In my articles on the Fermi Paradox, I’ve referred to my joint work with my colleague Alan Evans, who sadly is no longer with us after succumbing to pneumonia in December 2021. In the next few articles I’ll be describing my work with him in more detail, so it seems only fair to put the facts about him on record.
Alan Charles Evans was born along with his twin sister in Devonport on 5th February 1941. The same year, the house was struck in a bombing raid, and the twins had to be rescued with their mother by a naval party, crossing an unexploded bomb by means of a plank to reach safety. Many years later, Alan was found to have a piece of metal embedded in his head, which may have been shrapnel from that incident. The family later lived in Sevenoaks, then in Preston in the early 60s, from where Alan went to work in Birmingham.
One early influence was the family account of his uncle Robert, who died in the Royal Flying Corps in World War One, at the age of 18. In 1964 Alan entered the Army as an officer cadet, living in Ashford, Kent, while rising to the rank of Captain in the Intelligence Corps, and finally leaving the Army for health reasons after two years on a liaison assignment at Canberra in Australia, in the mid-1970s. He then worked in commercial security and later as a bookkeeper, settling in Chislehurst, where he lived until his death.
Capt. A.C. Evans (as he then was) first contacted me in late 1974 or early 1975, after publication of my book Man and the Stars in May 1974. The second half of the book was on the possibility of direct contact with extraterrestrial civilisations, and he liked the analytical approach which I had taken to the work of Erich von Däniken and others of that ilk. As a serving officer in military intelligence, he had suggestions about the search for Past Contact which he felt would be worth pursuing. He was at pains to emphasise that his interest was purely personal, and must remain strictly confidential. Nevertheless, he did attend one of von Däniken’s ‘Ancient Astronaut Congress’ events in Munich, as a private citizen, and told anyone who asked that he was “in import/export”, which was James Bond’s standard cover.
Not long before, I was contacted by Jamie Bentley, an investigative journalist in Australia, with different but related suggestions, and over the next seven years the three of us developed a methodology, with three particular areas of application: anomalous astronomical alignments at Stonehenge, similar ones in ancient Egypt, and a third area which we have still to publish. By 1982 we felt we had a convincing if circumstantial case to show that the Earth had been visited, at least once, though publication was delayed for a variety of reasons.
Alan’s interest in archaeology, and particularly astroarchaeology, was inspired by helicopter training over Salisbury Plain, and he had access to high-resolution stereo aerial views (classified at the time, but now generally available), on which he had found markings at Stonehenge which weren’t on the official plans, and seemed to him to indicate galactic alignments, which could only be determined by radioastronomy. He asked me to verify them and when I first checked out the ideas, there seemed to be nothing to them. But in 1977 the late Prof. Archie Roy drew our attention to the recent revision of the radiocarbon dating scale, which made the original structure of Stonehenge 1000 years older than previously thought. When I reran the calculations on that basis, Alan was exactly right. Interstellar travellers could be expected to use galactic coordinates for navigation, and Ecliptic coordinates for approaches to the Earth, and he had found evidence for the use of both as well as interaction between them, built into the framework of ‘station stones’ which are some of the earliest at the site.
Alan had an extraordinary intuitive grasp of spatial relationships, and could just look at a plan of an ancient site, or the relative placing of two or more on the globe, and tell what the significance was. He didn’t have the terminology to explain his Ecliptic discoveries, and I had to visit him in London for him to show me on ‘The Globe’, which was his inseparable companion in the research. In a sentence, he had discovered that two of the ‘Station Stones’ at Stonehenge 1 were offset from the near-parallel lunar alignment of the other two, just enough to mark the Ecliptic Meridian through Stonehenge, tangential to the Arctic and Antarctic circles, and meeting the prime meridian of the first and last of the great pyramids (where we had already found the same galactic alignments as at Stonehenge 1), on the terrestrial equator. Among other remarkable consequences, the Vernal Equinox is always on the prime meridian at Giza when the midsummer Sun rises at Stonehenge. It’s a permanent relationship, unlike the galactic ones, unaffected by Precession of the Equinoxes and only slightly changed even by the 40,000-year variation in the obliquity of the Ecliptic. If it’s coincidental, it’s not just a coincidence, but coincidence multiplied by coincidence by coincidence until the odds against it’s being due to chance become, literally, astronomical. Again, the finding related significantly to interstellar navigation and the subsequent choice of landing sites.
