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Shirley's Bay, Ontario
Project Magnet, 1952

In 1950, a senior radio engineer from the Department of Transport, Wilbert B. Smith, made a request to his superiors to make use of a laboratory and the department's field facilities in a study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and the physical principles connected to them. Smith spearheaded Project Magnet with the purpose of studying, among other occurrences, magnetic phenomena, which he believed would open up a new and useful technology.

The goals of Project Magnet were fueled by the concepts of geomagnetism, and the belief that it may be possible to use and manipulate the Earth's magnetic field as a propulsion method for vehicles. Tests conducted by Smith were reported in November 1951 and they stated that sufficient energy was abstracted from the Earth's field to operate a voltmeter at approximately 50 milliwatts. Smith believed he was on the "track of something that may prove to be the introduction to a new technology." Smith believed that there was a correlation between his studies and investigations into UFOs: "...the existence of a different technology is borne out by the investigations which are being carried on at the present time in relation to flying saucers.... I feel that the correlation between our basic theory and the available information on saucers checks too closely to be mere coincidence" (Smith, Geo-Magnetics, Department of Transport, November 21, 1950).

It was believed by both Smith and other government departments involved, that there was much to learn from UFOs. Investigations into these sightings and interviews with the observers were the starting point for Project Magnet.

In connection with the establishment of Project Magnet, members of other government agencies formed a committee solely dedicated to "flying saucer" reports. This committee was sponsored by the Defense Research Board and called "Project Second Story." Its main purpose was to collect, catalogue and correlate data from UFO sighting reports. The committee created a questionnaire and interrogator's instruction guide. The reporting method used a system intended to minimize the 'personal equation'. In other words, a weighting factor was created to measure the probability of truth in each report. Smith explained that most UFO sightings fit into two general types: "those about which we know something, and those which we know very little."

In a summary of 1952 sighting reports, Smith noted common significant characteristics of UFOs: "They are a hundred feet or more in diameter; they can travel at speeds of several thousand miles per hour; they can reach altitudes well above those which should support conventional air craft or balloons; and ample power and force seem to be available for all required maneuvers" (Smith, Project Magnet report, 1952, p. 6).

In his closing, Smith stated, "Taking these factors into account, it is difficult to reconcile this performance with the capabilities of our technology, and unless the technology of some terrestrial nation is much more advanced than is generally known, we are forced to the conclusion that the vehicles are probably extra-terrestrial, in spite of our prejudices to the contrary." (Smith, Project Magnet report, 1952, p. 6).

Smith summed up the possibilities of studying the technology of these vehicles, and suggested that the next steps in the Project Magnet investigation should be a "substantial effort towards the acquisition of as much as possible of this technology, which would without doubt be of great value to us" (Smith, Project Magnet report, 1952).

It was with these goals in mind that Smith set up an observatory in Shirley's Bay, Ontario, 10 miles outside of Ottawa. Based on the conclusions of the 1952 sighting report, Smith thought that these vehicles would emit physical characteristics that could be measured. In October of 1952, he set up the observatory to attempt to measure magnetic or radio noise disturbances. Many more sighting reports were investigated by Project Magnet, but in 1954, the project was shut down.

Related documents:
Project Magnet report

Minutes of first meeting

Minutes of second meeting


Further information about Project Magnet is found in the meeting minutes of Project Second Story in the search database.

Project Magnet reportMinutes of first meetingMinutes of second meetingQuestionnaire