I'm halfway through Fergus Flemming's fascinating book Barrow's Boys, which recounts the adventures (and misadventures) of British explorers like John Franklin and William Parry back in the first half of the nineteenth century. Before that, I spent a week enthralled by Arthur Herman's To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. Both books are cracking good reads, but they also got me to thinking about UFOs, and a theory that I first heard from Karl Pflock (gasp!) a couple of years ago.
Karl is of the opinion that some UFOs were in fact alien spacecraft, that they popped by earth, checked it out for a bit, and then headed back to where they came from. As far as he's concerned, they haven't been back since.
Now, most ufologists I know, particularly the ones committed to Exopolitics, would scoff at this notion. "Ridiculous," they would say. The aliens came, they saw, and they've been here since.
But a study of the history of human exploration shows that Karl might be on to something. Even into the first half of the nineteenth century, there were areas of the world (Africa, the Artic, the Antartic, large parts of the Pacific) that were still unknown to the Europeans. The explorations that they sent out were small, almost always under equipped, often poorly managed, and usually had no idea of what they were doing. Being British, they sometimes - but by no means always - muddled through, but almost never without mishaps. Sometimes they would visit a place, and then leave, not to return for decades.
With this is mind, perhaps Karl's theory isn't so crazy after all. What if the aliens are the galactic equivalent of the Europeans, and good old Earth the equivalent of Melville Island? Under Karl's theory, even the Roswell crash would be possible. Consider it the alien Franklin.
At the end of the day, who knows? But it makes as much sense to me as hybrid-colonization schemes, or underground bases, or Charles Hall's white aliens at Area 51.
Somewhere, out there, maybe there's a three foot tall, grey, alien bureaucrat - a Sir John Barrow from Zeta Reticuli - wondering what happened to that expedition he sent out to Terra Prime.
Or maybe the next expedition is just leaving the interstellar dockyard for a return voyage to that wild, strange planet at the edge of known space.
I just hope they bring some cool trinkets, and return Elvis!