Yesterday, I provided accounts by Henry Alline and Simeon Perkins of what may have been UFO sightings / encounters with non-human intelligences in Nova Scotia in the late 18th century (as well as Jane Lead's account of here experience in the late 17th century).
As far as the Maritime Provinces are concerned (for those who may be unaware, the Maritime Provinces refer to the provinces now known as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, all of which were at one point colonies of the French, and then the British), there is at least one sighting that occurred long before the 1796 case recorded by Perkins. It is found at pp. 33 - 34 of The River St. John, a 1910 history of the St. John River region by W. O. Raymond (thanks to my Dad for the reference). The sighting occurred on an island now known as Caton Island, which is in southern New Brunswick.
Raymond sets the scene - it is 1611, and starts in Port Royal, the first permanent French settlement in Canada, which was located at present day Annapolis Royal on the Nova Scotia side of the bay of Fundy.
"The summer of 1611 was notable for the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries, Pierre Biard and Enemond Masse, who may be regarded as the pioneers of the order in Canada... Early in the month of October a little island in Long Reach called Emenenic, now known as Caton's Island, was the scene of an exciting incident of which Biard has left us a picturesque description. It seems that Poutrincourt's son, Biencourt, wished to exact submission on the part of a number of traders of St. Malo, who had established a trading post on the island. Accordingly, accompanied by a party of soldiers and the jesuit missionary he proceeded to the scene of their operations.
The party on the island of Emenenic included their captain, Merveille, of St. Malo, and young Pontgrave. Biard in his narrative terms them 'Malouins.'"
Raymond then switches to Biard's account:
"We were still... one league and a half from the island when the twilight ended and night came on. The stars had already begun to appear when suddenly towards the northward a part of the heavens became blood red; and this light spreading little by little in vivid streaks and flashes, moved directly over the settlement of the Malouins and there stopped. The red glow was so brilliant that the whole river was tinged and made luminous by it. This apparition lasted about five minutes and as soon as it disappeared another came in the same form, direction and appearance. Our savages, when they saw this wonder, cried out in their language, 'Gara, gara, maredo' - we shall have war, there will be blood."
Note that Biard describes a light that stopped, not one, like a meteor, that continued on. Note as well that the sightings each lasted about five minutes, which is longer than any meteor that I've ever seen.
Biard's party were put on edge by the sighting. The rest of Biard's description tells of the meeting between his group and the men from St. Malo the next day and night, which was extremely tense, and how they almost came to violence. Much of this undoubtedly had to do with the commercial rivalry between the two groups, and some of the actions taken by the Port Royal contingent, but some also seems to have been on account of what they had seen the night before.
Biard described what happened the next night:
"Now I could not describe to you... what a night this was; for it passed in continual alarms, gun shots and rash acts on the part of some of the men; so that it was feared with good reason that the prognostications seen in the heavens the night before would have their bloody fulfilment on earth. I do not know that there was one who closed his eyes during the night."
So, what did Biard and his party see? Who knows, but it doesn't sound like a meteor to me. Odds are that it was some sort of atmospheric phenomenon, but the possibility remains that it was something else.
If this sighting was reported today by a group that included a priest and soldiers, ufologists would no doubt take it very seriously. Alas, given that it took place almost four hundred years ago, we can't interview witnesses, check radar reports, and so forth. Still, this case, and others like it, should give ufologists cause to ponder the timeless nature of the UFO phenomenon... or, at the very least, always keep in mind that it predates 1947.
P.S. In the "that's a weird coincidence" category, Caton Island is today home to a summer camp for the Wesleyan Church, and sits, more or less, in the middle of the St. John River, across from the Beulah Camp and Conference Center. Beulah is a facility that was for years operated by the Reformed Baptists (who eventually merged with the Wesleyans), and it's where my grandfather, Reverend Hollis Kimball, spent many summers preaching and participating in revival meetings.