeed been witnessed by members of the ship's crew.

Is it likely that by this stage of the affair the report would have been produced for the Minister if the Intelligence Department did not have confidence in it? Is it likely, given the specific context of the Congressional Inquiry's concern to know about the involvement of Navy crewmen as witnesses (an issue raised more than once in the text of the House inquiry) that someone would not have said: "Are we sure that this stuff has been properly checked?"

Yes, it is theoretically possible that at no stage did anyone in the Navy Intelligence Department think to actually make inquiries of the crew of the Almirante Saldanha. That this had been the situation at one stage appears to be true, because the House had expressed concern about an earlier Navy Ministry statement to this effect. But is it likely that in the meantime no question had been asked, if not directly then at least passed through the chain of command to the Captain and officers of the Almirante Saldanha?

The Navy Intelligence investigation had been underway since the inquiry of Jan 6 (radiogram 00012/312335 from Trindade Island on Dec 31 1957 was the report "that gave origin to the present investigation" in the words of Capt. Brandao), and a month later on Feb 6, following Capt. Brandao's report, the Subchief of Intelligence sent recommendations to the Vice-Chief of the Navy High Command stating

"It is my opinion that the facts make necessary a very careful investigation."

A week later on Feb 13 the Chief of the Navy High Command, Admiral Antonio Maria de Carvalho, instructed the General-Director for Hydrography and Navigation - the officer in operational authority over the Almirante Saldanha - that all efforts should be made to acquire positive information of any kind on Trindade UFO sightings and that it should be "immediately reported to this High Command".

Eleven days after this on Feb 24, a foreign official (the US Naval Attaché, Capt. Sunderland, about whom see below) was permitted to question the ship's Officers in person. This was the same day on which newspapermen were interviewing members of the crew in Santos and reporting that they did witness the object.

Is it likely that by this time no relevant information of any kind had been sought, or volunteered upwards, by anybody in the Brazilian Navy, perhaps understandably puzzled by the failure of the cognizant authorities to contact them? And is it likely that this was still the situation several days after the Navy Minister had been challenged to officially clarify precisely this issue? It doesn't seem likely to me, even though we do not have the paper chain that would lead us to explicit evidence.

There clearly are, or were, other documents and materials in the official file than those of which we have sight. Notice that the Navy Report we do have, signed by Capt. Brandao, is a 12-page summary of all the sightings occurring in the vicinity of Trindade Island, containing general conclusions and recommendations, not a dossier of evidentiary material. This appears to be the same document supplied in confidence to Rep. Sergio Magalhaes (Rio de Janeiro, D.C.) in response to the House Inquiry and widely leaked in the press on April 17 1958, as shown by various identical text passages. A statement from Commander Raul Lopez of the Navy Minister's office confirmed on the day of the leak that a document had indeed been sent to Rep. Magalhaes but cautioned:

"I would like to make it clear, on the other hand, that the document received by Rep. S. Magalhaes is not the Navy Secret Report itself. That Report continues to be absolutely secret. Any information or comments about it are still forbidden. What was sent to the House was a single memorandum, classified too." (0 Jornal, Rio de Janeiro, April 17, 1958).

Nevertheless this document is the only official record we have, and it is true that it does not prove that the sort of inquiries which ought, by every reasonable standard, to have been made were actually made. This evidence does not go far enough. But as far as it does go, it is explicit.

For example, Capt. Bacellar did not, as Printy rather limply puts it, "suggest that individuals at the bow . . . also alerted the crew". This strikes me as language calculated to obfuscate and to encourage vague doubts about the status of these "individuals at the bow" who "alerted the crew" - were they more civilians, perhaps? These doubts are then reinforced by a suggestion that "the view from the bow was less favourable".

In contrast to this sort of insinuation, according to the Navy Intelligence report Capt. Bacellar stated plainly:

"The UAO alarm was given by members of the crew in the stern and in the bow of the ship",

adding that

"on that same occasion the photographer was alerted"

but that

"the person who called the attention of [Barauna] to the object"

was the civilian Viegas. The distinction between, on the one hand, the actions of the civilians and, on the other, the military alarm, is explicitly drawn.

Returning to the inquiries made aboard the ship at Santos on Feb 24 by the US Naval Attaché, it has often been implied (as Tim Printy does) that what Sunderland was told calls into question the 'received' version of the story. This is quite false.

In fact Sunderland was told by the ship's Executive Officer, who arrived on deck just after the event, that the crew on deck at the time had genuinely seen the object. Sunderland was also told that neither the Exec. nor the Captain had themselves seen it. For his own part the Captain was 'noncommital' but informed Sunderland that his assistant, a Lt. Commander, had personally witnessed the object. The Lt. Commander, when questioned by Sunderland, did not deny this, but declined to discuss the matter of his own sighting (for whatever reason - one can imagine several). The fact is that this corpus of evidence does not in the slightest tend to diminish the official story, which is that the object was witnessed by members of the crew.

In summary, it is perfectly fair to argue that the Navy-sourced information we have about the reported Navy witnesses is of the sketchiest kind. But it is quite unfair to claim that it doesn't exist, or that it is materially self-contradictory. The burden of proof would appear to rest on those who imply that the Navy investigation had in its possession no reasonable evidence for the conclusion - presented via the Navy Minister to Congress - that the object was witnessed by members of the ship's crew.

The intermittent glows or glitters reported by the witnesses

Viegas was quoted in a newspaper as saying that the object appeared "brighter than the full moon" when he first noticed it, and Tim Printy thinks it "strange" that Barauna would have taken about 30 seconds (as he recalled) to locate "something this obvious". Exactly how "obvious" is this?

To help us understand his point, Printy turns "bright" into "brilliant". But how much scope for ambiguous interpretation is there in this chain of quotation?

How brilliant is a full moon in a bright noon-time sky? Not very. In fact it is a pale, whiteish ghost, as anyone knows. Well, perhaps when Viegas said that "even at daylight [it] appeared to be brighter than the moon" he was asking us to imagine the full moon as seen in a dark night sky. But what conceivable kind of callibration can we apply to this meaningless simile? We all know how "reliable" witness estimates of luminous flux are, even when expressed with clarity.

The issue is complicated by the fact that we are reading a translation by Olavo Fontes of a quotation by a newspaper reporter published in O Jornal and elsewhere on Feb 22 1958. Is it possible to separate what Viegas had in mind from what the newspaper reporter had in mind? Barauna, too, compared the object to a full moon - but in terms of size rather than brightness. If Viegas mentioned a glow, and in the next sentence said "the object was about the apparent size of the full moon", as indeed he reportedly did, one can see how this might turn to "bright as the full moon" and thence, via a sort of Chinese whisper, to Printy's "brilliant" light bearing down on the ship and too "obvious" to be missed.

