(Stephanie Morton | The Vidette) A story about the Westport UFO sighting was front page news in The Daily World in November 1979.

UFO expert visits Elma

Sightings of unexplained flying objects (UFOs) are not common on the Harbor but there have been a few — one notable incident occurring in November of 1979.

Something crashed in the hills near the Elk River outside of Westport and many people witnessed it, said James Clarkson, a UFO expert with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and a former Grays Harbor resident. Clarkson spoke to a group at the Elma Timberland Library in November.

Clarkson said what was most fascinating about the Westport UFO was that it followed the same pattern of many other UFO sightings: many witnesses observed the object and made efforts to report what they had seen and then there was military presence in the area afterwards. Logging roads were blocked and access to the crash site was denied. The military public information officers said it was a helicopter and that no, they weren’t guarding anything at Elk River.

Clarkson investigated the incident years after, and wrote a book on the subject, “The Westport UFO Crash Retrieval Event.” Clarkson has written other books on UFOs and has worked as an investigator for MUFON for many years. He said his job is to evaluate UFO sightings and as a former City of Aberdeen policeman, he evaluates facts. Clarkson does not do supposition or speculation.

“That’s a bridge too far,” Clarkson said. “I evaluate what is evidence and what is not.”

“Of ten UFO reports, eight or nine are natural or manmade or there is insufficient information to make a determination. And, there are hoaxes,” Clarkson said. Often, the International Space Station is responsible for what people believe are UFO sightings.

“It’s extremely bright and takes about six minutes to transit the sky,” Clarkson said. But because it is easily trackable, it is also easily identifiable.

Clarkson explained he speaks at venues like the Elma Timberland Library to promote MUFON and to provide an outlet for people to report sightings.

“Someone sees some odd lights in the sky and they don’t know what they’ve seen,” Clarkson said. “Who do they report it to?”

Because of the subject matter, people assume they will be laughed at, Clarkson said, and they don’t report what they’ve seen. Because of the expense involved, MUFON investigators are selective in what reports are extensively researched.

“Radar data is very expensive,” Clarkson said. But often, it provides corroborative evidence. MUFON investigators, said Clarkson, are very practical and gather whatever information is available and draw reasonable conclusions. The goal of his lectures, he said, is to educate and to allow people to ask questions about UFOs. And while UFOs are a popular topic, Clarkson learned a valuable lesson from his recent visit to Elma on Nov. 12.

“Never schedule a lecture after a major election,” Clarkson said. “It’s too much.”

Clarkson said he will next visit the Harbor for the UFO Summit in February at the Quinault Beach Resort in Ocean Shores. For more information on MUFON, visit www.mufon.com.