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The U.S. military has boosted its security around the Area 51 test facility in Nevada in preparation for the potential arrival of large numbers of people on Friday.
This follows a Facebook posting started earlier this year calling on people to raid Area 51 so they could see the aliens and flying saucers supposedly at the site.
Two million people are reported to have expressed interest in the Facebook event but whether they show at the remote location is another matter. Local government officials say they are planning for at least 30,000 to 40,000 even though the event organizer has since labelled the Facebook posting as a joke.
Two Dutch men have already been arrested trying to get on to the base Sept. 10. CNN reported that they told deputies they could read, write and speak English and had seen the ‘No Trespassing’ signs at the entrance of the site. But they said they still wanted to take a look at the facility, 134 km north-northwest of Las Vegas.
Area 51, so named because of the location’s designation on old Atomic Energy Commission maps, has been used for decades as a site for secret testing of military technology, particularly aircraft.
But the site is also a cornerstone of UFO conspiracy theories which maintain that the U.S. government has captured alien spacecraft and has tested them at the base.
It all started in May 1989 when a guy named Bob Lazar, claiming to have worked as a scientist at Area 51, told a media outlet in Las Vegas that he had seen nine alien spacecraft at the facility. He claimed the U.S. government was trying to unravel the mysteries of the technology. Not only was Lazar unable to provide any proof but there were suspicions he had never even worked at Area 51, and neither the California Institute of Technology nor the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Lazar said he had earned advanced science degrees, had any record of him studying there. Lazar explained away the discrepancies by suggesting government agents had eliminated the records in an attempt to discredit him.
Nonetheless, Lazar’s allegations put Area 51 on the map so to speak. (The site is also known as Dreamland and Groom Lake, after the dry lake bed near which the base is situated). UFO seekers, using high-powered cameras on a high point 19 km from the base, later published photos that showed oversized hangars and a runway estimated to be the longest in the world.
Then in March 1993, self-described ufologist Bill Hamilton and his wife claimed to have been abducted near the base by an alien named Quaylar.
With social media like Facebook, the Area 51 legend has gained even more attention.
But trying to sneak onto the base isn’t exactly new. Since the early 1990s those seeking aliens have tried to enter the facility but instead finish their journey being rounded up by private security guards.
In the 1990s, 60 Minutes showed up to report on the Area 51 saga. CNN talk-show host Larry King actually set up his desk in the desert and broadcast live from the edge of installation.
I spent a couple of days and nights outside Area 51 in 1999 on an assignment to delve into the mysteries of what was then the most secret military installation in the U.S.
It was an assignment that didn’t disappoint. I watched as a number of black helicopters zipped over Nevada Hwy. 375, and headed toward the base. The choppers, which flew only 30 metres above the ground, had no identifying markings.
Such black helicopters are standard fare in conspiracies involving the U.S. government but these were likely being operated by American special forces which at that time used the base for training.
At night the UFO watchers arrived at the edge of the desert surrounding the installation and set up telescopes and cameras. In the distance, there was eerie greenish white glow, likely from the landing lights of the base’s runway. Several red-and-green lights could be seen high in the sky, creating a strange sparkling effect as they sailed along. I figured they were from other military helicopters or aircraft flying in and out of the base. Occasionally a flare could be seen in the distance, again dropped by an aircraft.
Sleeping in a tent in the desert outside Area 51 was uneventful except for the cold of the high desert. The water in my canteen froze that night.
The restless evening I endured had more to do with my worries of being murdered in my sleep by a serial killer rather than being abducted by aliens. After all, I was in America sleeping in the desert.
At one point during my road journey around the outer confines of the base, a Blackhawk helicopter had to set down on the side of the highway after experiencing mechanical issues. When I pulled over my car and approached the crew they were polite but obviously not keen to have visitors. The odd transport truck or rancher’s pickup rolled by the camouflaged aircraft, but in that part of Nevada people tended to mind their own business and no one else seemed to take notice. After all, it was just a Blackhawk helicopter outfitted with mini-guns at the side of a highway.
”You’re the only one who’s bothered to stop,” a major, who seemed to be in charge, said almost in an accusatory tone as I approached the helicopter.
The crew was armed with MP-5 submachine guns. There were no identifying insignias on their uniforms. I offered to give them a lift back to whatever base they came from but they declined. ”There’s nothing secret here,” added the major who eyed me with suspicion.
Just a regular day near Area 51.
The route to the base in those days was a straight dusty road about 35 km north of the town of Rachel. It was an unmarked road and easily missed. As the road curved into a bend, there was a small forest of signs warning travellers to go no farther. On the ridges overlooking the road, small video cameras on tripods had been strategically placed. One pointed directly down the Area 51 road, giving base security officers advance warning of anyone approaching. Another tripod, equipped with a video camera and what appeared to be a microphone to pick up the sound of a vehicle’s engine, was directed at the beginning of the restricted zone near the signs.
That was 20 years ago. More fencing and cameras have been added over the decades.
We’ll see on Friday if the increased security will do the job.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019