Alex Mistretta peers at the photographs that have been passed on to him. Fuzzy and dated, they show large and mysterious objects looming ominously in the sky. Could the pictures really reveal the truth about a secret long kept hidden by the powers that be?
The story began back in March 1971. At this time, the USS Trepang was operating in the Arctic Ocean. A United States Navy submarine, it was carrying out tests on its weapons systems beneath the ice cap.
On board the vessel was Rear Admiral Dean Reynolds Sackett, Jr., who had been Commanding Officer of the Trepang for a little over half a year. Also on board was an officer named John Klika, who apparently had a close encounter of the bizarre kind.
Yes, according to an anonymous source, Klika spotted a strange object through the periscope of the submarine while on this particular Arctic excursion. And more than 40 years later, some photographs that were allegedly snapped on that fateful day surfaced from the depths to baffle the world.
So, in 2015, the French publication Top Secret printed an article featuring a series of these strange images. Furthermore, it claimed that the photographs had been given to it by that same anonymous source.
However, information accompanying the photographs was sparse. Apparently, the pictures arrived along with a letter, with some of them bearing official inscriptions such as “Not to be released” and “Unauthorized Disclosure Subject.”
Seemingly ignoring these warnings, though, the magazine published 11 photographs. In them, several unidentified objects are shown hovering over – and appearing to crash into – a large body of water.
For the writer of the Top Secret article, there was no doubt. “On this photo, we identify without a doubt a triangular-shaped UFO,” read the piece alongside one image.
Meanwhile, the writer also suspected that other photographs depict what is commonly known as a “cigar-shaped” UFO. Elsewhere, compounding the mystery, a haze that looks as if it could be water or smoke surrounds the unknown object. And, of course, Top Secret was quick to speculate on its source, too.
“Is it a ‘cigar’ that has been hit by a missile and is exploding at the surface of the water, or a UFO that is coming out of the water and ready to fly?” asked the magazine. And later in the article, the writer again speculated on whether or not the craft is falling into the water or emerging from it.
Each of the photographs certainly seems to feature the crosshairs and indicators of a periscope – supporting the claim that they were taken from a submarine. However, aside from that, no further attempts to verify or investigate the story of the Trepang were apparently made by Top Secret.
Around the same time, though, author Alex Mistretta was made aware of the existence of the photographs by one of his contacts in Europe. After all, Mistretta specializes in unexplained phenomena, including UFOs, and even wrote a book on the subject.
Subsequently, in an account published on The Black Vault – an online resource for browsing declassified government documents – Mistretta detailed his attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery. His first point of call was Steve Murillo, a former pilot in the U.S. Navy and head of the Los Angeles-based UFO and Paranormal Research Society.
In July 2015 Mistretta asked Murillo to make contact with Admiral Dean R. Sackett, the man who was in charge of the Trepang at the time of the alleged incident. Sackett agreed to take a look at the photographs but claimed to be unable to identify what they depicted. “I only saw ice,” said Admiral Sackett.
Murillo also managed to track down Klika, the other man named by the anonymous source. Yet though he showed an interest in the photographs and the investigation, Klika also denied having spotted anything out of the ordinary while in the Arctic.
Further research posted online by John Greenewald, Jr. confirmed what Murillo had been told – that both Sackett and Klika were indeed present on the Trepang in March 1971. Using the tracking website Hullnumber, he was also able to confirm that the submarine had been on a mission in the Arctic at the time, just as the source had claimed.
According to Mistretta, both Sackett and Klika’s testimony was sound. With this in mind, he strongly suspected that the photographs had nothing to do with the Trepang and that the names and details had been attached to them at some unknown point.
However, the mystery remained – just what did the strange photographs depict? Well, Mistretta had a theory. And, subsequently searching the Library of Congress’ website, he discovered pictures of balloon carriers. These were unmanned Zeppelin-like vessels that could have been used as targets to test weapons from the Trepang.
The photographs that Mistretta found reveal balloons that certainly resemble the object pictured in the Top Secret article. But would they still have been in use in the 1970s, when all the examples that he found were dated earlier than 1915? And, if the photos were indeed the result of a weapons test, why wouldn’t Sackett and Klika recall such a memorable event?
For the time being, then, the case has been left open – with plenty of people visiting The Black Vault to post their own outlandish theories. Mistretta, meanwhile, can only hope that the truth is still waiting out there somewhere.