FIREBALL OVER WHITEHORSE by Lorraine Bretlyn
(From Wilson Drive in Granger Subdivision)
Tuesday, January 18, 2000 at almost 8:45 a.m. I was heading out to work. And, I was purposely late leaving;- an unusual thing for me. And I got wondering about that, as I opened the front door and put the key in the keyhole for locking while the door was open and still inside;- making practical use of the inside hall light, finally, I thought; enjoying this latest, small, new thing in my life that never failed to elevate me into a smug mood. I lost my patience for fumbling around for tiny keyhole slots in the pitch black mornings, and didnt see the point in continuing the practice now that Id had this little gem of an idea sorted out.
Slammed the door shut with keys dangling in said keyhole, turned til I heard the lock "Click" home, plucked out my keys, and... let long confident strides whisk me away; a-swaddled in a heady cloud of self-import, across the short boardwalk Bruce keeps meticulously clear of snow and ice. Til I ran out of that and onto the edge of our front yard, thatis. From there my head went straight down, eyeing every inch of treacherous path that stretched out straight ahead to where Bruce and I parked our trucks;- head-to-head or nose-to-nose however you want to say it, alongside (or on) the sidewalk. Had somehow gotten to be this narrow kind of goat trail thing, beaten ugly with lumpy ice of the worst kind all on a sideways slope, yet! God, how un-GAINLY!!! The Yukon reduced me to being every time I tottered out across this yard! I HATED IT!!! Didnt matter what ensemble I draped myself with for the day I still looked and felt every bit the two-legged goat!
So... Id inched out, t-o-ttered out¼ (truth beknown), acouple of feet in the dark when a "Flick, Fl-i-ck" of white light went off overhead (and from behind?...it seemed) - like from the downtown area!? I thought of florescent lights just turned on, but¼ I was outside. The atmosphere had an immediate sense of "busy" to it;- as if Id walked into the middle of something that was already in progress. Multiples of something. When it was too early for anybody to even be out of bed;- nevermind to be busy with something!?
My head shot up!!!
Just in time to see a pinprick of a white light coming out of the black curtain of night, dead ahead of me. The timing of it all, struck me as bordering on the comical. To think my bumblings and fumblings of the morning had resulted in me arriving to the best seat in the house just as the cosmic curtain was going up!!! WAS UNBELIEVABLE!
Realizing, late, as in later than some other part of me - that my eyesd already automatically zeroed in on "the one star" in a way that struck me as somewhat, canine¼ (This was fast becoming one strange morning in more ways than one!???) Like, while I, my intellectual self was frozen in visual awe, some other, practical part of myself, was already busy at work. Configuring things out flight or fight! What a wondrous gift bestowed! Id take that over mountains of money any day!!! (So long as that day was long after the collapse of the world of cold hard currency¼ eh. No need to get too carried away with myself. As I do have that tendency, wash over me;- now and again.)
The sight of "the one star" compelled me neither to flight nor fight at least for the moment. And allowed myself instead, to be drawn into it to a point of utter stock stillness.
...From where my poised body stood in near breathless anticipation, was I; absorbed. In nothing but that, that was before me; as yet, nameless. Scoping in a scene that started from some dark spot within. Some very private place where long steady gazes went uninterrupted. Swinging low, out under calculating hooded eyelids. Boring out and beyond, past the end of my (long, thin) nose barely bothering to take in the street at the end of our front yard. Bothering less, with their front yard - of the house that sat opposite ours. Efficient stealth, on its single-minded journey into their backyards. On up into their stands tallest Yukon scrubs of evergreen trees up;- to a tip-tallest point, plus: two or three inches of empty airspace to plant my imaginary self on a visual collision course with this star-like object¼
Looking. Really looking¼ out at it.
At an icy white diamond in the dark sky that was - calling to me. Drawing out observation skills that felt - primitive somehow. To focus with an uncanny ability Id never dreamt of as existing. Picked out precisely, at the point of its appearance, that - that hadnt fit within the known scheme of things was nothing short of, amazing! Like Id simply caught the scent of it. The size was there, the color was there, for a star¼ and then it wasnt. And an overpowering feeling dredged up from some cell I thoughtd gone extinct about the time humankindd discovered fire, started examining this so-called star, as something "other" though I have no more than the average interest in astrology and wouldnt know an "other" even if it came wearing a name tag. Hung on to it, in an illogical obsession, actually.
