Believing there’s life ‘out there’

Believing there’s life ‘out there’

John Cordy will not budge on the subject; UFO’s are out there// Oliver Lovell

John Cordy is one of the few people in New Zealand who claims to have encountered a UFO and will talk to media about it despite sceptics and stigmatisation. He is also the only living air traffic controller from the Kaikoura Lights sightings in 1978.

John Cordy is an 83-year-old UFO investigator who lives in the same brick and tile duplex he and his deceased wife purchased for $25,000 over 40 years ago in the Wellington suburb of Miramar.

British ex-pats at the time, John and his wife decided to buy the house because of its close proximity to Wellington Airport where John walked to work as a senior air traffic controller.

In the modest living room, John sinks back into the familiar embrace of a large beige armchair and takes a sip from a steaming mug of tea. Gentle afternoon sunlight enters the living room through net curtains which are draped over a large set of windows behind him.

Scores of model ships, airplanes, trains, and miniature soldiers fill cabinets and adorn bookshelves. A table covered in magazines sits within arm’s reach of him, which includes titles such as Model Rail, Archaeological Diggings and a 2019 New Zealand Astronomical Year Book.

Cordy’s hair has retreated to the sides of his head and his bespectacled blue eyes communicate wariness when it comes to discussing his work and experience with UFOs. He says that one would have to be an “egotist” if they were to go outside on a dark night, look up at all the stars and think they were the only intelligent living thing in the universe.

Cordy volunteers his time working as a UFO sighting investigator for Tauranga-based UFOCUS. He says some of the cases he investigates are easy to explain, while others remain unexplainable.

UFOCUS is a group of volunteers who examine the evidence put forward by people who claim to have seen UFOs. The organisation takes its work seriously and even signed an agreement to share information with Chilean military and aviation organisation CEFFA (Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena) in 2013.

A person can go to the UFOCUS website and fill in a form with details of a sighting and people from UFOCUS would strive to get back to them with answers; or perhaps no answers in some instances.

The founding director of UFOCUS is a soft-spoken woman named Suzanne Hansen. She declined to speak about the organisation’s activity because she believed the media had represented it poorly in the past and tended to poke fun at its work.

Cordy’s passion for UFO’s arose his involvement with New Zealand’s most famous UFO sightings which occurred on December 21 and December 31, 1978, events collectively dubbed The Kaikoura Lights.

The Kaikoura Lights sightings included eye witness accounts from an Australian film crew, police and the general public spanning 260 kilometres from Kaikoura to Lower Hutt. The saga struck such a chord the Robert Muldoon Government ordered an enquiry into the events by the New Zealand Air Force at the time.

Cordy says he was working the graveyard shift at Wellington Airport the night of the first sightings on December 21, 1978. He describes the night as being “as clear as gin, not a cloud in the sky.”

Close to midnight Cordy and his colleague Andy Herd had seen three dots moving in an elliptical motion on the airport’s radar off the coast of Kaikoura. Given it was late December, John says he and Andy had joked the strange dots on their radar system were Father Christmas test driving his sleigh.

Soon however, they received a phone call from Blenheim Airport saying they could see what looked like aircraft landing lights nearby. John had told them no aircraft were due to land at Blenheim airport at that time. Cordy had remained on the phone with Blenheim Airport and as they were talking he could see the dots on the radar travelling north, then south and then back again.

Soon Cordy’s team was receiving phone calls from the Hutt Valley with people saying they could see strange lights in the sky. Then more phone calls came in from the Blenheim police and members of the public further down the coast towards Kaikoura.

Eventually, a cargo aeroplane flew out from Blenheim Airport and the pilot told Cordy via his headset the lights from the objects on the radar were indeed airborne and were shining down onto the land.

Another larger target appeared on Cordy’s radar and tracked out from Wellington airport to the south-east. This time a cargo aeroplane which had departed from Wellington Airport for Christchurch confirmed the target as an airborne red light about 2000 feet above him.


Above: One of the images captured of the Kaikoura Lights by an airborne Australian Channel 0 news team who had flown out to New Zealand to cover the story on December 31, 1978. Cordy says the centre of the image looks like a flying saucer.

Suddenly, the pilot told Cordy the red light had disappeared and sure enough it had disappeared from his radar too. Cordy kept watching the radar and the pilot’s voice came back over the radio waves; “it’s back!”. Sure enough it was back on Wellington Airport’s radar system too.

By 4.30am the objects had disappeared from Cordy’s radar and the pilots could no longer see them either. So he wrote up a report for the Ministry of Defence, which he says was protocol for anything unexplained or unusual which appeared on the Wellington Airport radar and went home to bed.

A small television is located across the living room. His mug of tea now finished, he says he got “clobbered” when he appeared on TV3’s The Project when it did a programme on UFO’s just before Christmas.

Every TV programme and documentary he has appeared in is on disc in the cabinet beneath his television – at least 10 including appearances for BBC1 and the National Geographic channel.

Since his UFO story went global in 1978 he says the sceptics have come up with all sorts of explanations to discredit it. “Oh the radar was playing up; it was lights from squid boats”. They had come up with phrases to explain the events of the Kaikoura Lights away, like “it was ‘atmospheric refraction’ or it must have been a ‘mirage effect’”.

Cordy positions himself as a straight shooter and although he feels some media coverage of his story may have attempted to discredit it, he takes comfort in the idea that more people are coming forward with their own stories of UFO sightings as the stigmatization is falling away. Which John attributes to social media and people being more open to new ideas.

“Back in the 1960’s a pilot would have been deemed round the bend if they reported a UFO sighting,” he says.

Looking back 41 years to the night those UFOs appeared on his radar at work he says it has been an {interesting journey, a fun journey” but stresses “not a haha fun journey,” it hasn’t all been an elaborate prank on the media and the public.

Cordy hasn’t decided what it was that appeared on his radar that night. Although he has heard a plethora of theories which have ranged from alien life to time travellers and he will not be drawn out as to suggest which theory he favours.

However, he firmly believes there are other people or intelligent organisms in the universe.  “Some of them will be intelligent and some will be far more intelligent than we are,” he says.


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Article by Oliver Lovell

About Author Post graduate Massey Journalism student.

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Article by Oliver Lovell

About Author Post graduate Massey Journalism student.

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