This is how Barauna was quoted as describing what happened:

Suddenly, Mr. Amilar Vieira and Captain Viegas called me, pointing to a certain spot in the sky and yelling about a bright object which was approaching the island. At this same moment, when I was still trying to see what it was, Lieutenant Homero—the ship’s dentist—came from the bow toward us, running, pointing out to the sky and also yelling about an object he was sighting. He was so disturbed and excited that he almost fell down after colliding with a cable. Then I was finally able to locate the object, by the flash (of light) it emitted. It was already close to the island. It glittered at certain moments, perhaps reflecting the sunlight, perhaps changing its own light—I don’t know. It was coming over the sea, moving toward the point called the ‘Gab Crest’. I had lost 30 seconds looking for the object, but the camera was already in my hands, ready, when I sighted it clearly silhouetted against the clouds. I shot two photos before it disappeared behind the peak ‘Desejado’. My camera was set at speed 125, with the aperture at f/8, and this was the cause of an over-exposure error, as I discovered later. (O Cruzeiro March 3 1958)

True, Barauna himself "admits" (sceptics will like that word) that Viegas and Filho had spotted a "bright" object, and that were both "pointing and yelling" while he was trying to locate the thing. So you can argue that this surely supports Printy's interpretation of Viegas' description and implies that the object must have been blindingly obvious if Barauna alone couldn't see it. But just a minute - what object? This is all made up - isn't it?

Viegas didn't say or imply that the object was too obvious to be missed whilst Barauna was looking for it. He didn't say that it was constantly luminous at all. He said the object was bright when he got the "the first view" of it. The other known witnesses similarly described seeing what looked like an emitted glow, intermittently, at different points of the object's passage. No one said that the object was continually bright. Barauna said he caught sight of it when he saw a glitter. He said that it shone "at certain moments" when approaching the ship, giving off some flashes of what he said could either have been emitted or reflected light. The former would seem consistent with his description of the object as grey and clouded, and with the photographs, which show no sign of a specular highlight.

If we still find it unacceptable that everybody didn't spot the thing at precisely the same instant, we ought to ask ourselves exactly what Barauna was supposed to be doing during the seconds before he saw it (yes I know, he said "30 seconds"; maybe it was really 20 or 19, given how unreliable witness estimates of duration are wont to be). He had been photographing the winching-aboard of the motor pinnace, which is stored on skids above the maindeck well. The pinnace concerned (there were two) would presumably be the one on the starboard, shoreward side of the ship. So this is where Barauna probably was. (Consult this detailed analysis of the camera position reconstructed from photographs and deck plans.) He said he was resting up because he had been feeling seasick.

Now this location is nearly amidships and someone positioned near the rail here could well be cut off from view of someone standing at the far-side rail near the stern maybe 20 yards away - either by one of the 30-foot whaling boats on its davits, or by the jigger mast, or the wheel faring, among other things. Especially if that someone was sitting or lying down, feeling seasick. And an unobstructed view of the port horizon is far from certain, with the intervening boats, rails, chains, stanchions, rigging, vents and other paraphernalia on the 50 feet of intervening deck. Viegas said, "He heard my shouts and came running." We can easily imagine that from his position Barauna might well have looked out to sea on hearing the shouts without seeing anything, and then made his way over to the port rail, meanwhile trying unsuccessfully to spot "something" whilst navigating around the deck obstructions. Arriving next to Viegas he looks where he is told to and at last sees a flash or glitter, just as he describes it. This could have taken many seconds. I can find nothing whatever remarkable about these events.

The "tumbling" disc

According to Printy:

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.

It is incorrect to say that Barauna claims in the 1982 Hynek interview that the object "tumbled". He told Hynek that Viegas saw it "tip twice". This is not so "strange". It is at least partially supported in Viegas' original newspaper statement, where he was quoted as saying that at one point the object "tilted" to expose its underside. Tilting and tipping are commensurable descriptions, especially given ambiguities of translation and quotation. Whether or not this has anything to do with the supposed "inversion" of the UFO image, originally proposed by Capt. Sunderland in 1958, is a moot point.

A detailed discussion of these issues is available here. But note one particular argument made by Printy - that if the object physically inverted in flight (as Brad Sparks has claimed to be indicated by photographic motion-blur evidence) it is highly probable that Barauna would have photographed it in the act at least once. This plausible-sounding argument, first offered by Kentaro Mori, has actually been investigated quantitatively and the probability turns out to be rather small. Furthermore Printy's claim that all four images show the same edge-on aspect is not defensible, and there are reasonable interpretations of the photographs that do not require "inversion" at all. In general, the commonly repeated claim that all four images are "too similar" to be anything other than hoax copies of one another is highly questionable on all indicators and plainly erroneous on some.

The supposed electromagnetic effects on radios, compasses etc.

Tim Printy may find that his mysterious "Eke radio transmitters" are just misprints. The sentence (quoted from Diario Carioca, of February 23, 1958 in the Fontes article as hosted on the CUFOS site) should presumably read "instruments like radio transmitters etc..." Maybe blame OCR scanning for that one.

Printy reasonably points out that this newspaper report of electromagnetic effects associated with sightings at the island is attributed to an anonymous official source, and he sees no reason to think that it bolsters Barauna's late claim of similar effects on board the ship. This is quite correct, inasmuch as this source was openly available for many years before Barauna added the power/radar-failure to his story, and he could simply have borrowed from it. Barauna recalled that the winch for raising the motor pinnace stopped during the incident, and this might possibly have been the cause of a 'creative memory' confusing a rumour of power difficulties with a natural hiatus in the hoisting of the boat (maybe the winch operator stopped the machinery to look at the UFO for example - or because of all the shouting).

However the 1958 Navy Intelligence report does recommend that future UFO investigations focus on exactly the issues mentioned by the anonymous source quoted in Diario Carioca.

It recommends that:

"when UAOs are sighted, the following instruments must be under careful observation: radar, magnetic needles, electric lights, internal combustion engines, the effects observed must be reported together with the information already included in the questionnaire released by this High Command; and this High Command must be informed immediately about all the occurrences."

The Navy report does not explicitly say why such effects are of interest. In none of the Trindade Island cases are such effects mentioned, although it has to be assumed from context that such were reported in at least one of them. It therefore remains a possibility that the case in question was the Jan 16 Almirante Saldanha case, even if there is a greater statistical likelihood that it was one of the five others known. There may also be connection with a separately-reported radar incident on board the ship the previous day, Jan 15.


With regard to the radar target that Barauna first mentions in the informal Hynek interview of 1982, I agree with Printy that this was very likely a confused memory of the radar target reported the day prior to the UFO incident. As I pointed out to Kentaro Mori in advancing the same suggestion (email, 27 January 2004) the time that Barauna recalls - about 15 minutes before the UFO sighting, i.e., around noon - is in this case accurate, except that he has mentally shifted the event by 24 hours. Slightly different versions of this radar story appeared in the papers O Jornal and O Diario on day-one of the publicity on 21 Feb. In neither case is it clear where the story comes from, although in both cases radar operators are said to have dismissed the echo as a probable malfunction.