?... Was metamorphosing.
Was making very un-average leaps in size;- doubling and tripling itself in nanoseconds!
Grew. And GREW! THIS THING WAS AWESOME!!!
This "thing" wasnt just growing it was advancing. Simple stars didnt do that! Instantly I knew I was seeing something special. Not the end of the world via nuclear explosion though who was I to say or know for sure, but, it just didnt feel like that...
Gone from one great achievement to an even greater achievement in a-blink-of-an-eye, almost. My morning surrounded smugly around the foibles of Lorraine grappling with housekeys in the dark... To grappling with sensory overload in tidal wave proportions! Seeing firsthand: reality swamped with new reality! That the reality of the civilization that my kind had created and surrounded itself with thus far, was heading for a change. What kind, how big, how lasting I knew not;- just that it was changing;- if, for no one else but me. I could feel the most base elements in me, rising up. Christ¼ and all this before "pillowhead" was entirely gone¼ . Boy, it sure didnt take much to be humbled again right out of the twenty-first century thinking that starts off so high and mighty, generally. Well. This was high, and pretty mighty looking too. MORE.
And couldnt help but think just how little it might actually take to snuff us all out back to the beginning, again. As this GIGANTIC thing took center stage in the new day. Reducing me to feeling like some lower life form of the me thatd existed only five minutes earlier, feeling my body rearrange itself into some strange crouch to better eye this object: more intense, and more intensely brilliant now, than anything my eyesd ever laid eyes on before. Here was real power. And didnt something in that, make me uneasy considering where I was where Id always been. Letting the symbols of civilization surrounding me, slip into my peripheral vision. ...This was also part of me, and the only thing I knew how to survive in.
What did it really mean to be within the confines of civilization? It all looked so flimsy now. Like small paper cutouts propped up against a backdrop of vast expanses of unending time and space, unimaginable. Weak and pathetic in the ways of paper cutouts, and yet, it was still something better than most living things on this planet were capable of accomplishing. My feet creeping along on autopilot now, moving me further up the path. My eyes gone as round as what I was witnessing!
A WHITE HOT FIREBALL!!! And spectacular trailing tail!
This thing was really motoring;- powerful - in a gentle downward slope, like a plane coming in for a landing. Ironically, the airport lay approximately behind me and was where this thing was generally headed; listing right, though still in the airports space since the airstrip and miscellaneous buildings do extend out considerably to the right of what people commonly identify as the airport;- meaning the main terminal building and observation tower.
Approaching, approaching, approaching. Til I wondered if it was time to step aside stage right, to make room for this thing to pass!!!
My eyes riveted, flat, on its path marking its every move. From the point itd first come into sight as a pinprick, of a white dot two to two-and-ahalf inches or so above the tallest mature evergreen across the street, to its recrossing the street - back to me, the size of an "F"ing medicine ball - and then some!!! Now there was something: look out at something in the far distance only to see it following your line of sight back to you, was about how this thing was going.
Watching, watching, watching, watching and... seeing the streetlight, small and stick-ly, on my side of the street come into my vision, left. Then seeing this HUGE FIREBALL beginning to go by it on the other side! What an awesome visit...ation! What a relief!!! To see it on that side of the light instead of on this side of the light, as in mine... True, it wasnt much on the other side of the streetlight, but, it was far enough back, so there would be no need for me to move. And even at that, wasnt it incredulous to be saying such a thing!!? To think that I, and this fireball were in that kind of proximity to each other! Was: unbelievable, mind-boggling, unreal, SURreal absolutely indescribable¼ Mere words werent ever going to be capable of capturing this! This was too unique too new. The word hadnt been coined yet.
The streetlight was an ordinary streetlight and deserves no mention whatsoever in this very unordinary event except - for the perspective it gives to the flight and dimensions of this "Absolutely Colossal Fireball". Planted conveniently, one to one-and-ahalf truck lengths back of my parked truck, and this fireball, as it was passing, was incredibly, barely higher than the head on the end of this light! I mean, were talking low, and was maybe three/four times bigger around! There was NO DOUBT in my mind it was close. But it flew a steady course, and went... on... by... me... behind the head of this light standard.