It took me 18½ pages of spherical trigonometry to verify that. My calculations were checked by Paul Benson of Rolls-Royce, joint curator of the Public Observatory in Airdrie, and then I confirmed them optically, first at the planetarium of the Jewel and Esk College in Musselburgh, with the late Dave Gavine as a witness, then at Armagh Planetarium with the late John Braithwaite as a witness, yet again at the planetarium of Glasgow Nautical College in 1995, and finally in a public lecture at the Glasgow Science Centre Planetarium in 2004. Alan meantime had it confirmed by Peter Tyler, of the Positional Services Dept. of GECO-PRAKLA, Oslo, a leading international seismic survey company. The 1995 showing was to Robert Bauval, author of The Orion Mystery, who supplied some very important additional information.
I included parts of the theory in a guest chapter for Chris Boyce’s book Extraterrestrial Encounter, in 1978, and more in a paper for Second Look the following year. I wrote up part of our findings as a paper for an international competition sponsored by New Scientist and Cutty Sark Whisky in October 1979, ‘Looking for a Landing Site’, which won Honourable Mention, but was published only online. I included those in a talk on ‘The Fermi Paradox’ to the IBM Heathrow Conference in 1987, which was published as a paper in Speculations in Science and Technology the following year, updated for the amateur journal Asgard in November 2002, and has now been serialised in Orkney News.
Alan and I described our historical findings in a conference on ‘Heresies in Archaeoastronomy’, which I organised for the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April 1995. He wrote a paper for it, ‘The Three Dimensional Grid’, but never published it as far as I know. (Jamie and I preferred to call it the Four-Dimensional Grid, because even from the outset it spanned 2950 to 2500 BC, and later from 10,500 BC to 1178 AD.) At that event Robert Bauval commissioned us to provide an appendix on our work for a coming book of his, but although he accepted and paid for it, he was unable to complete the book due to illness, and the published version did not include the Appendix. I revised the piece as an article for Analog, ‘Epsilon Boötis Revisited’, which was published in 1998.
I included a possible tie-in with the asteroid 1991 VG, which Dr. Duncan Steel suggested might have been an extraterrestrial spacecraft. Both Jamie and I had corresponded with him about it, and I think Alan contacted him as well. It was due to pass the Earth again in 2018, and I suggested sending a probe to investigate it. Coincidentally or not, NASA decided to do just that and the light-sail craft would have been launched from lunar orbit on the first test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System. Unfortunately the launch was repeatedly postponed and plans for a launch in May 2022 have gone by the board after failed prelaunch tests in April, so the 1991 VG opportunity has been lost – 1991VG won’t back till the late 2030s. Orbital data from the 2018 encounter seems to rule out the possible connection with our work, but that assumes no course changes on the asteroid’s part since 1975 – not necessarily a valid assumption, if by any chance it really is an extraterrestrial probe.
Meanwhile I had been working since 1993 on the mediaeval mystery of the Green Children of Woolpit, about which Alan was highly sceptical. Immediately after mailing the Boötis proofs for publication, however, a possible tie-in with the Children enquiry occurred to me. By that time Alan was working with astronomical programmes on his computer, rather than The Globe, so he was able to come back to me on it within 24 hours. To put that finding in a sentence, again, it turned out that the same galactic alignments, which we’d found at Stonehenge and Giza, were also found in 12th century Jerusalem, one of the key sites in the Green Children story. It meant that those two enquiries, and a third still more different, were all aspects of the same overall story – a very significant result, in my view. I published it in my book Children from the Sky (Mutus Liber, 2012), and the Stonehenge part in The Stones and the Stars (Springer, 2012), and have given numerous interviews about it since, but otherwise there has been little reaction.
