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Nova Scotia's Shag Harbour centre tells intriguing UFO story

SHAG HARBOUR, Nova Scotia — One of the worst museums you’ll ever visit tells one of the most unusual stories you’ll ever hear.
shag harbour
The Shag Harbour Incident Society Interpretive Centre/Museum is in the village’s former general store. While the museum is underwhelming, it has an intriguing story to tell.

SHAG HARBOUR, Nova Scotia — One of the worst museums you’ll ever visit tells one of the most unusual stories you’ll ever hear.

Shag Harbour, a fishing village in the southwest corner of Nova Scotia, was the site of what’s been called “the world’s only government-documented UFO crash.” That’s from the cover of Dark Object by Don Ledger and Chris Styles, published in 2001 by Dell Books.

Here’s the tale: on the evening of Wednesday, October 4, 1967, many people across Nova Scotia saw unusual lights in the sky. The pilot and co-pilot of a passing Air Canada flight did, too: a large, well-lit, rectangular orange object, followed by a string of smaller lights, about 20 degrees above the horizon. While they watched, there was an explosion near the large object, then another, and the smaller, “kite tail” lights began to dance like fireflies. They followed the lights’ progress for several minutes as the objects drifted east.

About two hours after this, around 11:30 p.m., a carload of young people driving through Shag Harbour saw a large shape, flashing four lights, descend at a 45-degree angle headed into the chilly Atlantic Ocean. There was a whistling sound, a whoosh and a bang, and the thing hit the water 200-300 metres offshore. It bobbed on the surface for a while, showing a pale yellow glow, then submerged, leaving a glittering yellow foam, like shaving cream, six centimetres thick in a patch 25 metres wide and a kilometre long, roiled by bubbling from beneath and smelling of sulphur.

Two fishing boats went out, thinking it might be a crashed airliner. Three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were aboard. Other vessels joined the search, including a coast guard cutter sent by the Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax. The RCMP and RCC both filed reports describing the mysterious “dark object” as a UFO. A few days later, divers went down, but no one’s sure what they found because by then the official channels had started to clam up. The incident quickly sank from public view — and remained out-of-sight until Dark Object was published, expanding the narrative to include the possible involvement of the super-secret submarine tracking station then in operation at nearby Shelburne.

The Shag Harbour Incident Society Interpretive Centre/Museum conveys this intriguing story largely via photocopies of documents in binders arrayed atop collapsible tables. These stand on the broad, bare floorboards of the village’s former general store, converted to its present archival use in 2009. The museum also sells pop, candy, used paperbacks (50¢) and a selection of inflatable and Styrofoam green aliens. Clearly, it could use better funding — and your custom.

The museum is open from late May to mid-October. If you continue three kilometres east on Highway 3 you’ll come to a seaside gazebo and a sign, “Site of the 1967 UFO Incident.” If you arrive in early August you may enjoy the two-day Shag Harbour Incident Festival. At any time you can have the village post office frank your letter with “Shag Harbour, home of the ’67 UFO visit.”

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