Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Argentina: Lights and Mystery in the Valley of the Dinosaurs

Argentina: Lights and Mystery in the Valley of the Dinosaurs
From Gaceta OVNI

The Ezequiel Ramos Mexía reservoir is Argentina’s largest artificial lake, created to supply power to the largest hydroelectric undertaking in the history of Patagonia, the Chocón Complex. The waters of the Limay River, which separate the Andean lacustrine region from the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro, arrive with great turbulence, following a basin that crosses the vast Patagonian desert like a blue line, giving its sky-hued color to the landscape it traverses. The monumental earthen dam, standing 86 meters tall, has transformed the desert to make it attractive to tourism. It couldn’t be any less: the sensation of enormous size that the waters cause on the viewer, in the immensity of the open space, manages to become an unforgettable image with hidden corners of particular beautiful, arduous trails and high points from which it is nearly possible to see the whole world. Among them stands out “Los Gigantes”, sandstone residues of the old landscape, rising from the waters like mighty towers, silent sentinels of the territory and its mysteries. At the shores of the reservoir we find the small village of Chocón, a community that takes advantage of any resources that may feed its peacefulness and social organization.

The Valley of the Dinosaurs

Over 70 million years ago, the formidable geological movement that raised the Andes shook the ground, leaving rich strata filled with fossil remains which in recent decades threatened to overturn the paleontological concepts of the lives, expansion and development of several dinosaur species. They betray the existence of unimaginable colossi, animals so special that they are the cause of a current revision of South American Prehistory, which was very nearly unknown not long ago. Among the unexpected discoveries we find the “Gigantosaurus”, the world’s largest carnivore. Gigantosaurus carolinii is the largest carnivore fossil found to date and bears the name of its discoverer, Rubén Carolini, who began as an amateur paleontologist, propelled to notoriety by his find. Carolini currently pursues his unceasing task, covering the region’s inhospitable and desolate wilderness in his truck, collaborating and starring in a true golden age for paleontology in Argentina, faced with major discoveries. Landscapes, discoveries and local treasures unimaginable to their builders, who did not evaluate them as possible, have endowed the village with the “cult destination” quality that sees tourists arrive to face the prehistoric world that is nowadays a garden in the desert. But not all of its wealth lies herein. As if there were something missing, a major cultural initiative has el Chocón as its center of attention.

A History of Patagonia

Héctor Pérez Morando embraced journalism as his life’s goal. A native of Buenos Aires, he embarked upon a journey in search of new experiences 40 years ago that led him to take up residence in Cipolletti, a city in Rio Negro near the Province of Neuquén. He was the founder of the Tribunas y Polémicas newspaper, among other media, which caused him to glean knowledge – responsibly and in depth – on current events and history in Patagonia. Thus, over an extended period of searching, he collected books, newspapers, reports and essays concerning this southern region. Over time, he secured over 4000 titles, including first editions, original documents ancient chronicles, studies by the first explorers of Patagonia and a varied assortment of data that turned it into the most important initiative of its kind. We read in one of his works: Only recently, in the log of the third voyage of the Rio Negro, we find a definition for this site in Neuquén: “We went along the Chalcun or Chocón. The superstitious magic of that aboriginal human flesh, shattered by spears or lost bolas, or the cold and the snow, according to the authors, would give way to bones bleached by the wind, sun and sand, phosphorescent by night, converted into the “evil light”.

