Smith's Saucer Detection Equipment

In October, 1953, Wilbert Smith wrote the following in a letter to an acquaintance. "For your information we are placing in operation an observation post near the DRB establishment at Shirleys Bay, for the purpose of getting measurements on various reported factors, should we be fortunate enough to have one of the 'objects' pass near. The equipment will detect and measure simultaneously gamma radiation, radio noise, magnetic variations, and gravity variations. It will also trigger the ionospheric recorder and get a trace of anything which happens to be overhead. According to past statistics we should be pretty sure of a sighting here within a year."

The following photos taken by Wilbert Smith show several pieces of equipment that he may have used in the attempt to detect the passage of alien aircraft nearby. The photos were made available by James Smith in 2006. The equipment in the photos was identified by John Wilson, a technician at the Radio Physics Laboratory (RPL) at Shirley's Bay when the saucer detection station was established. John recalls that "as a technician at RPL I shared a field hut down near the brick Department of Transport building. Wilbert Smith had been permitted to use the same hut for his flying saucer searches. I was the one who visited the site almost daily and volunteered to check his equipment, i.e., retune any drifting receivers and make sure the Esterline Angus pen recorders had paper in them and were well inked up - that sort of thing. It was common knowledge at the time that Wilbert wanted to measure anything that changed if the area was visited by his IFO friends. I don't remember any of us who completely discounted his quest, mostly 'a wait and see' attitude. The parameters most likely considered for examination were: LF, HF and VHF signals or noise changes, atomic radiation, seismic activity, magnetic disturbances, gravity changes, and temperature. As I recall, there was nothing special in there, a collection of equipment not needed elsewhere. I do recall a geiger counter and one receiver tuned to the 500 kcs emergency frequency".

Click on the images to show a larger version.


After viewing the left photo, John recalled that the scales at the top were set to record any changes in gravity if a flying saucer flew near. The smaller item at the left is a General Radio tachometer, probably model 'Strobotac 631-Bl'. The lens for the strobe light is just out of sight on the right side of the box. Its only purpose would be to measure the speed of a rotating device. Below the scale and mounted on an inertial platform is such a rotating device, belt-driven by a fractional horsepower GE motor. It probably was the target for the tachometer. For stability, the platform rested on bedrock below ground level. The apparatus mounted on it somehow measured changes in seismic activity. Even with the closer view in the right photo it is not obvious how this was achieved. Also sitting on the platform is a box containing what appear to be scale weights. The tachometer is resting on a custom-made device (with two panel meters), perhaps a single-frequency LF receiver (500 kcs). If so, its purpose would be to monitor the international emergency LF frequency. There were other receivers set on HF frequencies.

A third photograph of Wilbert Smith's lab equipment is shown below. On the bench, according to John, is a chart recorder with a scale from 0-50. It is a multi-purpose instrument and it could be hooked up to record anything with a voltage output. Below the bench sits what looks like a multi-purpose power supply or regulator. The device on the right is a Stoddart field intensity meter. The co-ax cable suggests VHF input. An instrument such as this, calibrated and with an appropriate antenna, is used to measure the field intensity or the field strength of radio waves or signals. Such fields were thought to exist around alien craft, and so this device would have been an appropriate addition to the saucer detection station.


John recalls that he could never be sure whether anything worked or not, since during his tenure all output graphs were noisy spike-less lines.

John thought that the device resting on the pedestal in the above picture measured seismic activity, probably because it rested on a stable platform on bedrock. However, it is not clear how the mechanism would be used for that purpose. Instead, one might expect Wilbert Smith to use some of the new theoretical insights he received from the "people from elsewhere" in designing an instrument to detect the saucers, especially since he believed that the alien technology was based on this new science. For instance, he maintained that a saucer's propulsion system distorts the ambient tempic field, sometimes enough to severely refract light coming from the object. Also, he thought of gravity as an electric field associated with the precession of basic particles. He differentiated this "motional electric field" from the field associated with the particle's static spin. His gravity control experiment (which he claimed was successful) appears to have been designed to create a motional magnetic field in order to generate the motional electric field. William Hooper, another gravitation theorist with whom Smith corresponded, seemed to have had similar ideas.

In November, 1953, several newspapers, including the North Bay Daily Nugget and the Sudbury Daily Star reported that a new type of gravimeter was developed for the saucer detection station. The newspapers also reported that the gravimeter, which measured the acceleration and deceleration due to gravity, was built by the staff of the station with the assistance of Professor J. T. Wilson of the University of Toronto.

It is interesting to speculate that the equipment in the upper left photo may be that gravimeter. Of possible significance is that the pedestal appears to consist of concrete blocks alternating with layers of what appear to be wood. Also, the chemical balance is positioned above the pedestal, and the weights on the scale are such that the position of the scale pointer is centered. Further, one side of the balance is positioned almost directly over the disks of the device on the pedestal. So, we have a pedestal with alternating layers of materials with different properties such as permittivity. On this pedestal is a device that seems intended to spin a pair of disks on a common axle, and these disks are directly below one side of the balanced scale. Perhaps Smith believed that the presence of an unusual tempic field gradient from a nearby saucer would combine with the rotating disks to modify the gravitational field of the earth acting on one side of the balance. The gravitational field might have unusual properties after passing through the stone and wood layers of the pedestal. However, these clues are difficult to interpret without knowledge of the physics that Smith was beginning to understand.

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