Crazy Contrails over midcoast Maine – the followup report

5/6 update below – worth a read.


Am I Mad as Hell, and Am I Not Gonna Take it Any More?

No, I’m slightly peeved, and completely resigned to taking it some more.

The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer. – Edward R. Murrow (a hero of mine…)

Well, to try to find out what all that commotion was in our skies the late morning of Friday, April 25, I figured I might be emulating Alice chasing the rabbit down its hole. I went down a little bit, which involved a modest effort at investigative journalism, but then came clawing back. My hands are a little dirty, but I didn’t take any pills or eat any cake. As a reminder, here are two pix:

DSC_9692Over a neighbor’s farm, April 25, 11:15 am.

Over the Gig store, So. Thomaston

Over the Gig store, So. Thomaston, April 25, 11:15 am, facing due south. The distant contrail in upper right is probably British Airways 217, a 747, from London to Washington DC, according to

Maybe the next question is, who cares? So what if there are dozens of contrails spreading overhead, rather wide and low and persistent and marring an otherwise perfectly clear blue sky? I care a little; but more than that, I’m just curious. If a giant silvery disc hovered over downtown Rockland, we could say, “Oh, that’s just a bloated gasbag of an airplane with no wings, don’t worry about it,” but I venture to think we wouldn’t be so dismissive of such an obvious elephant in the room.

Okay, back to the research. What I’ve learned breaks into three neat categories (and apologies if this reminds you of Donald Rumsfeld): What we know for sure, what we are pretty sure of, and what is otherwise speculation.

What we know:
  • The planes making these trails – and there were between 10 and 12 of them – are not commercial or civilian aircraft
  • The contrails are not ordinary contrails; they spread too wide too soon, they persist too long, and they’re much lower in altitude than conventional contrails, which are simply condensed moisture
  • Ergo (said he), the emissions are something else

How do we know they’re not commercial or civilian airplanes? offers a “playback” feature that displays air traffic on any given date at any time. Here’s a screen shot of our area from April 25, at 11:15 am, when the photos were taken:

425pic(from, 4/25/14, 11:15 am. The large yellow plane SSW of Rockland is British Airways 217, at 38,000 ft.)

What We’re Pretty Sure of:
  • The planes are military, or other aircraft with no transponders
  • The layering and crosshatching of the contrails suggest an organized, coordinated exercise

Now the military angle: I spoke with Jeff Northgreaves, airport manager at Knox County Regional Airport, and asked if anyone at the airport had noticed or mentioned all this activity on Friday morning. He said no, but after we talked for a bit he thought it could have been a military exercise – he had received notice of such an exercise with the 104th Fighter Wing out of the air force base at Westfield, Mass., along with members of the Civil Air Patrol. But, he ventured to say, these exercises happen at altitudes too low to generate contrails, and anyway, they held an exercise on April 29, not April 25. So, it wasn’t them. I want to thank Jeff for being so accommodating and helpful with some subject matter that can get pretty far out there if we’re not careful – so thanks!


Jeff also added, when I told him my blog was partly about food, that Steve Carell has just opened a cafe at the airport terminal. Now if that’s the same Steve Carell of “The Daily Show” and “Despicable Me,” I’ll eat there anytime! I think it is the same Steve Carell – lucky us!Steve Carell



(Wikimedia Commons photo of Carell at opening of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.)


May 3 update: it’s NOT Steve Carell of comedy and movie fame after all, and apologies to him, but I like his work enough to leave his photo up. The owner of the new JetPort Cafe in the airport terminal building is Steve Carroll, and his wife Leling Carroll, and soon I’ll post their photos and a few other things about the Cafe. We stopped by there today and had a good long chat and got hungry just being there. Now, back to the story:


What’s Speculation:
  • The contrails are chemtrails – so called because they’re a mix of metal oxides – like aluminum oxide or barium oxide – and other stuff that vaporizes. But I don’t like the term so much – it’s freighted with conspiracy theory stuff, and I’ll leave that to others. I’ll call them instead effluvial spray
  • If so, this effluvial spray laden with metal oxides (aluminum, barium) is designed principally to reflect some sunlight away from the earth and thereby keep us just a little bit cooler
  • It’s being done secretly by our own government or by large greedy corporations who want to affect weather changes to their own advantage

I also communicated with Prof. James (Jim) Fleming, prof. of science, technology, and society at Colby College, and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. Dr. Fleming has written widely on weather, climate, and various attempts to manipulate them – with a very strong historical perspective. He does not subscribe to any conspiracy theories, but acknowledges that the science and technology do exist to affect our weather through these effluvial sprays. He wrote to me:

Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, suspicious of the U.S. government, are certain that the military is using this technique to seed the lower stratosphere with microscopic particles of aluminum and barium oxide emitted in jet aircraft exhaust. Some climate engineers point out that the Welsbach seeding might actually “work.” This depends on what you mean by making something “work” in more than a narrow technical sense.

I’m attaching here the bulk of his email to me, which has some fascinating stuff in it, including what Welsbach materials are (essentially, lightweight metal oxides like aluminum, barium, and thorium oxides). For the record, I did show Dr. Fleming the photo of the sky over the Gig Store, but beyond conventional contrails he had no specific thoughts about what was happening up there.

Dr. Fleming was interviewed for the documentary film, Why in the World Are They Spraying?, which definitely subscribes to conspiracy theory, but his role was that of a scientist and historian and not one who thinks this stuff is actually going on. Still, he added at the end of the film,

“I’m worried that one person or one group would try to have that much leverage over the whole planet.”