Over the years, our lives interacted in many significant ways. We first met while Alan was in the Army, and in 1976 we went with others on an exploratory trip to Stonehenge. Subsequently while he was in Australia he gleaned some very interesting info about the military intelligence ‘take’ on UFOs, which he passed on to me and I have used in lectures since, to the annoyance of UFO believers. My renewed interest in ancient astronomy prompted Prof. Archie Roy to recommend me for the Manager’s post on the Glasgow Parks Dept. Astronomy Project, 1978-79, on which I designed the first astronomically aligned stone circle for at least 3000 years, in Sighthill Park in Glasgow. We also did a lot of work in schools, and Alan came up to visit us in October 1978, when we had the science writer Ian Ridpath as guest speaker for Scottish Book Week. I was also Secretary of the Irvine Junior Chamber of Commerce at the time, and I asked Alan and Ian to judge an inter-Chambers debate, along with John Braithwaite, former Debates Convener of Strathclyde University, Technical Supervisor of the Glasgow Parks Dept., and later the last telescope maker in Scotland. The same year, Alan and I went together to the British Easter Science Fiction Convention, which that year was at the Heathrow Hotel. Alan had no interest in SF, and kept trying to stop me citing SF references in my work, but I think he enjoyed the social side of the Convention. That Eastercon was an important event for me, because I met the future editor of my next two nonfiction books there, and also formed a working link with the artist Sydney Jordan, which continues to this day.
I tried to have Alan meet Jamie Bentley, when he was in London in 1985, but they missed each other. I was a regular attendee at the IBM Heathrow Conferences, 1982-1990, which I was the only amateur scientist to address, in 1987; I managed to get Alan on to the guest list, but due to other commitments he was able to attend only once or twice (when Ian Ridpath kindly put us up). John Braithwaite and Alan met again at the ‘Heresies’ conference in 1996, where John stood in for the late Matt Ewart, who had called off due to illness. Another participant was Chris O’Kane of the UK Mars Project, who more recently presented a paper on behalf of Alan and myself at the 2018 London Conference of RILKO, the society for Research into Lost Knowledge, which neither of us was able to attend.
Alan also attended the April 2000 launch of the UK Space Development Council, founded by the late Andy Nimmo as an umbrella organisation to link the various UK special interest spaceflight societies. He was far from impressed, and urged me to drop my ‘messianistic’ general support for space activities and focus on Past Contact, which was the only one which he considered important. Ironically, one prominent member of the UKSDC was Jay Tate of Spaceguard UK, who pressed me to drop all the rest and concentrate on saving the Earth from impacts, on which I did subsequently chair a discussion group and write a book (Incoming Asteroid! What could we do about it?, Springer, 2013), but I’ve never given up my general interest in spaceflight.
Jamie, Alan and I have been seriously disappointed in the lack of interest in our own work all these years, but have never given up on it. Last year I was in correspondence with Prof. Avi Loeb of Harvard, initially about my suggestions regarding the interstellar object ’Oumuamua. One of the possible interpretations of the ’Oumuamua observations would tie in with one of mine for the Stonehenge galactic alignments, though others are possible, all backing his idea that it’s artificial. I urged him to add Past Contact to his proposed ‘Project Galileo’, but I didn’t get a reply to that. Nevertheless, I’ve been updating my previous papers for possible publication by the British Interplanetary Society, discussing it initially with David Baker, then editor of Spaceflight, and also with Alan, last year, after which I renewed my BIS Fellowship following many years away. I’ve been working first on a new version of the Fermi Paradox paper, and shall submit it to the BIS Journal in due course.
I met Alan twice during his first marriage, and have never forgotten how on my first visit to his home, he stressed, “Duncan, you are in a friend’s house”. I think the phrase may have had some particular significance in his Army background. In his second marriage I made a point of visiting Chislehurst whenever I was in London, which happened quite often in those days, and always had a very warm welcome. In the last two years or so I noticed that he wasn’t replying to emails, though he told me he’d received them when I telephoned him. In my last call I noticed that he wasn’t quite his usual self, but he was still keeping up with recent research on Stonehenge and other megaliths, and urging me to do the same. Seemingly he had been troubled by the onset of Alzheimer’s since 2017, accentuated by the tragic loss of his daughter Gemma in 2021. He is survived by his remaining children, Anthony, Nina and Giles, and by two grandchildren. But if my approach to the British Interplanetary Society does get results, it’s sad that Alan will no longer be there to share them.