"On the eve of the sighting, i.e., on January 15th, the saucer had been detected by the ship’s radar, also about noon.  The men in charge of the device thought the radar was out of order and made a through check to ascertain whether it was working properly." 0 Diário de São Paulo, São Paulo, February 21, 1958 (cited by Simoes)

"The day before the sighting, approximately at the same hour, the flying saucer had been spotted by the ship’s radar. But radar operators thought that strange 'blip' was caused by some kind of trouble in the apparatus—and rechecked it to see if it was operating properly." O Jornal, Feb 21 (cited by Fontes)

Barauna himself is first quoted as recalling this incident in an interview published in O Cruzeiro March 8 1958. He explicitly says that he was informed by the Navy about the four other visual sightings reported over the island, then appears to add the radar story as an afterthought. He may well have picked this up from newspaper reports. In this early statement, however, he still correctly recalls the date as Jan 15.

These radar stories appear in the papers on the same day that Barauna is quoted by Ultima Hora as saying that the Almirante Saldanha had not detected 'his' object on radar because the radar wasn't able to be manned in time. This could be interpreted as being in conflict with his statement 24 years later that the radar set was somehow disabled. But could he really be expected to know any of these things with authority? If he was extemporising in 1958, and/or embellishing a confused memory in 1982, are these things suspicious? Or merely human?

Now of course Barauna was not a Navy man, still less a radar operator. And let's remember that all these statements are just hearsay, often third-hand by the time we read them, with ambiguities and inaccuracies in the printed story to be considered as well. Portable voice recording was a pretty esoteric business in 1958 and the usual technological solution would be pencil and short-hand, Q & A being "reconstructed" - usually with a little extra journalistic flavour - back in the office (or in the local bar!). So, yes there may be material contradictions here, or there may not. Barauna might well have been making up reasons why there was no radar report. Another name for this would be speculating. Reporters enjoy printing speculations as facts.

There's no reason to expect that Barauna would be reliably informed about everything. Why shouldn't he give a few foggy answers in the face of persistent questioning? He was on board only as an invited civilian. His first-hand experience was limited to taking the photos and then being part-involved with the Navy tests of the negatives. He heard some things from Bacellar and others during the tests, yes, but he was never a Navy 'insider'. He probably listened to rumours and read the papers like anybody else. In fact we know he did - according to Zaluar he'd kept a scrap-book of news cuttings. He probably rounded out his picture of what happened by absorbing both information and misinformation from such sources, like anyone else.

The presumption would be that Barauna had heard tell from Navy sources that there was no radar confirmation. But maybe he didn't know exactly why. Why should he? When asked by a reporter on Day 1 of the publicity he was pressed on this and suggested reasonably that it was all over too quickly, that the radar was not switched on and warmed up, or was not manned - which all amounts to the same thing. (The bit of picture-painting in Ultima Hora about the operator "running" to get to the radar is not very material.) Later he maybe put two and two together, and guessed from hearing of the Navy's concerns about compasses, radars and motors that the radar must have been affected. If Barauna was genuine, indeed, then this is a very natural interpretation. It isn't hard to imagine that as the years went by this notion got conflated with his 'memory' of a stalled boat-winch etc.

Alternatively we can conclude that Barauna knew perfectly well that there could have been no radar contact because the whole thing was a hoax, and he decided to "explain" this away by inventing the story that the ship's radar wasn't operating. But what if the radar really _was_ operating? A lot of people were in a position to know about that, not least the Navy. If the radar was working, then seeing Barauna telling lies to the papers on the first day would have instantly tipped off the Navy that he was pulling a stunt. He couldn't have made this story a part of his hoax successfully unless he knew that the radar in fact was not working (for whatever reason), in which case it was simply the truth and so gets us nowhere.

As for the nature of the echoes reported (whichever day this may have happened) there is almost nothing to be said. There is no information at all. Printy is mistaken, however, in his attempt to suggest that the Almirante Saldanha's marine radar would be especially unlikely to detect airborne targets.

He says:

"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. 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 not designed for tracking aircraft."

The version of this incident quoted by Printy (from Fontes) has it that the operator attempted to engage the radar's automatic tracking mode but failed. Printy may have been encouraged by this to believe that the radar concerned was not simply a marine navigation radar but a more sophisticated gyro-stabilised combat radar. However the newspaper accounts describing the episode (see above) do not contain any mention of automatic tracking and Fontes gives no attribution for his version. Printy goes on to assert that the ship's radar would probably have a horizontal beamwidth of 2 - 4 degrees and a very narrow vertical beamwidth of only 1 - 2 degrees, so that only a very low-flying aircraft would have a slim chance of briefly entering the coverage. This conclusion appears to be a misunderstanding.

The primary requirement for radar on a ship is for navigation. If a ship has one scanner then it is likely to be a marine navigation radar. Detailed scaled deck plans of the Almirante Saldanha show a single radar scanner on a tripod mounting at a height of about 30' above the deckhouse roof (about 65' above the waterline). This appears to be a single-curvature, tilted-parabolic design typical of a basic marine navigation scanner (Fig.1). Such a marine surveillance radar has exactly the same principal design goals as an air surveillance radar, that is to say good azimuth discrimination allied with good range discrimination (which is dependent on pulse length and is not relevant here) and a coverage pattern that is as far as possible gap-free. To achieve this the beam has a fan shape which is narrow in azimuth and very broad in elevation.

A shallow vertical coverage of the sort described by Printy would be useless on a ship where the sea surface has to be illuminated from close range out to the horizon even though the ship might be pitching and rolling by many degrees in a heavy sea. All surveillance radar emissions - marine or air - intersect the surface at all ranges from very close to the antenna out to the radar horizon. (It is precisely by managing the constructive/destructive interference of reflected wavefronts from the surface that the designer generates the desired beam shape.) The vertical diagrams for typical marine radars of this vintage will be between 15 and 30 degrees with scan rates of around 2 to 4 seconds, which makes them comparable to many air surveillance designs and fully capable of displaying aircraft over a very large range of altitudes.

Fig.1. Radar scanner and tripod, elevations.
Approximately to scale, adapted from deck plans by Harold A. Underhill A.M.I.E.S

The tilted-parabolic reflector shown (this is a slightly more efficient arrangement than the basic 'cheese' antenna because the feed horn structure can be kept out of the beam) has an aperture of about 10 feet by 2 feet. The beamwidth (taken as the angle between the 3dB-down or half-power points) is dependent on the number of wavelengths in the aperture, like

1.22 rad (l/aperture)

which for a 10cm radar - a common marine wavelength - gives a horizontal beamwidth of about 2.3 degrees and a vertical of about 15 degrees, consistent with typical marine navigation scanners. (These are obviously very gross approximations based on guesswork and the detailed specifications of the actual radar are needed.)

