UFO in Basin and Range by John McPhee, 1981

John McPhee is one of my favorite authors who wrote an entertaining and well-crafted story of geologic history, Basin and Range, 1981 that included a documented UFO encounter quoted here:

“In the dark we drove back the way we had come, over the painted cattle guards and passed jackrabbits dancing in the road, pitch dark, and suddenly a Black Angus was there, standing broadside, middle-of-the-road. With a scream of brakes, we stopped. The animals stood still, thinking, it’s eyes unmoving – a wall of beef. We moved slowly after that and even more slowly when a white sphere materialized on our right in a moonless sky. It expanded some, like a cloud. Its light became so bright that we stopped finally and got out and looked up in awe. A smaller object, also spherical, moved out from within the large one, possibly from behind it. There was a Saturn-like ring around the smaller sphere. It moved here and there beside the large one for a few minutes and then went back inside. The story would be all over the papers the following day.”

The Nevada State Journal would describe a “mysterious ball of light” that had been reported by various people at least 100 miles in every direction from the place where we had been. “By this time, we decided to get the hell out of there,” a couple of hunters reported, “and hopped in our pick up and took off. As we looked back at it, we saw a smaller craft come out of the right lower corner. The smaller craft had a dome in the middle of it and two wings on either side, but the whole thing was oval-shaped.” Someone else had said, “I thought it was an optical illusion at first, but it just kept coming closer and closer so that I could see it wasn’t an illusion. Then something started coming out of the side of it. It looked like a star and then a ring formed around it. The kind of ring like you’d see around Saturn. It didn’t make any noises, and then it vanished. Now we’re both believers,” said one of the hunters. “And I don’t ever want to see another one. We’re pretty good-sized men and ain’t scared of nothing except for snakes and now flying saucers.”

(Continuing with the narrative) “After the small sphere disappeared, the large one rapidly faded and also disappeared. (Kenneth) Deffeyes and I were left on the roadside among the star lighted eyes of dark and motionless cattle. “Copernicus took the world out of the center of the universe,” he said. “(James) Hutton (father of Geology) took us out of a special place somewhere near the beginning of things and left us awash in the middle of the immensity of time. An extraterrestrial civilization could show us where we are with regard to the creation of life.”

This is another pearl of truth I encountered in my reading. I hope you enjoy. 

Walter Holder, M.D.

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Walter Holder

Walter D. Holder Jr., M.D., FACS is a semi-retired academic surgical oncologist with decades of patient care experience, medical and surgical teaching, and clinical and basic science research. He loves all things science and has been committed to scientific truth and integrity throughout his life.