; Phantoms and Monsters - Real Cryptid Encounter Reports - Fortean Researcher Lon Strickler

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lago de Cote UFO Photograph


The picture shows an unknown object, which was captured on film by an official mapping plane of the Costa Rica government on September 4, 1971, while flying in the region of Arenal over the lake "Lago de Cote." A camera, mounted on the plane, took a picture of the terrain about every seventeen seconds. The entire picture, covering an area of seven by seven miles, shows remarkable detail. It is possible to distinguish roads, animals, and trees. Which is no surprise considering that it was taken with a high quality professional camera. The first detailed analysis of this picture was undertaken by Dr. Richard Haines and Dr. Jacques Vallée, who obtained the original negative for study.

This UFO photograph is unique for several reasons. 1) The photograph was taken by a high-quality, professional camera. 2) The unidentified object is plainly visible against the uniformly dark background of the lake and appears in sharp focus. 3) The camera was aimed downward and the plane was flying at a known, fixed altitude (10,000 feet), which makes it easy to calculate a maximum size for the object (683 feet).

The plane carried a crew of four; a specialist in aerial photography, a geographer, a topographer, and the pilot. No member of the crew stated that they saw anything unusual during the routine flight.

It seems safe to assume that it is not a double-exposure or the result of manipulation of the negative. All indications are that this is a photo of a large three-dimensional disk, or shallow cone, hovering above, and possibly partially submerged in Lago de Cote.

There were apparently no witnesses to the disk's presence at the time of the photograph, but other incidents at that location had been reported by local farmers, involving strange, artificial objects moving around the surface or just below the surface of the lake. - NURMUFO


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Aside from visual inspections of the negative and enlarged prints, with different contrasts, computer enhancement was used to uncover further details after which the authors concluded:

"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 dark regions that appear to be nonrandom... There is no indication that the image is the product of a double exposure or a deliberate fabrication." - Haines, and Vallée, 1989.

Computer scientist and ufologist Jacques Vallée participated in this photograph's analysis and stated in an interview:

"Digital enhancement of photographs is very useful. In my book, Confrontations, I mention the photograph that I brought back from Costa Rica, which was unusual because the object was over a lake [Lago de Cote], so there was a uniform black background. Everything is known about the aircraft that took the photo. At the time the picture was taken, nobody on the plane had seen the object. It was only after the film was developed that the object was discovered. The camera used was exceptional: It produced a very large negative - ten inches, very detailed. You can see cows in the field. The time is known; the latitude, longitude and altitude of the aircraft is known. So we spent a lot of time analyzing that photograph, without being able to find any obvious natural answer to the object. It seems to be a very large, solid thing."

"I obtained the negative from the government of Costa Rica - if you don't have the negative, analysis is a waste of time. I also obtained the negative of the picture taken before and the picture after, all uncut. I took negatives to a friend of mine in France who works for a firm that digitally analyzes satellite photographs. They digitized the entire thing, and then analyzed it to the extent that they could, and could not find an explanation for the object."
- Haines, Richard and Vallée, Jacques, "Photo Analysis of an Aerial Disc Over Costa Rica: New Evidence," Journal of Scientific Exploration - 1990


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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.”

On 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. - forgetomori.com

NOTE: The area around the Arenal Volcano (which includes Lago de Cote) has had numerous sightings of UFO's: Recent Worldwide UFO / Strange Encounter Reports - 11/17/2010 - UFO / OVNI Sightings - Popocatepetl Volcano, Mexico / Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica - Why Are UFOs / Extraterrestrials Interested in Volcanoes?...Lon

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