1986: The Atalaya UFO - A Mystery Lost in Time
Source: Diario El Día
The Atalaya UFO – A Mystery Lost in Time
By Matías Kraber – Diario el Día
The object was seen by 7 members of the FAO (Fundacion Argentina de Ovnilogía). It took place on 4 March 1986 on the road to Atalaya, where the world record of [UFO associated] ground marks took place.
At first, they thought they were under attack, and that none of them would be left alive. However, the oldest among them, Avelino Mengui, pressed the shutter of his Nikon D80 and the image taken from a field in Atalaya went all over the world. It was all true, in the end: they kissed their fingertips and swore on what they’d seen: flying objects – luminous and circular – were prowling the area they would later christen as El Nido, the Argentinean UFO epicenter formed between southern La Plata and Punta Piedras, joining Routes 2 and 36 straight to the bay of San Borombón.
It was the first time they had seen something after a series of hints, ground marks and eyewitness accounts from local residents. First there had been a record number of mysterious ground marks – 150 of them – and two months later, their suspicions had been confirmed: they could see a UFO flying around in a 45-minute long aerial display. The core of media interest had installed itself right there – the press, radio and television – five kilometers from Atalaya and an hour away from Magdalena by road.
A mysterious location known for apparitions, flying objects, ground marks, humanoids, cattle mutilations and other popular legends, suggesting a bizarre and unprecedented phenomenon. Right here, at the core of the borough of Magdalena and Greater La Plata.
“We had started to visit the area in October ’85. We would conduct watches at El Espinillo creek, heading toward Atalaya by road. It was very odd for us. Reports were coming in weekly: someone who had gone hunting or fishing, or local residents touring the countryside. Everyone saw something strange and everything was occurring precisely here, in what we began calling El Nido (The Nest),” says Luis Burgos, leader of the FAO (Federación Argentina de Ovnilogía), a resident of Ensenada who never stopped looking at the sky ever since the day Man landed on the Moon – 20 July 1969. He has spent some 43 years studying the phenomenon – between skywatches and investigations – and is a more than knowledgeable spokesperson for the subject.
A Record Number of Landing Traces
It was January 1986 and the world record of anomalous landing traces occurred in the San Luciano field: 150 UFO landing traces around an Australian tank and in a single plot of land: perfect circumferences, cylinders and figure-eights etched on the ground, with dehydrated grass. The media boom followed the next day. The press – El Dia, La Gaceta, El Argentino – printed “Mass UFO Landing in Magdalena”, radio waves carried the voices of local eyewitnesses, and Telefé and Nuevediario followed the story closely and in real time at a location where flying saucers were as commonplace as the hyperinflation of the Alfonsín presidency. After two months of skywatching, experts confirmed that the phenomenon was occurring both on the ground and in the sky.
Seeing is Believing
The obsession had been going on for some time. Since October 1985, experts of the FAO were breathing down the phenomenon’s neck. Dozens of reports from southern Rio de la Plata stirred the curiosity of the group – created in 1984 as a non-profit that would multiply throughout the country until it numbered 150 members of all backgrounds: accountants, engineers, enthusiasts, businessmen, parapsychologists, photographers and Tae Kwon Do instructors. They had no radars, pickup trucks, subsidies, research centers or meetings. It was a social network of bare-chested researchers who believed in the UFO phenomenon, or the need to unmask it.
Then came the day. 4 March 1986. They were seven, like the Magnificent Seven: Avelino and Fernando Menghi, Luis Burgos, Ana Piralli, Gabriel Cella, Norberto and Rodolfo Lamberti. Four of them riding in a Chevy and three in a Peugeot 404, heading to the countryside. They hadn’t spoken of anything else for 6 months and wouldn’t rest until they had seen something. The sense of intrigue was overpowering.
“Hey, look, look…it’s coming from over there.” Fernando Mengui was pointing at two objects dancing along the southeastern Rio de la Plata. Everyone stared at the sky for what seemed an eternity.
It was a starry night, and suddenly two lights as bright as planets changed colors from white, to blue, to a reddish hue. They executed an aerial ballet for 45 minutes – nine o’clock to a quarter to ten. They came, went, one above, the other below. It shattered anything conventional, Burgos says, pointing a finger at some clouds in the sky of Atalaya which just yesterday could have been UFOs.
No one spoke. They watched the object zigzagging, and suddenly it was upon them – approaching a little bit more, then more, until it caused them to panic.
“Let’s run, boys! There’ll be someone left alive to tell the story!” shouted Burgos.
Someone else ordered everyone to drop to the ground. Everyone – minus one – dropped face forward on the grass. Avelino remained standing. He rested his elbows on the Peugeot’s hood, activated the flash, selected infinity and pressed the shutter. It caused the giant light hurtling toward them to suddenly go dark, plunging them into absolute darkness.
Two days later, the photo was on the back cover of Diario Popular, and the FAO stepped aside from the case for a few months.
The Sightings by Numbers
Thirty-two landing traces were recorded in Santa Fe in 1968; some fifty seven in Chaco in 1974; seventeen in the town of Jacinto Arauz in La Pampa in 1980; 304 landing traces in the year 2000 at Sierra de los Quinteros in La Rioja, and some twenty in a traffic circle in La Plata, between 10th and 19th streets.
The hot zones do exist and are spread all over Argentina’s geography: from the Pampean plains to the mountains of Córdoba, from the valleys of Cachi to the heart of Buenos Aires province. Places where the phenomenon rears its head and sooner or later becomes a subject of conversation.
Atalaya, The Chosen Site
In the middle of all this data we find El Nido, whose hottest point is found in the premises of Atalaya. There we can find a creek known as El Espinillo, agricultural land and a dirt road leading to the town of Magdalena, founded in 1663 when Governor José Martinez de Salazar ordered the construction of some towers along the river’s edge to serve as lookouts to watch for enemy ships approaching the banks.
This is a place that could be as tourist friendly – if not more so – than Córdoba’s Uritorco, but which remains a forgotten plain in southeastern Rio de la Plata. There are no rest areas, no viewfinders, no lookouts, no hotels, no campgrounds, no magic charms and no gurus. There are no people around. Every so often, an old Falcon or F-100 pickup truck from another time shatters the silence with its engine sound, or perhaps the sound of a horse galloping in the distance, carrying a farmhand to the nearest store.
They have returned to this site some 50 times since 1986. And if they return, it’s because the case was a landmark in Argentinean Ufology, and there are always journalists or new curiosity-seekers who want to hold their ufological baptism with a skywatch at the creek. However, they never again beheld anything like it. “The site must be preserved for further research, keeping it from turning into a tourist or merchandising trap,” observes Luis Burgos, wearing the cap with the FAO logo, the insignia that identifies his group to everyone else.
Avelino – The First Witness
Twenty-six years later, Avelino is sitting in an armchair at his home in Ensenada. He is formally attired. In a few hours he will be nominated for the Fuerte Barragan Award as a renowned personage in the city. There is a book of photos and newspapers on his table that attests – among other things – what the father and son witnessed with their own eyes as photographers and researchers in recent years.
“I saw what I saw, and I will remember it ‘til the minute I die. I base myself on facts. After 4 March 1986, there was no need for me to go see anything else. That’s it. You can go to the countryside every day and maybe you’ll never see anything. I grew up watching the sky and I can assure you it wasn’t natural. Let anyone come to disprove it,” says Avelino Mengui, 85, “and I’ll knock any debunker senseless. I’m not some old scam artist.”
[Translation © 2013, S. Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology. Special thanks to Luis Burgos (FAO) and Guillermo D. Giménez, Planeta UFO]