In some more sophisticated surface-search radars the scanner head is gyro-stabilised which would allow radar energy to be concentrated in a narrower vertical beam width. Such radars were in military use in 1958, but the absence of more than a basic marine navigation scanner on the Almirante Saldanha is consistent with the history and contemporary role of the ship, and with the fact that no radar upgrade was made during the ship's partial refit from a school ship to a hydrographic survey vessel in 1957.

According to the list of electronics acquisitions in the Brazilian Navy General Index for 1957 new radars were installed on several military vessels in that year, mainly SPS-4 and SPS-6. This new suite introduced a distinction between surface and air search in that different frequencies were used (C and L band respectively) and the surface-search SPS-4 could be gyro-stabilised against roll (it could also be modified to fill the gap in the SPS-6 air-search cover, i.e. rotated for "zenith search"). But the Navy Index lists only an AN/UQN-1C echo bathymeter for the Almirante Saldanha - no new radar. This points up the fact that she was not a frontline combat ship, but a 4-masted sailing vessel hitherto used for training and now (as of August 1957) seconded to the Hydrographic Division.

In conclusion, the radar anomaly reported on Jan 15 is unevaluable. It could presumably have been one of the events that motivated the Navy Intelligence report to recommend the reporting of radar effects in future UFO cases, and this could be true whether it was construed as a genuine target or as a malfunction. However, none of the above issues has any direct relevance to Barauna's testimony - except insofar as the coincidence of a radar 'UFO' occurring the day before the Jan 16 sighting does bear on the probability of a photo hoax that had to have been pre-planned before the ship sailed (see later)

The "10-minute" development and the mystery flashlight

Is it indicative of a hoax that, according to Capt. Bacellar, the processing of the negatives took only "about 10 minutes"?

Is it also suspicious that Barauna and Viegas went into the darkroom with a flashlight?

Printy affects to believe so.

Remember that this 'darkroom' was only a toilet in the ship's infirmary. Now even darkrooms have lights in them, and if it's your own darkroom you will know, in the dark, where the conveniently-sited pull-switches are. In an unfamiliar toilet you may not know where the light switch is, and fumbling in the dark to find it, fingers slippery with developer, might be inconvenient. There might not even be an interior light switch, perhaps just one outside the door - or even no switch at all, just a permanent bulkhead lamp from which the bulb had to be removed. Who knows? Would it be convenient to have to replace a light bulb, or open the door, or call out for assistance if you needed light?

Why might you need a light? Because in an unfamiliar ship's toilet you might not easily have everything to hand on a neat work-surface and you might have to fumble for taps, for trays, chemicals and any spools, tank-lids etc. that happened to roll off onto the floor because of the movement of the ship in what was reported as a choppy sea. Another thing that might roll on the floor could be your flashlight, and the best insurance against that is to have somebody else hang onto it - hence Viegas.

Printy objects that they didn't need a flashlight in there because you can't expose a film to light until it has been developed. Well, obviously - but this amounts to saying that there should never be light switches in darkrooms. If Barauna used a closed developing tank of the type Printy assumes then of course they could safely switch on a flashlight during the development - and they would need to. Barauna would want to prepare his stop or fix solutions, for example, and would need to use some sort of jug or measure for dilution, after having located the sink and taps in the dark. Anyone who has ever done photo processing can appreciate why a flashlight might be needed.

Well, you might say, why couldn't they just open the door? But remember that this was not a proper darkroom, it was a ship's toilet. How do we know that the door was an effective light trap? Why should it be? How do we know that the door jamb wasn't taped up or draped with some old sailor's trousers to block out light leaking in from the corridor, or some such? And isn't it likely that if they had opened and re-sealed the door just to let in a little light someone would now be telling us how "strange" it was that they couldn't have found a flashlight?

So what about the processing time? According to Printy this ought to have taken nearer to 20 minutes. To get this figure he starts with "several minutes" to load the film onto the spool of the developing tank. He allows 10 minutes for development, then adds "several minutes" more for a series of rinsings and drainings ("depending on how fast the tank drains") followed by application of a stop solution. Then we have a minimum of 5 minutes in the fixer, and after that another 2-3 minutes "minimum" of washing, with possibly a final application of an anti-spotting agent, before Barauna would dare to open the door.

I think Printy is being a tad pedantic here. In the case of the 12-exposure120 Rollieflex film spool, loading the tank would be a matter of feeding about 2½ feet of film around the spiral slotted guide fixed to the agigator spindle. This isn't a very laborious process, especially for an experienced photographer, even allowing for some "emotional distress". Several minutes of repeated rinsings before fixing is probably unnecessary if he had an effective stop bath (this is basically just acetic acid). And to demand 3 minutes of washing before a fixed negative can even be looked at is, shall we say, a bit precious.

What we are after is a realistic idea of the story behind the simple statement in the Naval Intelligence report that:

"the processing lasted about 10 minutes and then the negatives were examined by CC Bacellar"

Does this mean that every stage of the processing described above has to have been completed and that Barauna stepped out with the fully-washed negatives within exactly10 minutes? Or does it mean that Barauna and Viegas were shut in the darkroom for about 10 minutes? Because these are not at all the same thing.

It certainly is not necessary that every last trace of unexposed silver be removed by the fixer (a sodium thiosulphate solution) before any gleam of light can be allowed into the darkroom. Essentially no development chemistry is going on after the immersion in the 'stop' bath anyway - this is what it is for. Bear in mind that not only may there be no lamp in this improvised darkroom, there may not be much indirect light from the corridor outside either. There is no reason at all why, by this stage, Barauna should not open the door, saying, "You can come in now, the development's done." Bacellar could then wait a few minutes while Barauna flushed the fixer out of the tank and took out the film for a first look.

They would naturally be excited and impatient to see what had come out (this is more than idle curiosity; remember that Bacellar was a naval officer dealing with evidence relevant to a potential military situation) and there really is no danger to the film. If there's nothing on it, then you can throw it away. If there is then you can make sure it gets a good wash before showing it to anyone else. There is nothing in any account to contradict this sort of scenario, and there is no reason at all that Barauna could not have remained shut in the darkroom for 10 minutes or so.

It should also be noted that Printy's processing times are given for optimum chemical temperatures. In the absence of refrigeration, the coolest temperature attainable would be that of the tap water, which, in the bowels of a ship just past noon in high summer in the tropics, might be considerably higher than the manufacturer's optimum. (The mean ocean surface temperature even in the deep water in this region in January is about 27°C, and would be higher in the shallows around the island.) If so then Barauna might well judge that he should shorten the development time by a minute or two.