The earliest references on the presence of strange lights in the region go back to the Araucanian traditions and legends, particularly Mapuche ones, collected during anthropological surveys. This is nothing news. During numerous expeditions to the virgin southlands, we find tales not only of violent encounters with the local natives, but also chronicles of encounters with bizarre lights considered by the creoles to be demonic manifestations and aboriginal spirits. Patricio Parente, a young researcher from the Grupo Hemisferios, has this to say: “These are luminous beings that form part of myth and reality alike, as encounter experiences with them do not date from centuries of dozens of years ago, but only months ago, perhaps even last week. This means that we are not looking at legends, but an inexplicable phenomenon that repeats constantly and has given rise to a particular history of strange beings. I call them beings, because their movements suggest a superhuman, super physical nature that goes beyond what we know in nature. They exist and are still seen today under other names, other headings, and they prowl the same places they haunted decades ago, where they have also been seen by policemen, watchmen, settlers and tourists. Therefore, we are facing something real, narrated and interpreted in a variety of ways. There is a remarkable item of information in the native chronicles. They are the first known group in all the Patagonian territory to give rise to an intelligent character, a life of its own that is sustained by the type of movement and behavior displayed before a witness. Similar characteristics have also attracted the attention of science. The lights that fly over el Chocón and adjoining regions were there before the reservoir was built, and perhaps there much before the settlers themselves.”

The Present

Chocón’s Mesozoic landscape is buried in the immensity of vast desolation, but this land shyly conceals other secrets under the layers of ancient memories, reminiscences and legends existing amid the Patagonian winds and the silent nights of the southern hemisphere. The dramatic changes to the landscape in the past 100 years have not affected these intriguing luminous phenomena. We are aware of specific places where they reach peaks of intensity, mysterious places where truck drivers and locals run into unidentified phenomena constantly. Neuquén forms part of a Patagonia that remains unexplored in UFO matters, jealously guarding events that would startle public opinion. At present, there are no video or photographic records of the events occurring at Chocón, but eyewitness accounts are equally unsettling. Over recent years, several locals claim having had UFO experiences. Overall, these are luminous phenomena that fly over the vicinity of the reservoir, sometimes low enough to shine over its waters. Over several nights in early 2000, shift watchmen at the reservoir saw strange lights to the northeast, following the waters of the Limay River. These lights remained static at first, then moved erratically, and were seen from this point four times during the month of January. “At times, it was believed that it was Chilean espionage,” says one watchman. Juan Pablo Gómez has looked into this particular focus on UFOS. A situation contemplated by the military until not long ago was the possibility of a military confrontation with Chile. This played a major factor in the strategic situation of the Cordilleran provinces along the vast frontier between both countries. It is not the first time that the maneuvers of unidentified flying objects have been seen as a probable intrusion by Chilean probes. While this has all been handled discreetly, it is nearly a fact – discussed on countless occasions by local military – that UFOs were suspected as enemy incursions. It is likely that alarms may have been sounded on more than one occasion when these luminous bodies flew over such strategic locations as reservoirs, refineries, gas plants and military facilities. Of course, once their degree of high strangeness was determined, there came the realization that it was more than military technology. The Gendarmerie possesses an extensive list of encounters involving border posts and strategic locations. There is, in fact, a goodly amount of UFO cases involved in the most intimate strategies of our country – cases that have not yet come to light. While some of the numerous sightings recorded from this location over the years may have to do with lights from highways, or aircraft taking off from the city of Neuquén’s own airport (70 kilometers distant in a straight line), some of the maneuvers described are exceedingly strange and capricious, particularly due to the distance at which they were seen.

Arroyito – The Hotspot

The area known as “Arroyito” is always mentioned when geographic coincidences and sightings are mentioned. It is some 27 kilometers to the northeast of the reservoir, along a segment of the Limay River that is bordered by Route 237 on the one side and Route 7 on the south. We can suggest that the area goes from the reservoir to the Arroyito Dam, which is the hottest spot in the territory. Mr. Ferreyra, a retired journalist from the major national newspaper “Clarín”, lived in Junin de los Andes for nearly 35 years and has been in Villa el Chocón for the past 3. In 1978, he witnessed an experience that became publicly known. On August 23 of that year, as conflict with Chile over control of the Beagle Channel was on the rise, and the borders were in a permanent state of alert, Ferreyra was in his car along Route 237 in the company of Ramon Asmar, who would go on to become a national congressman. Near the high voltage lines, some kilometers west of the Arroyito Dam, he saw a light through his windshield that seemed bright enough to go right through the car’s body. Visibly perturbed, he asked Asmar to stop the car for a better look, but Asmar refused to get out. Standing on the road, he was able to see a large sphere at an altitude he was unable to specify. In fact, his companion turned up the volume of the car’s radio when broadcaster Ricardo Villar – a current national congressman – interrupted his show from LU 19, Radio Cipolletti, to report the sighting of a strange shape in the sky reported by hundreds of listeners from the part of the Rio Negro Valley and Neuquén. “I remember it was around ten o’clock at night. I came down with the camera and tape recorder, but never used them in the end, I don’t know why.”

