Chasing Down The 'Min Min Lights' Phenomenon

If you ever visit Eastern Australia, there's a rare chance you may encounter the Min Min light, a spectral luminescence that trails the viewer and is often mistaken for a UFO. But what causes this bizarre flickering pursuer?

Click for video - Family chased by UFO

As evinced by recent news reports, Min Min lights still bedevil motorists and are a fixture of Australia's paranormal culture. The town of Boulia has a particular affinity for the lights, which have been documented prior to European settlement of Australia.

Also — like any weird phenomenon worth its salt — Min Min lights have been the subject of overblown dramatization à la Unsolved Mysteries.

According to Dr. Jack Pettigrew of the University of Queensland, Min Min lights are a form of Fata Morgana, or a complex mirage that results when faraway light is distorted by temperature changes:

The Min Min light occurs when light, from a natural or man-made source, is refracted to an observer who is tens, or even hundreds, of kilometres away, by an inverted mirage, or Fata Morgana [...] Named after the Morgan fairy, who was reputed to be able to conjure cities on the surface of the sea ice, the Fata Morgana has a real physical phenomenon, being caused by a temperature inversion

A cold, dense layer of air next to the ground (or sea, or sea ice) carries light far over the horizon to a distant observer without the usual dissipation and radiation, to produce a vivid mirage that baffles and enchants because of its unfamiliar optical properties.

Click for video - Boulia - The Min Min Light

You can read Pettigrew's full paper on Min Min lights here. As an addendum, he insists that understanding the origin of the phenomenon does not detract of the wonder of the Min Min light but rather makes them all the more awe-worthy:

I know that there will be great resistance to the acceptance of this and any other explanation of the Min Min light from many in the Outback who are cynical about attempts by city slickers to reduce the magic and wonder of the phenomenon. I have some sympathy with this reaction but would plead that my approach to putting the phenomenon on a more understandable basis does not necessarily explain it away but rather may enhance one's experience of it. - io9

NOTE: here is another reference - The Australian Min Min Lights

Personal experiences:

I was driving from Innamincka, which is not so far from Boulia, to Boulia and up to a place called Mount Isa, when I noticed a pair of "headlights", tailgating behind me. It was getting really annoying after five minutes and I was begging him/her to overtake, but he/she wouldn't. So I decided to slow down to piss him/her off. Then, all of a sudden, the so called "headlights" turned out to be "Min Min Lights". I stopped the car, hearing the screech of the tires behind me as the Min Min Lights flew around the car.

I was searching for my camera to take a photo when one of the Min Min Lights got closer to my car. It hovered closer and closer almost blinding me, then it just dissolved as the break of dawn was coming up.

I never ever want to go there again, and I'm sure you won't as soon as you seen the Min Min Light.

and another....

This is a story that my dad told me that happened to him many years ago. He was out Roo (Kangaroo) shooting with eight of his friends on a large property in South West corner of New South Wales, it was about one or two o'clock in the morning so still very dark when one of the guys gun seized up or something, so they stopped the ute so this guy could go around into the head light and try and fix it.

While the others were waiting they saw something that not one of them could explain a large ball of light appeared and bounced across the ground around them completely lighting up the whole area as bright as day then it just bounced off into the bush. Out of the nine there, eight of them saw it, the only one who didn't see it was the guy fixing his gun in the head light.

A day or to later the story of this strange light had got around town and from there ABC news found out about it and reported a story on it. Most people say that it was the Min Min* light but it had never been reported in this area before and never since but all I know is not one of the guys have been back to area since and not one of them will go again.

*Min Min light is mysterious Australian outback phenomenon best known manifestation of the Australian "ghost light" genre is the famous Min Min Light. Hundreds of people over the years have told of seeing the Min Min Light in the Boulia or Winton district (this is about 2000 kilometers from were my dad and his friends saw the light). It has been reported high in the sky, at times oscillating up and down like a yo-yo. A frequent feature is that, unlike a headlight, it lights its surrounds on all sides. It appears to be a curious, friendly light, often approaching but never threatening, although at times causing panic in the minds of the beholders.

If you talk to old timers out there who had seen it and they were terrified by it, it's a bit embarrassing for them because hardened outback men can be brought to tears by this thing. It really is quite alarming.

Rancher Henry Lamond told of an experience he had in the early 1900's:

...I did not leave the head station until about 2 am, expecting to get to Slasher's well before daylight… 8 or 10 miles out on the downs I saw the headlight of a car coming straight for me. Cars, though they were not common, were not rare. I took note of the thing, singing and trotting as I rode, and I even estimated the strength of the approaching light by the way it picked out individual hairs in the mare's mane.

Suddenly I realized it was not a car light — it remained in one bulbous ball instead of dividing into the 2 headlights, which it should have done as it came closer; it was too green-glary for an acetylene light; it floated too high for any car; there was something eerie about it.

The light came on, floating as airily as a bubble, moving with comparative slowness ... I should estimate now that it was moving at about 10 mph and anything from 5 to 10 feet above the ground ... Its size, I would say, at an approximate guess, would be about that of a new-risen moon. That light and I passed each other, going in opposite directions. I kept an eye on it while it was passing, and I'd say it was about 200 yards off when suddenly it just faded and died away. It did not go out with a snap -its vanishing was more like the gradual fading of the wires in an electric bulb.

NOTE: you may want to read: Australian Folklore, including: Bunyip, Eureka Rebellion, Waltzing Matilda, Ned Kelly, Swagman, Swag (bedroll), Captain Thunderbolt, Min Min Light, ... Geelong Keys, Speewah, Ss Waratah or
The Mystery of the Min Min Light

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