In any case, Printy's criticism seems to me to make unreasonable demands on the precision of Bacellar's estimate of the time of development. So what if it was 20 minutes or 15 minutes instead of "about 10 minutes"? In such unusual circumstances does a factor-2 error in a witness estimate of time constitute grounds for suspicion? When we wish to explain a UFO case, we will often insist that errors worse than factor-2 in witness estimates are only to be expected.

The examination of the negatives

This serving of puréed red herring is really difficult to take seriously. Printy paints for us a picture of the still-wet negatives being passed around among an entire crew of deck hands carrying magnifying glasses, all pawing at them with greasy, salt-smeared hands. Then he argues that the environment he has invented would have been so "hostile" to the negatives that Barauna's only alternative would be not to have allowed anyone else to touch them. Therefore he must have held them up to the light himself and only allowed "a few individuals" to approach within "a distance of about a foot". Since these few individuals would most likely be those who had had the best look at the UFO and could best verify the images, this means that only people like Viegas and Filho would have been allowed close enough to get a good look, and of course they were Barauna's supposed accomplices.

It is hard to know what to make of an 'argument' like this. The facts are as follows.

Reporter Joao Martins quoted Barauna as saying:

"The processing was done under the supervision of several officers, including Com. Carlos A. Bacellar. But only the negatives were seen aboard. The reason: there was no photographic paper for the copies on the ship at that time. The negatives, however, were seen and examined by the whole crew." (O Cruzeiro, May 3 1958)

Mauro Andrade was quoted as saying:

"I didn’t witness the sighting because I was inside the ship, not on the deck, when the object was seen. . . . But all people I found on deck told me that they had really sighted a flying saucer. I believed them, and my belief was confirmed by the film developed aboard. In fact, I saw a thing on the negatives which looked like a flying saucer, although I cannot be sure if it was really one of them. The film was developed before the eyes of witnesses, and was shown later to everyone aboard." (O Globo Feb 22 1958)

Viegas was quoted as saying:

"The whole crew was gathered outside, waiting with great anxiety for the results. The negatives were seen by everybody on the ship." (Diario da Noite, February 22, 1958)

However, Commander Paulo Moreira da Silva was quoted as saying:

"I do not wish to discuss the personality of the photographer who shot the pictures of the unknown object sighted by many people of recognized responsibility. I state, however, that the photos are authentic, and that the film was developed on the same occasion, aboard the NE Almirante Saldanha—and also that the image of the object on the negatives was verified, at that same opportunity, by several officers, not eight days later as it has been said—thus entirely discarding any possibility of photographic trick." (0 Jornal, February 26, 1958)

The Navy Intelligence report states:

VII—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; CC Bacellar states that he saw the UAO referred to in the negatives mentioned since that first examination with details which only the enlargements made afterwards showed more clearly;

VIII—Afterwards, the negatives referred to were shown to members of the ship’s crew who had witnessed the phenomenon; they recognized the object appearing in the photos as identical with the one they had sighted in the air;

Capt. Brandao reports from Barauna's testimony given at Navy Intelligence headquarters that he

"remained in the darkroom for about 10 minutes, accompanied by the AF Captain, who was helping him; then he showed the film still wet to the CC Bacellar, with the impression that the object photographed had not appeared on the developed film; however, his impression was changed by CC Bacellar himself who showed him that, in the pictures connected with the sighting, was visible, in different positions, an image looking like the object;"

Capt. Bacellar himself said:

"I saw the film immediately after it was developed, still wet, and — making a careful examination — I was able to determine:

"(a) that the pictures preceding the sequence connected with the object’s passage corresponded with scenes taken aboard a few minutes before the incident;

"(b) that, in the pictures connected with the sighting, was visible, in different positions, an image looking like the object seen later on the copies—with details which only the enlargements made afterward showed more clearly;

"(c) and that the two photos lost by Barauna because he was too nervous - or because he was pushed by other excited people around him - showed the sea and part of the Island’s mountains;

"(d) the negatives referred to were seen by many people aboard."

(O Cruzeiro, May 3 1958)

In response to criticism that a small UFO image only about 2mm across (about the size of this division symbol ÷) might not be easily seen on the 6cm negatives, it has been suggested that Capt. Bacellar, in particular, might have used a magnifying lens. From this, Printy extrapolates ad absurdum to depict a number of sailors with a number of magnifying glasses, maybe not knowing how to use them properly.

"Having served in the United States Navy," says Printy, "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?"

But there is no reason to imagine a crowd of deck hands with magnifying glasses (how "experienced" does one have to be to use a magnifying glass anyway?).

The Navy sources say variously that the negatives were seen by "members of the ship's crew who had witnessed the phenomenon", "several officers" or "many people aboard". Only the civilian witnesses are quoted - by journalists - as saying that the negatives were seen by "the whole crew" or "everyone on board". But it's perfectly obvious that "the whole crew" - given by Fontes as about 300 (the full ship's complement as a training ship had been 356 + 100 midshipmen and cadets) - wasn't even on deck at the time and no-one is seriously suggesting that the negatives were shown to all hands. Even if we are motivated to take literally such obvious hyperbole as "the whole crew was gathered outside [the darkroom] waiting anxiously" it still would not mean that the whole crew made "careful examinations" of the negatives.

Ignoring such diversions, we only need Commander Bacellar to have made the "careful examination" that he very explicitly says he made. Bacellar, by whatever means, satisfied himself that he saw the UFO, recognisably the same as that revealed later in more detail on enlargements, in different positions on several different frames; he said that he identified the preceding frames as scenes taken just minutes before on deck; and he said that he identified also the two frames where Barauna had missed his target entirely and photographed only sea and rock. If Capt. Bacellar made this "careful examination" of the negatives as he said he did, and if that "careful examination" needed the use of a glass, then he used a glass!.

There is nothing whatever bizarre about the Commander of a technical Naval expedition, an acknowledged expert in meteorology and hydrography, having access to an eyeglass on board a Hydrographic Department survey vessel. Presumably the ship had the usual paraphernalia that might be needed for navigational or specialised technical chart-reading, as well as (evidently) some materials left over from the now-disused photo-laboratory. (When I did darkroom work professionally some years ago I used to carry a small 'linen tester' everywhere in my pocket, from habit.) After insisting that Barauna develop the film there and then, Capt. Bacellar knew that he was going to need to examine small negative images. It wouldn't take a genius to realise that an eyeglass would be useful and Bacellar had a full hour to find one while he waited for Barauna to calm down.

Are we to imagine that Bacellar, having insisted on the development of the negatives and knowing that a confidential Navy High Command Intelligence Department investigation into Trindade UFO reports was already underway, casually glanced at the negatives and said to Barauna, "Well, I can't really make anything out clearly in these conditions, but hey, if you say it's a flying saucer then that's good enough for me! Come and look at this flying saucer, guys!", sending him home with an endorsement and a potential front-page fiasco for his military superiors? And why should we want to suppose any such thing? He tells us explicitly what he saw.

