'Secrets and Treasures' book reveals bizarre facts
A book reveals historical gems buried in New Zealand's national archives, including a bizarre second world war plan to create a "tsunami bomb" and military files detailing supposed UFO sightings.
Author Ray Waru said he wrote Secrets and Treasures to highlight the material publicly available at Archives New Zealand in Wellington, where almost 100km of shelf space is crammed with historical artefacts.
Alongside notable historical documents, such as a letter written by explorer James Cook before his final voyage, are curiosities such as "Project Seal", a top-secret United States-New Zealand attempt to create a doomsday device to rival the nuclear bomb.
The project was launched in June 1944 after a US naval officer noticed that blasting operations to clear coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced a large wave, raising the possibility of creating a "tsunami bomb".
Explosive tests carried out in waters north of Auckland led scientists to conclude that the weapon was feasible and a series of 10 massive blasts offshore could create a 10-metre tsunami capable of inundating a small coastal city.
"It was absolutely astonishing," Waru said. "First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami … and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked."
Waru said the project was shelved in early 1945, despite the success of initial, small tests.
"If you put it in a James Bond movie it would be viewed as fantasy, but it was a real thing," he said.
Among the other oddities in the archives are Defence Department records of hundreds of unidentified flying object sightings by members of the public, military personnel and commercial pilots, mostly involving moving lights in the sky.
Some of the accounts include drawings of flying saucers, descriptions of aliens wearing "pharaoh masks" and alleged examples of extraterrestrial writing.
New Zealand's most famous close encounter was when a television crew recorded strange lights off the South Island town of Kaikoura in 1978.
However, the military concluded the lights could have been lights from boats being reflected off clouds or an unusual view of the planet Venus.