Case 4

Greenwich +3

Fall 1957

Investigator: Craig

BACK to Chapter 1


A small piece of corroded magnesium metal, widely acclaimed as a fragment from an alien vehicle which exploded over a beach in Greenwich +3, was analyzed. The analysis disproved claims that the material was of greater purity than earthly metallurgical technology was capable of in 1957. Claims of extraterrestrial origin of the magnesium are thus based solely upon hearsay information which was never authenticated.


UFO writings commonly refer to pieces of ultra-pure magnesium which reportedly were once part of an alien vehicle which exploded over a beach in Greenwich +3 in 1957. According to the accounts, the claim of alien origin was supported by the fact that the magnesium was of a higher purity than human technology was then capable of producing; therefore, the material must have come from another culture. These claims are developed in great detail in The Great Flying Saucer Hoax by Coral E. Lorenzen (1962). Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzen generously offered their magnesium samples to us for analysis.

The story of the origin of the samples had not been authenticated. A newspaper item, written by a society columnist, presented a letter which the columnist allegedly received, along with fragments of metal, from an "admirer" who could not be identified because his signature was illegible. The letter identified its writer as a fisherman who saw a flying disc approach the beach at unbelievable speed, turn sharply and explode. The disc reportedly disintegrated into thousands of burning fragments, some of which fell into shallow water, where they


were recovered by the fisherman, who said that some of these fragments accompanied the letter.

The fisherman has never been located or identified, and it has not been established that the columnist actually received the letter from a third party.

An interested civilian obtained the metal from the columnist, and, according to his account, took it to the Mineral Production Laboratory of the Agriculture Ministry of the country, where analysis showed it to be magnesium of greater purity than human technology could produce.


It was impossible to verify any relationship between the magnesium fragments and an UFO sighting. However, the degree of purity of the magnesium could be determined and since great weight has been given to the claim that the metal was of phenomenal purity, the project decided to have the Lorenzen sample analyzed.

Purified magnesium normally contains few impurities in sufficient quantity for detection by emission spectroscopy. An indication of the degree of purity attainable by known technology prior to 1957 was contained in a report of analysis (dated 23 May 1951) of magnesium which had been purified by eight successive sublimations. The analytic information furnished by Dr. R. S. Busk, Research Direc- tor, Metal Products Department, Dow Chemical Company, showed only Al, Zn, Ca, and Na present in detectable quantities as listed below, and given in parts per million of the sample. All other elements shown in the report were not present in quantities sufficient to be the symbol < merely indicate the limits of detectability for each element by the analytical method used.



Al 2 Sn <10
Cu <10 Zn 2
Fe <4 Ba <1
Mn <2 Ca 8
Ni <4 K <5
Pb <5 Na 3
Si <10 Sr <5

Dr. Busk informed us that his company has supplied samples of sublimed magnesium on request for at least 25 yr., and sent us a sample of triply-sublimed magnesium for purity comparison with the specimen.

Since we assumed we would be looking for extremely small quantities of impurity in the samples, we chose to analyze the two samples by neutron activation, the most sensitive analytical method currently available. The work was done by the Research and Methods Evaluation Group, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division, Internal Revenue Service, under the direction of Mr. Maynard J. Pro. The neutron irradiation and subsequent gamma spectrometry were observed by the project investigator and original analytical data are retained in project files. Results of neutron activation analysis showed the impurities listed below, given in parts of impurity per million parts of sample (PPM). Elements shown as N.D. (not detectable) were not present in sufficient quantity for detection. Limits of error in all cases are based upon most extreme estimates of analytical error, and the uncertainty indicated probably is overly generous. Figures for the first five elements shown were obtained by direct gamma spectrometry after neutron activation. Cu, Ba, and Sr values were obtained by gamma spectrometry after radiochemical separation of the elements. It is obvious from these results that the magnesium is not nearly so pure as the Dow product.



  Dow Mg
Mn 4.8 ± 0.5 35.0 ± 5.
Al N. D. (<5) N. D. (<10)
Zn 5. ± 1. 500. ± l00.
Hg 2.6 ± 0.5 N. D.
Cr 5.9 ± 1.2 32.0 ± 10.
Cu 0.4 ± 0.2 3.3 ± 1.0
Ba N. D. 160. ± 20.
Sr N. D. 500. ± 100.

For the neutron activation analysis, a small portion of the sample was broken off, and leached in HCl solution to remove surface impurities. After washing, this portion (which then had a bright metallic surface) was analyzed. The absence of Cl in the post-irradiation gamma spectrum showed both that Cl was not present in the sample itself and that washing of the leached sample was complete.

The quantity of Mg27 isotope produced by neutron activation of Mg26 was also measured. This measurement showed that the magnesium isotopic ratio in the sample did not differ significantly from that of other natural magnesium samples.

While the sample proved not to be especially pure, the relatively high strontium concentration was particularly interesting, since Sr is not an expected impurity in magnesium. Dr. Busk knew of no one who intentionally added Sr to commercial Mg. Additional work was therefore undertaken to determine if the sample, while not pure, might nonetheless be unique. The additional analytical work consisted of microprobe analysis and metallographic examination, and was done by Dr. Busk's staff at the Dow Metallurgical Laboratory. Again, the work was monitored by the project investigator.


Dr. D. R. Beaman's report of this work states:

The electron microprobe analysis of the Mg-UFO revealed that Sr and Zn were present in extremely low concentrations and were not present in detectable localized regions of high concentrations. This does not preclude the possibility of a fine dispersion of precipitates. The metallographic examination of the clean matrix (negative numbers 64486-64499) by H. Diehl coupled with the probe results and the known solubilities of Sr and Zn in Mg suggests that these elements are present in solid solution.

Metallographic examination showed large, elongated magnesium grains, indicating that the metal had not been worked after solidification from the liquid or vapor state. The grain structure was thus not consistent with an assumption that the sample had been part of a fabricated metal object. Rapid quenching of a melted fragment was not indicated.

Since the strontium apparently had been added intentionally during manufacture of the material from which the sample came, Dow Metallurgical Laboratory records were checked to see if such material had been produced in the past by that particular laboratory. The records revealed that, over the years, experimental batches of magnesium alloy containing from 0.1% Sr to 40% Sr were produced. As early as 25 March 1940, the laboratory produced a 700 gm. batch of magnesium containing nominally the same concentration of Sr as was contained in the sample.


Since only a few grams of the magnesium are known to exist, and these could easily have been produced prior to 1957 by common earthly technology, the composition and metallographic characteristics of these samples themselves reveal no information


about their origin. The mere existence of these samples cannot serve to support an argument that they are fragments from material of extraterrestrial origin.

Since none of the additional information about this case in other than hearsay, it is not possible to establish any relationship between the small pieces of magnesium and a "flying disc."