These JPEG image files are obviously extremely crude. They are reversals made from reduced copies of a scan of an enlarged positive print (by A.J.Gevaerd, via Kentaro Mori) of the first of the photographs, P1 (slightly cropped on the vertical axis). The image on the left is at the approximate original negative scale, shown on the right at just 2x magnification. They are separated by several digital and optical generations from the original negative. The contrast of the original negative may have been less favourable, but the detail resolution would have been incomparably better. Merely illustrative, they nevertheless help us to form a more realistic idea of what Capt. Bacellar and others might have been looking at.

Printy suggests that those members of the crew who are officially reported to have confirmed the image on the negatives were careless and gullible and may have been duped into misinterpreting "seagulls, dust specks or streaks" on the negatives as a UFO:

"Once the negatives had been developed and presented to Commander Bacellar, somebody would need to confirm the UFO on the negatives. Who do you think would be the first to examine the negatives? Most likely it was the individuals who had first sighted the UFO, Viegas and Filho. Once they stated they saw the UFO on the negative, the power of suggestion might take hold . . ."

Printy allows the role of Bacellar to recede into the background somewhat, but seems to imply, without quite saying so explicitly, that Bacellar too must have been put in a suggestible frame of mind by the claims of the hoaxers and allowed himself to be deceived by wishful thinking. But this is in contradiction to the evidence that Bacellar was not only the first to examine the negatives as soon as Barauna produced them, but also the first to claim that they showed the UFO. It was he who convinced Barauna!

Bacellar's testimony has to be dealt with head on. He testified that he had Barauna remove the film from the camera in his presence and that he stayed by Barauna's side the whole time whilst the photographer waited for his nerves to calm down. Then they went together to the improvised darkroom, Barauna "dressed only in a shirt and shorts", and Bacellar waited outside. All of this suggests a very natural caution or suspicion on the part of Bacellar, who had not seen the UFO for himself. Indeed Printy offers this same inference elsewhere in his argument because he wishes Bacellar's suspicion of Barauna to reflect badly on Barauna's credibility. But this is inconsistent with the theory that Bacellar must have been a victim of wishful thinking.

Secondly, Bacellar said that he examined the film "immediately" after it was developed, still wet, implying that he took receipt of it as soon as Barauna produced it. He certainly doesn't say that he let the photographs be handed around to other exciteable people before he looked at them. That would be absurd, because why else did he stick to the side of the photographer for an hour then accompany him to the darkroom and wait outside the door? Bacellar examined the negatives there and then, he said, and satisfied himself that there were UFO-like objects in the skies of the four unspoiled shots, and only "afterwards" were the negatives "shown to members of the ship’s crew who had witnessed the phenomenon; they recognized the object appearing in the photos as identical with the one they had sighted in the air".

Finally, Capt. Brandao, Naval Intelligence, recorded in his Report that Barauna

. . . showed the film still wet to the CC Bacellar, with the impression that the object photographed had not appeared on the developed film; however, his impression was changed by CC Bacellar himself who showed him that, in the pictures connected with the sighting, was visible, in different positions, an image looking like the object [emphasis added]

In other words, rather than Barauna and his supposed co-hoaxers convincing Capt. Bacellar by the power of suggestion that something was there which he would not himself have observed without persuasion, it was Capt. Bacellar's "careful examination" that convinced Barauna to take a second look when the supposed hoaxer said he could see nothing.

"One has to wonder" says Printy "what did these witnesses see?" The primary source of evidence relative to that question is what the highly credible primary witness, CC Bacellar, said he saw. Printy's approach is to entirely disregard what a highly credible witness said he saw in favour of a tortured chain of assumptions and insinuations about what other unidentified witnesses might have seen.


Printy finds it suspicious that Barauna claimed to have overexposed two of the four shots. Barauna said that his setting of F.8, 1/125 second, was a little too much for the conditions and that these negatives were as a result rather dark. (Printy uses the phrase "heavily overexposed", but I can find no source for this.)

We don't actually know what film Barauna used, which as Printy rightly says is a lamentable state of affairs. But Printy argues that we do know what the light conditions were, and on the basis of Barauna's descriptions of the general weather, and the four photographs, he proposes to distiguish between the two rough exposure-guide figures below, published by Kodak for its Verichrome Pan film.

Weak, Hazy Sun (Soft Shadows)



Cloudy Bright (No Shadows)



The latter, he argues, corresponds more closely to the inferred conditions. Therefore Barauna's stated setting of F.8, 1/125 should not have resulted in any overexposure, and the photographer has been caught out in some kind of deceit.

Barauna certainly was quoted by Joao Martins in March 1958 as saying (in translation) that the weather was bright but cloudy with no shadows. The photographs show that the basic upper-air conditions are those of a stratified broken cover that is either stratus or cirrus, and some variable scattered low clouds (these may be upslope fogs and gravity wave clouds associated with the island topography). One photo (#3) distinctly shows direct sun striking through the clouds. (The fact that a tape of an informal discussion at a dinner 24 years later reveals Barauna using the words "only some cirrus" is held by Printy to be another suspicious contradiction, presumably because it suggests a little more brightness; but this is a pretty desperate level of criticism in my opinion.

Basically it was a bright but cloudy day of mostly-indirect but variable sunlight. With this in mind, and looking at the landscapes and at the foregrounds of the photographs with care, it seems to me that the line between "hazy sun, soft shadows" and "cloudy bright, no shadows" (insofar as such a line can be drawn at all) is one that might have been crossed frequently that afternoon, and probably within the time frame of the photographs.

In general, the idea that we can now reconstruct instant-by-instant light conditions with the degree of precision necessary to criticise Barauna's choice of F-stop in 1958 strikes me as utterly fantastic. Printy tacitly concedes that conditions could plausibly have been "Weak, Hazy Sun (Soft Shadows)", meriting F.11, but argues that this would have resulted in an overexposure by "only one stop". Why is one stop of overexposure inconsistent with anything that Barauna claimed? Simply, it isn't.

Also bear in mind that an experienced photographer often deliberately errs on the side of overexposure anyway. This is precisely because a slight overexposure can be corrected with a bath of potassium ferricyanide reducer, whereas an underexposed shot will lose shadow detail, which can never be recovered. The rule of thumb is "expose for the shadows, process for the highlights". This appears to be what Barauna did. The shadow-detail on the prints is excellent. And that he said he used a reducer is merely consistent with this practice.

The only remaining 'anomaly' is the reported difference in the densities of two of the four negatives. Two were dark (i.e. overexposed) enough to warrant correction with reducer. Printy wonders what on earth could have changed "in 14 seconds" to cause what he portrays as a "drastic" difference from properly exposed to "heavily overexposed". He is mystified.

