It was the fictional Sherlock Holmes who noted that "the game is afoot." He didn't have UFOs in mind, obviously, but a more elusive quarry could hardly be imagined.
If modern-day UFO detectives are to be successful, they'll want to bring the best available hardware and software to bear on their prey. In this installment, we'll review the basic hardware you'll want to carry into the field. From flashlight and camera to the always handy compass, we'll describe the basic equipment any self-respecting UFO hunter needs. As we focus on tools in the months that follow, we'll supplement this basic tool kit with user-friendly software; a high-tech wish list; an access guide to a potpourri of research tools from maps to mailing lists and databases; and even instructions for procuring government documents and powering onto the Internet.
While some tools are absolutely required, others are optional. Some are easy to come by - the basic compass, for instance - while others can be acquired only after careful research or trips to a specialty store. In the chapter that follows we'll make general recommendations. Remember, however, especially where electronic and optical equipment is concerned, that prices and quality can vary widely. Also, there's no requirement that you pay retail dollar for any specific tool. Bargains abound out there, from the classified section of your local newspaper to specialist mail-order catalogs, discount warehouses, and army surplus stores. The sky's the limit when it comes to UFO-detection equipment, but so is personal creativity. Some of you may even want to build or jerry-rig tools of your own. In the end, your basic UFO tool kit can be as simple or sophisticated as you like, depending on your budget and your needs. But no UFO sleuth can skip the essentials, and that is where we begin.
The absolute necessities of any UFO investigator's tool kit start with what I call the three P's - pen or pencil and paper. A written record of your investigation, which includes personal notes and witness interviews, is absolutely essential. No matter how reliable the brand name, electronic equipment is always subject to potential disaster. Tapes break, batteries fail, cameras and recorders get dropped, especially under. field conditions. And while cameras and camcorders can offer documentary exactitude, the sun sets and it can also rain - all outside your control.
The paper, of course, should be in notebook, as opposed to loose-leaf, form. I prefer a little 5-by-8-inch pad, instead of letter or legal sizes, because it's easier to drop in a vest or jacket pocket when you're done with it.
And please remember when you're out in the field: Your notebook can double as a sketchpad. Alongside your own written notes, be sure to sketch the horizon of the sighting scene, noting any visible landmarks, such as power lines, trees, or water towers. Then ask the witness or witnesses to draw in the shape of the object when first sighted and its trajectory, and ask them to date and sign it.
A reliable compass will come in handy at this point. Determine magnetic north and indicate same on your sketch. Directional findings are most useful for eliminating known objects and phenomena like planets, airplane flight patterns, and so on, but they can also literally point you in the direction of additional witnesses. Like pocket change, a good compass can serve two utilitarian purposes. Besides giving directions, it can also act as a crude magnetometer, a device for measuring changes in local magnetic fields, although obviously it can't determine the strength or degree of that change.
But assume that you're investigating a UFO case in which associated electromagnetic Magnetic effects have been reported, such as the stalling of a car's engine or the failure of its electrical system. It's still possible to make a preliminary assessment of magnetic-field fluctuations or variations using nothing more elaborate than a good, reliable compass, previously calibrated, or confirmed, as indicating true north. The technique is fairly simple; in fact, it was even laid out as early as 1968 in the University of Colorado's Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, otherwise known as the Condon Report.
Here's how it might work. Take the car (or any other nearby piece of metal) reportedly affected, and, using your compass at a distance, note its present magnetic orientation. Now take at least ten or fifteen similar readings at evenly spaced intervals, say every ten to fifteen inches, around the perimeter of the hood or trunk of the car. If you're facing the car, for example, take your first measurement just behind the front left headlight and proceed parallel tb the left side of the car until you reach the hood hinge in front of the windshield. Continue to take and record readings from the left side of the car to the driver's side, then proceed forward until you end just behind the right headlight, having executed an upside-down U. Carefully record magnetic north or the deviation from magnetic north at each point.