It’s not every day you witness an unidentified flying object land on your property.
That was the case for Ardgowan farmer Merv Harris, who saw something strange land on his farm last week.
He was putting up a break for an electric fence when he noticed a flying object in the sky – and it was heading straight towards him.
“I saw this strange object flying towards me,” he told the Oamaru Mail
“I just thought, a UFO, a bomb or something – I was just blown away.”
When it came close enough, he saw it was a white package, gliding 3m-4m above him.
“I tried to catch it with an electric fence stand but it went over my head.”
The package had deployed a parachute, which crashed into a large gum tree on his farm. While the parachute was caught in the tree, the package landed safely on the ground with a cord from the parachute still attached to it.
When Mr Harris went to do work in the area later in the day, he was surprised to find the package on the ground.
“I saw a white object lying on the ground and thought, gosh, that’s the object I saw flying towards me.
“I was just stunned. It was just something I’ve never seen before in my lifetime.”
Mr Harris approached the package – and was slightly concerned to hear loud ticking noises.
“I was very cautious walking up to it.”
After he read an attached note “this package is not dangerous”, Mr Harris’ mind was put at ease. He discovered the package had been launched by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) in Lauder, Central Otago.
After contacting Niwa, he learned the package was an instrument used to study the ozone.
The instrument, an ozone sonde, could study the ozone at altitudes of up to 35km.
Wills Dobson, from the Niwa research centre in Lauder, was pleased Mr Harris found the package.
“These are launched as disposable – we don’t expect to get them back,” Mr Dobson said. “The fact that it landed in front of him is pretty astonishing. That doesn’t normally happen.”
The package that landed on the Ardgowan farm was special because it could measure the ozone and water vapour in the stratosphere, Mr Dobson said.
Mr Harris would be rewarded $60 by the institute for finding the package.
Before sending the package back to Niwa, the farmer planned to show it off to family members who would soon be visiting from the United States.