Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

UFO photos: Lago de Cote

Location: Lago de Cote, Costa Rica
Date: September 4th, 1971


The unusual photography was taken by an official mapping aircraft of the Costa Rican government, flying at 10.000 feet over Lago de Cote, Arenal region. The mapping photos were automaticlly taken, and the four crewmen, including an aerial photography specialist, a geographer, a topographer and the pilot, didn’t notice anything unusual at the time. The apparent discoidal object over the lake was noticed only after developing. The filme, black and white, special for those tasks, is very big, measuring 23 cm x 23 cm, which resulted in an extraordinary clarity. According to Jacques Valleé, who analyzed the case, “one can see the cows on the field“.

Comment: This is an unexplained photographic case to this day. It involves a real UFO. Or not.

The photo came to light on the 1980s, thanks to one of the crewmen, who contacted costa-rican ufologist Ricardo Vilchez. In 1985, a second generation negative got to the hands of Jacques Valleé, who along with Richard Haines, conducted an analysis published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. The ufologists also had access to the negatives taken just before and just after the negative with the UFO — as those were all taken by an automated system. On those adjacent images, taken 20 seconds before and after, there is nothing unusual.

This photographic case is close to perfect. The possibility of a hoax is very small, given the official source. Precise date and location are known, furthermore, the negative is of an exceptional quality. Vallé and Haines analyzed the scenario geometry and estimated that the maximum value for the disk size, assuming a real object at ground level, would have been 210 meters. Their analysis also involved computerized image processing, something rare at the time. Their conclusion:

In summary, our analyses have suggested that an unidentified, opaque, aerial object was captured on film at a maximum distance of 10,000 feet. There are no visible means of lift or propulsion and no surface markings other than darker regions that appear to be nonrandom. This case must remain “open” until further information becomes available.”

The analysis was published along with a critical review by Marilyn E. Bruner, scientist from Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory. Peer review is a common scientific practice that one seldom see on ufology, so that adds to the validity of the studies on this case. Bruner wrote that:

“While I agree that the image is very suggestive, my impression is that it probably does not represent a physical object”.

Noting several inconsistencies of the image, she noted that

“the oval image is more likely to be an artifact such as a pressure mark than a photographic image of a physical object. Such a mark could have been caused by a foreign particle trapped between two layers of the film on the supply spool.”

costarica2On February 1990, Valeé and Haines finally obtained the original negative, and conducted a new analysis. They managed to confirm their previous evaluations, no signs of hoax were detected on the film. Equally important, they evaluated Bruner’s suggestion that the disk could have been the result of some defect on the film. According to them, as the original negative had no protrusion nor depression, her hypothesis failed to be verified.

The new analysis concludes:

“In summary, our good fortune in obtaining the original negative … has resulted in confirmation of our earlier speculation that the aerial disc is certainly anomalous. While it may not be inexplicable, it is at least unidentified.”

Indeed, it remains unidentified. Could it have been a real disk more than 200 meters in diameter coming from inside Lago de Cote’s waters?  It would have been something extremely anomalous, for various reasons.

The shots taken second before and seconds later show nothing unusual. Assuming the disc was not photographed on those other images because it quickly moved away from the camera field of view, one can estimate its minimum speed if it did indeed come from the lake. Valleé and Haines themselves made the calculations, and suggested the disc in this case must have moved at a minimum speed of 2,300 km/h.

Coming from the lake and shooting at such speed, one would expect a sonic boom, and also some perturbation on the water, which would have been visible on the images taken seconds later. No such things were reported or seen.

Of course, one could always assume that such an anomalous object would have such anomalous characteristics as absence of a sonic boom or significant perturbation of the water. But those characteristics suggest the object was not material — or at least, it didn’t behave like a common material object.

It could also be that the object was actually much smaller and closer to the camera, in which case one would assume it was not that fast and didn’t touch the water. But it’s appearance in this case, with a significant part seemingly vanishing in the clear sky, is also puzzling.

See: Photo Analyses of an Aerial Disc Over Costa Rica
And also: Photo Analysis of an Aerial Disc Over Costa Rica: New Evidence

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Posted in UFO photos,UFOs | 7 comments

7 Comments so far

  1. Tony December 27th, 2009 6:41 am

    It is quite good, but my (amateur) observation is that the shadows show that the sun is from the 4 or 5 o’clock position (SE if N is up), yet the reflection off the disk is as if the sun is from about 1 o’clock (NNE).

  2. Brian October 10th, 2010 2:05 am

    The article suggest that craft must have shot into the sky, from the water, and that it is strange only a moment later, and before there is nothing qouting an estimate that it must have moved at a minimum speed of 2,300 km/h for this to be possible. It asks where is the water Perurbation, and why did it not create a sonic boom? All good questions, but it occured to me it was not taking into consideration all possibilities. Perhaps it was not moving FROM the water, but rather INTO. Of course this explains how it disapeared so quickly, and also suggests it may have been moving much slower (it takes less time to dive under, than it does to fly completely out of the picture frame.) Perhaps it was never even in the air at all, but was always a USO…Unidentified Submersible Object…Rising to the surface, then sinking again. Still one would expect some signs of water disturbance either way. Another possibility is that IF this were an alien craft…it may not be ducking into, or out of the water at all…but may be employing some sort fo cloaking technology. Since our own military have bragged recently that they envision themselves with this technology before too long, it seems not a far stretch to assume that an alien race, more advanceed could also have it. Although it is normally envisioned in the movies as simply taking effect in a unified manner all around the object..perhaps in real life, it is a process where a ship would disapear in stages, from one side to another. Of course even more far fetched is that it is traveling interdimensionally. All in all, though..having said all of this. I STILL think its a photographic processing error…perhaps one different than was ruled out by the study, or even an unusual lens flare, or reflection from inside the camera.

  3. -=ToNy=- January 14th, 2011 10:13 am

    I agree it may be going into or coming out of a cloak, but it really does seem to be closer to the camera then the lake. It doesnt look like its close to the water or coming out of the water for that matter.

  4. jamie March 5th, 2011 8:09 pm

    I don’t know if this is too simple an explanation, but it looks to me like there was a drop of water on the lens.
    but I don’t know how to explain how it got there, and then how it disappeared.

  5. Rafael July 12th, 2011 6:32 pm

    Hey mori. :)
    sorry for my poor english.
    no can that object to be from of whater or sky because we have anouther explication: thecnology highht alien(anouther dimension, space, or reality)

    so that explanation(that have origen whater or sky can no to be very good awensome

    sorry for me poor english guys

  6. Brian August 4th, 2011 7:55 pm

    This size (9 inch roll) is typical for mapping photography. The cameras are huge, and weigh as much as a car engine.

    The object is not from pressure from a trapped particle or mishandling during processing. Most likely this is from a problem when coating the film, during the manufacturing process. This does occasionally happen, and the resulting patterns can be suggestive.

    As noted by another poster, the light on the object is from a different direction than the sunlight on the landscape. Another factor is that the contrast of the object is higher than the landscape’s contrast.

  7. Fabius October 29th, 2011 6:38 pm

    I agree with Jamie. It looks like a drop on the lens or on the glass in front of the lens (if any). This explains the vanishing part and the dark regions, that are refractions of the aircraft belly.

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