I felt safe in holding my ground small victory that it was, it was still comforting. But make no mistake; there was no subtracting away, diminishing; how close this thing really was. Close to the ground, and sloping ever downward as it went. Close as in: not quite overhead, but, definitely over the Whitehorse area, the Granger area, the Wilson Drive area, as in the 26B Wilson Drive area, to be exact - it seemed (although barebones logic said it couldnt really be), it felt that close. And as it gracefully passed by me, in extraterrestrial time signature, it lit the atmosphere (not just the space it was occupying), almost horizon to horizon, evenly, like it was high noon. To the point, the streetlight went out as the fireball flew by it, and flickered back on after it passed¼ I couldnt imagine the power this thing had to be packing to light everything up like that.
I could see myself as a small dark figure in the universe like never before. I thought this was how the early caveman days might have looked. The dawning of humankind¼ And I wasnt afraid of what Id miss by dying one day. That there were more incredible experiences in the universe to be had, than following along the daily Earth soap opera I was so attached to. The beauty of lakes, and rivers, mountains and prairies, seasons... Sometimes I couldnt bare the thought of never seeing all that again due to death stepping in and snapping off the lights before I had my fill. Forget friends and relatives Id never see again;- Im a tree-hugger from way back, and I need my daily visual "fix". But now this!
My spirit-energy, soul, life-energy; whatever you want to call it, would actually be set free by the death of my decaying (aging) body to travel to places, seeing this event conjured up. Other universes, with their own version of beauty that I might also enjoy. Why not. Not that it was causing me to change my plans about departing this earth prematurely, but¼ I wasnt fretting about it anymore. A deep sense of satisfaction, peace and timelessness came over me. And I felt very lucky, indeed. For this, that I was witnessing was very likely a once in a lifetime thing for me. And none of it would have been, if it werent for the first mainstream job Ive had in seven years. Its part time Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I felt like this was a gift for me meant to be. The rest of my time is spent writing UFO stories, and never had any thoughts about this being a UFO. And maybe that was part of the gift seeing it, and feeling it, gave me confidence to reassure people it wasnt a UFO, from my perspective. Because Id seen one;- more than one. And I had a sense of it or Them. And it wasnt here. This came across as devoid of life. Was what it was a fireball, a meteor, or meteorite; I know not the details on the hairsplitting descriptions of such things. But, didnt strike me as being something that was armed, or carrying anything with life aboard, that I should be worrying about. That it did not present a threat therefore, beyond the obvious;- which was: the taking out of an innocent life in the process of its landing itself. Someone still in bed, whatever¼ Which meant I didnt have to think about running for cover, survival. I could stay as I was...
...I stood and I watched, and slowly turned to follow its passing, having NO urge to run behind our house to follow it to its nth degree of flight. My visual senses had been more than satisfied, content to let my other senses take over now that it was passing out of view behind a stand of tall trees and our house. In the silence but nanoseconds later, I heard "GIH, GIH, GIH, GIH", in the distance, bringing to mind my childhood days on the prairies in Manitoba, during thunderstorm season.
Thats how lighting sounded touching down. To take the fear out of being struck in my bed, my mom used to say, "Listen to the thunder, then count, and when you hear the "sound" then thats how many miles it is away from your bed" Something like that. And thats what it sounded like. Like this thing was coming down. And not too far away either. Maybe 50 100 miles or so. But it was coming down. Was not sailing on through our atmosphere and back out again, it was too low for that, with a trajectory that said "landing" on it. It was coming down, and somewhere behind Grey Mountain or to the right and back of Grey Mountain, or in that general direction anyway;- 50 - 100 miles out, maybe only thumbnail sized by then, but it was coming down.
Then it was dark again.
And ever so still, and silent, in the early wintery morning. Suspended somehow. Like all Earthly activities had been paused in honor of the majesty of this cosmic occasion. The wind, the sound of distant traffic all made mute, in awe of the moment. Very quiet. ...After the stillnessd settled in a minute or two, I started to hear the first delicate young voices speaking from across the backyard fence, wee, in uncertain terms of bewilderment, interrupted, on their way to school: "Did you see that!!!? Ooow¼ " And ever fainter ones still, coming out from dark distant points in the surrounding area to echo identical sentiments. All, making the same piercing sound-spikes into the odd still, of the morning. Pushing up here and there, against some strange silencing blanket that had fallen from the sky.