The figure of 14 seconds was measured in a Navy test of how long it would take to shoot 6 frames using Barauna's camera, and is not an estimate of the real elapsed time, which the Navy report estimates as "less than 30 seconds" in accord with witness estimates. In fact an analysis of the cloud displacements shows that the time elapsed was more likely about 2 minutes. A variable light level is consistent with the meteorology on the photographs - a high-altitude stratus/cirrus layer shifting and breaking under the influence of strong winds, with some changeable low clouds and broken sunlight. There is no evidence anywhere that the overexposure was more "heavy" than might be due to a 1-stop variation in light levels over the course of a couple of minutes.

And this is not all, because the appropriate exposure varies not simply with the ambient light conditions as Printy assumes but in a much more dynamic way, following the distribution of light and shade within the FOV of the camera.

According to the Rolleiflex 2.8E manual "the Synchro-Compur-Shutter is adjusted automatically for the correct exposure when set to the previously determined light value. After this is done the two controls (speed and diaphragm) may be locked together by the very simply operated coupling button." In other words, once locked the synchro mechanism will produce equivalent exposures when you independently vary either the shutter speed or the aperture. But the setting is manual. A light value has to be manually set from reading the scene, which the exposure meter does by averaging the values over the approximate FOV. This gives you a number which then has to be used to set the shutter. If you have 'told' the camera correctly what film is being used, then this light value will be correct for the average metered light intensity over the scene you've just pointed the camera at. But if you now move the camera to a scene with a different average light value, the setting of the Syncro shutter may no longer be correct.

Setting the correct exposure for a small or distant subject against a bright background is notoriously difficult - the Rollei manual recommends finding a similar nearby subject and using that to read the light value, obviously not possible for Barauna. When photographing scenery, the manual advises, always read the exposure with the camera tilted down to favour the ground. This is in order to follow the rule-of-thumb mentioned above - 'expose for the shadows'. If you read light values for the true amount of sky in the frame you will find that your negative is underexposed in the shadows and detail will be lost irrecoverably. The answer is to overexpose the sky.

Obviously this is a delicate business. Suppose that Barauna has his shutter set at a light value measured for scenes of the boats on deck - if he then raises the lens to cover the sea and the mountains of the island he will need to measure and enter a different light value. If he were to then pan sideways, exchanging the dark rocks of island for empty sea and sky, he would probably need a different light value yet again.

This explains quite well why some of the UFO shots might have been relatively overexposed, because in the circumstances Barauna has neither the time, nor probably the presence of mind, to read changing exposures and fumble with the little setting knobs. Possibly the setting he used was the setting he had read earlier for the deck scenes. If the setting he adopted was, by some combination of luck and judgement, just about accurate for shots containing large areas of the island (which appears to be the case, as the rocks of the island show an impressive amount of well-resolved shadow detail on the prints) it could be an underestimate for shots containing almost no island and mostly sea and bright sky. This would be true even if the ambient light conditions did not change at all.

So we can easily see why two of the four shots might have been relatively 'overexposed', and we can deduce which two. In shots P2 and P3 something like 1/3 or more of the print area is filled by the island mountains. Shots P1 and P4, the first and last of the series, contain only small areas of dark land and the largest areas, by far, of bright sky and sea. P1 and P4 also contain the smallest UFO images, which are therefore most likely to have suffered from being been washed out by any background halation due to overexposure of the sky. Therefore P1 and P4, unlike P2 and P3, would probably have benefitted from reduction (what Barauna's quoters and translators have termed "clearing") to recover the best detail from a small object in the sky. This conclusion is consistent, in detail, with the physical optics, the camera operation, the psychology of the situation and the testimony of Barauna.

the ship's position

The inaccuracy of the1958 newspaper map is of little significance, except insofar as it shows how foolish it is to take newspaper stories literally. Kentaro Mori, Brad Sparks and others have done good work on narrowing down the true position by triangulation and related methods. Some supplementary photogrammetric work on this issue can also be found here. This work has produced nothing that casts any doubt on Barauna or on the photographs.

motive & opportunity

Tim Printy speculates that a motive for the hoax might have been that Barauna and his Icarai Club diving associates hoped to get themselves on the cover of National Geographic by achieving some noteable diving exploits. Barauna said that they'd intended to try for a spearfishing record while they were at the island. Maybe they craved publicity of any kind. If they were disappointed by the diving as the 3-day stay drew to a close they might have decided to mount a UFO hoax instead.

But this implies that the plan for the hoax, the mechanism of the hoax, and the images needed to put it into effect, were all conceived and realised in a time span on the order of a day or so. Is this plausible? On the other hand, Printy also suggests that Barauna had loaded an already-developed film into his camera, containing UFO fakes and a sequence of innocent deck shots taken on another day, mimicking the activities which he pretended to have been filming just before the 'sighting'. Assuming that Bacellar was taken in by that last imposture, the theory implies that the hoax must have been conceived towards the beginning of the ship's stay at the island, at the latest, not near the end, which rather destroys Printy's motive of a disappointing diving expedition.

Maybe there was a different motive. Maybe Barauna and co. learned about rumours of the Trindade Island UFO sightings from Navy sources during the trip out from Rio and saw an opportunity. This would make sense to the extent that the hoax could have been planned much earlier during the voyage. They could arrive better prepared. In this way we can explain how the shots preceding the UFO sequence were identified by Bacellar as showing scenes on deck "minutes before" the sighting, which would have been scenes of the boat-raising that we know Barauna was supposed to be filming at the time. If this was actually a hoax film pre-developed on an earlier day as Printy suggests, then the only way to simulate the boat-raising on the day of departure would be to use similar shots of the boat-lowering on the day of arrival. This implies an extraordinary attention to detail in the planning, but is possible.

However it becomes highly implausible when we reflect that Barauna would also have to have known, days ahead of time, that the motor-pinnace was going to be winched back aboard at around noon on the day of departure, and he must have thought very cunningly about the implications of this. The reason is that the solar angle fixed by the sunlight-shaft in P3 and the consistent shadows of all four photographs indicates a time consistent with the sighting time of 1215 PM on January 16 1958. Is it reasonable that he took these fakes on a previous day at the exact solar time that he would need to pretend taking them on Jan 16, and is it likely that he could rely on the boat-raising to occur shortly before the critical time at which the hoax needed to be triggered, rather than shortly after?

With so many circumstantial complications and technical difficulties in the planning and execution of a hoax this subtle and this difficult, I would far rather assume that it was all thought out very carefully before the trip rather than extemporised on board. But we don't escape from difficulties in this way.

The radar incident on the Almirante Saldanha occurred 24 hours before the Barauna incident. The four other visual sightings reported from the island not only predated the incident, they occurred before the ship had set sail from Brazil. The first was reported officially to the Navy High Command by radiogram #00012/312335 from the garrison Commanding Officer, Capt. Bacellar, on December 31 1957, and further incidents occurred on 1st and 2nd of January. A first message from the Chief of the Navy High Command requesting detailed information on the incidents was sent to the island on January 6 1958, ten days before the Almirante Saldanha dropped anchor.