Another light, this time from a car coming from the Bariloche side of the road, approached the site, and as Ferreyra made expansive gestures, the vehicle stopped and three men got out to join him in the unusual sighting. The light vanished after a few minutes. Ferreyra asked the witnesses for their names. One of them provided information, but it later turned out his address was non-existent. Subsequent inquiries on the car’s occupants revealed they were members of army intelligence engaged in research concerning the likelihood of an armed encounter with Chile.

Ruben Carolini and his family witnessed another manifestation around 1985. “I was returning from Neuquén along 237 in my car when around ten or eleven at night, driving past Arroyito, I saw a powerful light that illuminated the desert. I stopped the car immediately, looked toward the wire fence posts along the sides of the road, and the shadows the cast showed that the light was making prolonged, extensive maneuvers in the sky. I looked out the window and could the source was a very bright, teardrop-shaped body resting horizontally. It had a dark core, blue I think, and was no more than 300 meters over the car. Since my family was restless, I kept driving until the light suddenly turned off.”

Carolini also discusses numerous experiences at the reservoir. “While that was the only time I saw anything like it, we know that during its construction, the workers saw UFOs on numerous occasions, not only at night, but in broad daylight as well.” But other remarkable experiences were had by a teacher in Villa del Chocón who prefers to remain anonymous. At least 20 years ago, returning home from the city in her car, she saw a group of lights – approximately 7 – that escorted her from the entrance to the reservoir area to the outskirts of the village. She was so shocked by the experience that since then she has discussed it with her pupils, as if preparing her kids – some of them adults now – how to calmly live through such a situation. She wasn’t wrong.

The Mysterious Valley

Other remarkable experiences occurred in the valley in recent years. In September 1998, gendarmes and local residents witnessed a spherical object with bright beams of light flying serenely over the reservoir from east to west, reflected by the waters of the Ezequiel Ramon Mexia. “It flew as low as a helicopter, but noiselessly,” says Juan Carlos Benitez, owner of the village bar, who went out to the street with some locals to witness the prodigy. There are accounts of UFOs emerging from the waters, getting between vessels that go out at night to fish. In one way or another, the activities of the Unidentifieds is particularly intense and constant, and while its fossil wealth may have boosted Chocón and its environs to fame, the enigma of the lights finds another iteration in that location – another area added to the long list of places afflicted by this mystery. So rich is the information, and so widespread the problem of UFOs in Patagonia, that the library set up by Perez Morando contains information about it in a special binder with journalistic information and eyewitness accounts, and it continues to grow. “Thirty years ago, a married couple had a remarkable experience at the Cipolletti cliffs. The story was such a sensation that I became aware of the extent of people’s interest in these subjects. The Biblioteca Patagónica has a special section on UFOs for that reason.”

While the bones of ancient titans come to light due to excavations in the area, a similar process has begun among us: recovering extraordinary experiences hitherto concealed under layers of prejudice and silence. Information and experience that will someday – like the titans of Neuquén – cause the course of history, and of the present itself, to change.

[Translation © 2014 S. Corrales, IHU with thanks to Silvia and Andrea Pérez Simondini (Visión OVNI), The NetCentinell, Gaceta OVNI and Guillermo D. Giménez, Planeta UFO]