At which point a teenager I took to be a fourteen or fifteen year old boy, came into view in front of me, walking down the hill to Elijah Smith school no doubt, following the sidewalk along that ran alongside my parked truck. Incredibly, his head was down and he was casual looking in every way!!! And I couldnt help but say, "Did you see that!?" At which point his head came up and he slowed to say, "Yeah¼ What was it.", and I could hear the fear in his voice. Which then accounted for his bowed head and slow pace. I never thought to be scared. Never occurred to me. Even if it took my life what a way to go eh!!!? Being bonked on the head by a piece of the universe. Sure beats being bonked by a car, say¼ Might as well go out with a bang as a whimper I say! But then, Im older. Forty-five. Ive lived a good chunk of my life already, and its been packed full of interesting things so I didnt feel like Id be cheated if it got cut short. His was just starting. I could see where he could be coming from. And I was glad I was there and able to give him the good news¼ It wasnt the end of the world. And he did seem relieved with that. And kept on walking, down the hill to school.
I turned away from him and looked skyward for another ten minutes or so, I was running late for work, though who, in the right mind, would expect anything else of the occasion?! The other truth was, my attention span was becoming as droopy as the last of what I was seeing was.
This big white fireball had been sporting a long firey tail, that trailed out behind it for what looked like thirty miles. The figure just popped to mind as I stood and watched the whole works of it go by directly alongside of me, in a setting that included the streetlight in the foreground. And it seemed right for no reason at all, than that. And wasnt til Id talked about it umpteen times that I understood the mechanics of the calculation, myself. Born with an artistic eye has meant for me that I rarely need to apply any effort to seeing proportions. My artistic eye automatically puts things in context long before I even realize thats whats happening. It just happens for me;- its not something I have to remind myself to do, its always switched "On". It just is, as I suspect it is for any artistic person. Said simply to Bruce, that I came up with that number because the tail was longer than this thing was high off the ground, and it wasnt high off the ground much more than the head on this streetlight. And if not exactly so to the nth degree, then close. It was long. And as awesome as the fireball itself.
And was all that was left after the fireball had passed;- or at least the residue of it. "All," seeming so casual somehow, when it wasnt.
It was a shortish segment that hung almost directly over my head, straight up. For a minute it looked like a thick jet stream. Then it started to relax, and coil out. Like a big horizontal spring in the sky. And I understood from that, that the object had been tumbling rather than flying straight.
While it was still straight and white, I also saw what might have been its counterpart, out of my left eye, as I still stood facing back, and towards the airport way. With a trail going totally in another direction!? Etched in the sky left, over the downtown area, and meeting but not joining, with the flight path Id just seen created; roughly like so: / Again, a shortish white segment of whatever, with a trajectory more-or-less following along the Alaska Highway going towards the Cutoff way, and beyond, was my impression. And briefly wondered if it was the remains of a second, which also would have accounted for that "busy" feeling I originally had. But couldnt sell myself on it. It looked more like an ordinary jet stream. Thinner, different altitude, stable at being straight and white. Flight path records were the only way to really lay that thought to rest. I guess the only reason I thought of it as more of the same as what Id seen created, was that it had one identical characteristic going for it, which was that it was a shortish segment. Thinking that if a jet is going to leave its sky signature, its usually a long one versus a short one. But thats a fine point Im not sure about. Plus, I didnt see it created so there was no way to tip the balance in favor of part of the fireball for sure. So, back to searching out flight path records.
And carried on marveling at the coil. Which seemed to have a definite life of its own. It was full of moving lights; swirling through the coil, becoming and/or changing into varying bright colors of pinks and blues and yellows and purples. Beautiful. It was just beautiful. Dawn was creeping in and I wondered if some of the light might be a reflection from the rising sun. Maybe minusculely, but the bulk was its own life contained in its tube. I thought the cold temperatures up there was part of what contained it, it obviously was hot so there was a temperature difference going on to mark it out; for awhile anyway. Then I thought of friction. And that maybe it had temporarily created its own force field/gravitational field that was also part of what was holding it together and giving it glowing light activity. And I thought of gases, foreign to my eyes; extraterrestrial that this was, and that likely the properties it was displaying were common to it.
It was growing droopy, losing its cohesiveness. So I left, deeply happy.
From Granger, I carried on to Copper Ridge. Put the dog out there some twenty minutes later, only to hear helicopter sounds being carried up from the airport. So theyd seen it too,¼ obviously, and were going to pop up for a look-see, I thought. Good idea. Their range wasnt long, maybe not long enough, but they could pop up and look for any heat trails. And ahalf-an-hour after that, I heard the sounds of planes revving up from the airport, and imagined it took them that long to rustle up some pilots and get the planes ready. This was big news in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter, that was for sure!!!