The subject of the first radiogram message is described in the Navy Intelligence report as follows:

"On December 31, 1957, an unidentified aerial object (UAO) was observed over the Island, sighted by the Medical-Officer, First-Lieutenant MD Ignaclo Carlos Moreira Murta, by one sailor and five workers. The sighting occurred in the morning about 10 minutes before 0800 hours. Due to the conviction of the observers and the coherence and correlation of the reports, he [Capt. Bacellar] had decided to send the radiogram that gave origin to the present investigation . . . . [The] object, (seen from below) according to the observers, when it crossed over the Island on 12/31/57, showed a spherical outline. Sighted from a distant point, it was disc-shaped with a double dome (Saturn-shaped);. . . . the observers . . . estimated its altitude, comparing it with the height of the peak "Desejado", i. e., about three times that height, or about 1,800 meters."*

* Note: The phrase 'Saturn-shaped' does not appear in the translation hosted on the NICAP site, and instead of "disc with a double dome" the translation "the shape of a disc with protuberances on the upper and lower parts" is given. The sense appears to be the same however.

This appears to be the incident which Fontes described being leaked to him in February 1958 by "a very reliable military source" before the Barauna photographs appeared in the press. Fontes, writing in 1960, said that Capt. Bacellar "angrily" denied the truth of the story at the time and Fontes could offer no documentary evidence to back it up (A.P.R.O. Bulletin, January, 1960, pp. 5-9). But in 1965 the full text of the Navy Intelligence report containing the above-quoted confirmation was first published ( A.P.R..0. Bulletin, January 1965, pp. 3-8.) and it suggests that Fontes' source was after all reliable in broad terms.

Intriguingly, Fontes was told that a Navy sergeant had obtained one photograph of this "Saturn-shaped" object, and he believed that an unaccredited fifth picture shown to him at the Navy Ministry alongside Barauna's on February 14 1958 was a copy of this. There appears to be no extant copy of this picture in the public domain.

Could Barauna have been tipped off in time to produce a hoax that rather closely reproduced this description?

The Almirante Saldanha arrived at the island on 14 January. How long was the journey? I have so far been unable to confirm the departure date despite requests to two researchers who I know to have had access either to the complete log or to extracts therefrom. Therefore some inference and calculation is needed. Today the modern deisel-powered scientific research vessels that resupply the post do the trip from Rio in 3 days. In 1958 the Almirante Saldanha was a four-masted sailing ship with a small auxilliary motor. How long would it take her to make the trip from Rio?

We know from contemporary accounts that the first 740-mile leg of the return trip, from Trindade to Vitoria, took 5 days, corresponding to an average true speed of about 6 knots. Therefore a direct route out from Rio to Trindade, which is about 920 miles, must have taken at least another half a day if the ship cruised at the same speed. But the true speed of the ship includes any component of motion due to ocean currents. When we factor in the currents we find that the true speed on the journey out will be slower than the journey back for a given surface weigh, and the true elapsed time will be even longer.

Average current vectors for January (see the study Ocean Current & Wave motions near Trindade Island) show that although the route runs roughly across the Brazil Current, the flow is overall slightly favouring the journey back from E to W, and where the flow turns SW and accelerates around the curve of the Espirito Santo coast heading past Rio it is substantially favouring that return journey. Therefore if the ship cruised out from Rio to Trindade making the same surface weigh as she did on the cruise back to Vitoria, the additional distance and an unfavourable counter-current running at perhaps two knots near the coast would together mean that it must have taken, conservatively, at least six days to get there. Since she arrived on Jan14 this would mean that she left Rio on Jan 7, or Jan 8.

This is only one week after the very first UFO incident occurred on remote Trindade - the sighting notified in Capt. Bacellar's radiogram of Dec 31 - and only a day or two after the Navy High Command's first request dated Jan 6 "for information on the phenomena observed and reported through the Radio[gram]". How much time would Barauna need to plan and execute the hoax - dreaming it up, making models or whatever, testing out his 'internal mask' technique and so on? And how did he know about the report in the first place?

I'd like to know what was in that first radiogram dated the day of the sighting, 31 Dec 57. If it contained explicitly the description of the disc with dorsal and ventral domes later described in Brandao's report (which for all we know might be based on follow-up information received post-Jan 6) then in principle someone with Navy contacts - perhaps Viegas, head of Barauna's diving group and a retired Air Force Captain - could have had as much as six days or so to get wind of the UFO rumour and to recruit Barauna into a scheme for carrying off what was arguably one of the most convincing and difficult-to-stage hoaxes in UFO history.

Realistically, then, Barauna had at maximum a few days to experiment with custom-built models of Saturn-shaped UFOs and get his doctored film roll(s) prepared and packed by Jan 6 or Jan 7 ready for departure the following morning. Is this possible? Maybe.

With suitable inside help Barauna could have done all this, in principle and for all we know he may have been waiting months or years for a golden opportunity to use a tried and tested method. We know that Barauna did at one time take some light-hearted pictures of suspended 'flying saucer' models for a magazine and it was never any secret that he enjoyed trick photography. Indeed how likely is it that a trick-photographer would happen to be the one person on hand to capture pictures of a real flying saucer?

On the other hand the idea that an aspirant UFO-hoaxer with a state-of-the-art trick, primed and ready to fire, should by pure chance happen to be invited by the Navy into the midst of an ongoing 'flap' seems equally improbable. Yet he was undeniably there! And doubtless many, if not all, professional photographers have toyed with trick shots at some time or other during their careers (for this reason the Rolleiflex 2.8E used by Barauna, like many similar professional cameras, was designed to enable double-exposures as explained in the operating manual).

Either way we cannot exclude the element of chance so in my view we have no choice but to accept it as 'just one of those things'. The alternative would be to conclude that Barauna must have been in collusion with the Commanding Officer and other personnel of the Trindade Island garrison, since long before the ship sailed, and that together they faked the entire 'flap' - including the detailed prior description of a Saturn-shaped UFO by six witnesses - so as to add credibility to Barauna's hoax.

© Martin Shough, Aug 2004 [ammended 18.09.04]


Brazilian Navy General Index, 1957 http://brazil.crl.edu/bsd/bsd/u2175/contents.html

Fontes, Olavo T., MD, The UAO Sightings at The Island of Trindade: Part One (CUFOS)

Fontes, Olavo T., MD, New Evidence on IGY Photos (CUFOS)

Hynek, J. Allen, et al., interview with Almiro Barauna, Brasilia 1982. Tape recording courtesy of Dr. Virgilio Sanchez Ocejo. (Also available as MP3 on NICAP website.)

Printy, Tim, UFO over Trindade island: Details Overlooked or Ignored

(back to Trindade index)