I need to add that it’s obvious the producers of the film invited Dr. Fleming because of his credentials, and edited him so tightly that his comments are not in context. He does not (and did not) subscribe to the show’s premise, and it’s clear his isolated remarks are positioned to bolster the film’s bias.

Thanks to him for his considerable help.


It’s been suggested I post radar images of the previous hour’s flight activity because their contrails can linger. But what we saw at 11:15 was pretty much gone a half hour later – just vague white wisps.

4/25 - 10:15 am

4/25 – 10:15 am

4/25- 10:30 am

4/25- 10:30 am


4/25 - 10:45 am

4/25 – 10:45 am

4/25 - 11:00 am

4/25 – 11:00 am


Most of the effluvial spray we saw was to the south of us, and a little east and west of south. Radar shows almost no one there. Okay, I’m starting to get a bit peeved about all this.



Over So. Thomaston, April 25…

DSC_9696Same place and time… again, except for the stuff on the horizon, all these are man-made.

Where does that leave us? Many scientists and academics won’t admit to believing these contrails are being produced to affect the climate, but there are many who do – at the risk of besmirching their reputations – including Dr. Coen Vermeeren of the Delft University of Technology, who recently presented a long report on the use of “chemtrails” (he doesn’t like that term) to change the world’s weather. Here’s a link, and part of a report about his work:

At an international symposium held in Ghent, Belgium May 28-30, 2010, scientists asserted that “manipulation of climate through modification of Cirrus clouds is neither a hoax nor a conspiracy theory.” It is “fully operational” with a solid sixty-year history. Though “hostile” environmental modification was banned by UN Convention in 1978, its “friendly” use today is being hailed as the new savior to climate change and to water and food shortages… In recent years there has been a decline in the support for weather modification research, and a tendency to move directly into operational projects.” ~World Meteorological Organization, 2007

"chemtrails," photo courtesy of's website

“chemtrails,” photo courtesy of’s website

What do I think? I don’t think it matters, because I’m only slightly peeved and completely resigned to taking it some more, as I noted at the top of this post. But there are zillions of people who are really p*ssed, scientists who hate taking soil samples after a “chemtrail” only to discover hugely increased levels of aluminum and barium, mothers of autistic children who claim the aluminum is to blame for the affliction, farmers who find their crops in a “chemtrail” area stunted and unthriving, and so on through a long list of folks who look up at the sky and actually see the elephant in the room.

Whatever it may be.


That’s it for now. Food coming next time! (Maybe Steve Carell’s Cafe!)

Fri. May 2 note: I find The Guardian to an excellent source for news, including articles on geoengineering. An Oct. 2011 blog post by John Vidal fingers the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a DC-based think-tank of mixed “hawks,” “neocons,” and “neo-liberals,” as leaders of the charge for direct intervention in geoengineering, which they like to call (*sigh*) “climate remediation.” On this panel are big names in geoengineering like Canadian environmental scientist David Keith and atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira, both of whom oversee Bill Gates’ geoengineering research budget. The project has huge support from a web of oil, banking, and energy tycoons in the U.S.

Dig into it a bit, it gets pretty scary.

5/6 update

This email came in last night from Julius Hibbert, an ADS-B operator (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) in Bangor, and corrects me – in a forbearing way – on some of my assumptions, so I post here in its entirety. I’ve had to remove his hyperlinks because of problems saving this post, but you can cut and paste them in. Thanks, Julius!

Hi Ned!  Saw your post on contrails over the gig.  Interesting, but I think a few more facts may be helpful.  Let me start by asking you this: you cite flightradar.24 as your source, but do you know where they get their data from?  It comes from a combination of the FAA, and from myself (as well as hundreds of others,) who run ADS-B receiving stations.  I operate one in Bangor, and feed ADS-B data to flightradar and other sites for flights that cover all of Maine.  As an experienced operator, I can tell you that your assertion of “these are not commercial or civilian flights” is completely wrong.  Certainly some are military.  But data is not complete.  You will only see two categories of planes: those for which FAA provides tracking data, and those for which ADS-B data is available.  FAA tracking data is not available for MANY private flights (think about John Travolta, for example,) due to operators requesting that their data be blocked.  Most private jet owners fall into this category (Google FAA private flight tracking data for more info.)  As for ADS-B, most planes do not have it yet, as the FAA has mandated that it is not required until Jan 1, 2020.  Consequently, and all other tracking flights only show a fraction of the true civilian traffic at any given time.  You’d be amazed how how many civilian flights are up there constantly.

As to your statement that “”the layering and crosshatching of the contrails suggest an organized, coordinated exercise,” reflects another common misconception about air travel.  Airlines are not free to roam as they please, and, rather, follow strict “roads” in the sky defined by the FAA.  Consequently, a dozen planes may follow the exact same path in the space of 60 minutes, and as the high altitude winds carry the contrail of the previous plane off the track, the next plane leaves a new contrail.  You can easily see how “stripes” would form from normal commercial traffic.  Check out the route maps at for example, and see that J573 on the Enroute H11 (one of many layers of routes) passes over the midcoast area.

Oh, and the “chemtrails” picture from the site?  More bunk.  Patterns like that are common results of plain old condensation contrails from both civilian and military test flights.  Remember when Boeing launched their new 787 a couple years back?  They spend thousands of hours flying crazy patterns to test myriad systems.  Take a look at this flight track, for example:

Then there’s this one, where they actually drew the Boeing logo over half the country: .

To summarize, a little more fact finding would go a long way to dispel internet hokum.  Thanks for your posts, and they were good pictures.  The sky is an amazing place!

Thanks. There it is, for now…


Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.