And was disappointed over time, to hear no media mention about the direction I saw this thing going, that all the attention was going to the Carcross area.
That night Id talked to my neighbor and she got me wondering about that second trail again. Said shed been downtown on second ave. when this thing flew over. Said she saw a piece of it break off and head along the Alaska Highway route to Carcross and beyond, and wondered why it didnt follow the same trajectory as the original piece. Insisted it should have. Was she referring to my piece? I gave her the benefit of the doubt, quickly knitted our two sightings together and said: the piece that broke off it also bonked off the larger portion of itself probably, rather than breaking away free and clear because the whole works was tumbling. And tumbling action makes for random rather than predictable flight trajectories for said, tossed off pieces. ...She didnt look sold on my pitch¼
And had my own instinctive reaction fly up in my face, to something about that, that Id just knitted together too, as coming across as somehow out of time.
Think think, think... think. ?
Her piece, my piece something in that makes the timing wrong. If that second white trail I saw was the result of this piece breaking off, it makes the timing wrong. The fireball was heading my way, and when I pivoted, left, to watch it go out of sight behind me, I saw this other trail - already there even further on my, and the fireballs left. And now my neighbor is saying something in this scenario in reverse. First the fireball, then a piece breaks off, is what shes saying, and is more logical than my pitch. Which essentially is: first the trail of the broken off piece, then the main piece it broke off of, happens along towards me. And is the heart of where it dont make anymore sense the timing goes out of whack to knit these two scenarios together.
And I do believe my neighbor. Absolutely. And I know what I saw. So¼
What we have left to work with, is the "Busy Night" again.
Who knows. I heard sightings of this that are not about linear flight. Maybe there was more than one to start with. Maybe a cluster¼ I dont know. But what an unforgettable sight! And the emotional punch it packed!
Meteors or fireballs may be common, but the coincidence of timing and place are what makes the setting for this particular event incredibly, uncommon. The dead of winter, the contrasting dark of early morning, the timing; catching hordes of witnesses in the midst of going to school, to work, that it flew so low, so theatrically, over such a remote location is incredible! I mean the Yukon is huge and hugely remote! And this thing or things, flew over nearly every settlement there is to be had up here! This is the stuff of Hollywood, not commonplace.
What a fabulous intro into the new millennium¼ .. And dont ya think CBC radio had me do a live interview the very next day?! And dont you think they asked me if I thought it was a UFO? Which I didnt, and was glad to be able to put afew minds at ease. And dont you think my UFO book sales spiked!?
Tuesday February 15, 2000 the Beringia Centre hosted an evening on the fireball. A local geologist and Outside fireball expert, Peter Brown, presented what history and film footage was available on fireballs. Peter emphasized that his only reason for being here was that our fireball was the biggest thing to happen around the world, anywhere, in the last ten years! Peter presented the information well, and in an interesting and informative manner. The films made clear what fireballs were, and how each sighting recorded, showed some of the same characteristics in each. And made strikingly clear too;- that what Id seen, was not that. Maybe not a complete mismatch, but the majority of characteristics in what Id seen, werent in the samples of fireball/meteors presented. And I wasnt the only one. During the short question period that followed the film, a couple from Haines Junction spoke up about whatd theyd seen, applying their own perspective to it. Saying what theyd seen, and had time to take a picture of, looked more like film footage theyd watched on disfunctioning missiles or rockets/midair explosions;- leaving the door wide open for interpretations about the true nature of the firey ball in the sky, and its presentors.
In addition to the spectacular fireball sighting on January 18th, stories now trickle out of Atlin that say they had a pretty impressive fireball sighting there too, just days earlier on January 11th. And now theres been another sighting this past Monday February 14th at Elsa. News of it came over the radio and was apparently only seen by two people there;- Elsa being the small town that it is. Then theres the stories coming in from all over down south, about falling ice chunks really has people around here wondering. UFO B.C. in Vancouver even managed to get their hands on a chunk of ice that theyre in the midst of having analysed.
If the reader is intersted in obtaining other written material in Lorraine's unique writing style please click here for more info: UFO Stories from the Yukon
RETURN TO " YUKON FIREBALL PAGE"