Sean Casteel
UFO Journalist

Sean Casteel earned a BA in Journalism
from the University of Oklahoma
in 1985. He has written about UFOs
and related phenomena for ten years.

The Tagish Lake Photo

Click on photos for full size

The mystery surrounding a photograph taken during a UFO sighting more than 20 years ago may be moving a few steps closer to its solution thanks to the help of Canadian UFO researcher Martin Jasek.

Jasek was appearing on a local radio talk show in 1998 when a caller informed him of the existence of a photo taken near Tagish Lake in the Yukon region, which is directly north of British Columbia. After following up on the lead, Jasek learned the story of what happened that day in the early 70s, which began during a leisurely vacation trip taken by two couples.

The Story Begins

"The two men, along with their wives, were retired at the time," Jasek began. "George was in his early 50s, and Jim, the man who took the photo, was in his mid-60s. We have recently located the daughter of Jim, who is now deceased, and have received her permission to use his name publicly. His name was Jim Conacher, and he had just retired from being the Chief Grain Inspector of Canada."

As part of his job duties as Chief Grain Inspector, Conacher had made several trips to the Soviet Union and China in the attempt to persuade those countries to buy Canadian grain.

"I think this goes a long way to establish his credibility," Jasek said. "We also learned from his daughter that Jim tried really hard to find an explanation of what he saw and photographed, but was unable to find a satisfactory one from anybody."

The two couples were doing some recreational boating, in two separate boats, on Tagish Lake, a large glacial lake about 60 miles south of Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory's capitol. They were traveling southbound on the lake at about 10 AM, on a windy day and through rough waters.

"Because Jim had a smaller boat and wanted to stay out of the roughest water," Jasek said, "he was traveling close to the shoreline, while George and his wife could afford to travel out in the middle of the lake and were about three to five miles back."

Conacher's decision to hug the shoreline turned out to be a crucial one.
"While traveling along the edge of the lake," Jasek continued, "Jim and his wife saw seven strange glowing orbs as shown in the photograph. There were four closer objects near the water and three more further up the mountainside. Jim estimated that they were three to four feet in diameter. They moved along slowly for the estimated fifteen minutes that they watched them as he and his wife traveled down the lake. The four closer objects eventually made their up the mountain to join the other objects."

A Reason To Believe

Sometime during that fifteen minutes, Jim Conacher snapped the photo. Meanwhile, their companions never saw the UFOs themselves.

"George was too far back to notice the objects, and didn't even have sight of Jim's boat," Jasek explained. "His concentration was devoted to the rough water. Jim and his wife never mentioned anything to George until the film was developed about a week later. We can speculate that this may have been because of the fear of ridicule or disbelief. That is until Jim had the slide in hand."

George told Jasek that, to his knowledge, this was the only photo of the objects that Conacher took. Conacher had used slide film, and gave a couple of duplicates of the photo to George. George later submitted one of the copies to the weather office, who sent it on to the Department of National Defence in Ottawa. When George checked back with the weather service about a year later, curious to learn what the department's analysis had turned up, he was told that the information was classified.

The Photo Itself

"The photo shows seven glowing orb-like UFOs against a backdrop of a mountain," Jasek said, "with the water of Lake Tagish in the foreground. The largest UFO, and the one closest to the water, appears to be the closest to the camera, at about 1000 feet or 300 meters at the most. It appears solitary.

"Then there is a group of three UFOs possibly further away and just over the tree tops," he continued. "One of these, the one furthest to the right, is surrounded by three smaller, bluish lights. Then there are three more far up on the mountainside. These appear more of an amber color rather than the greenish-yellow of the four near the water.

"The difference is that the sun is shining on the mountain and not on the four closer UFOs," he explained. "This may be the reason for the color difference and suggests that there may be some ‘solidity' to these objects if they're reflecting the sun's light."

There are technical factors, however, that detract somewhat from the photo's complete accuracy. "Firstly, although the slide we have is a duplicate," Jasek said, "it's amazing to see it first hand. But a lot is lost when one views a print of the slide or a scanned version on a computer monitor. The four UFOs near the water appear amazingly bright. Some of the green tinge to them is also lost in the reproductions, where they appear mostly yellow."

Tracking Down the Original Photo

So the search continues for the original slide in hopes of seeing the photo in its purest form. "We were lucky enough to locate Jim's daughter," Jasek said, "and although she didn't have the original slide, she was able to give us some names of relatives who may have it. We are currently in the process of locating them."

Much can be learned if the original photo is located.
"A great deal of data is lost when a slide is copied," he said. "You lose some resolution, but more importantly, you lose quite a bit of contrast as well as some color information. We would like to see if we could determine if the spheres of light had a well-defined edge or were diffused. Also, we would like to determine if Jim took other photographs of the UFOs. Photographs of the four spheres as they moved up the mountainside would go a long way in demonstrating that these things may have been under intelligent control. They would also help determine the size and other things."

The Field Trip That Sent "Chills"

Jasek said there is a question that is repeated often when the photo is discussed. "We are often asked," he said, "why would Jim only take one single photograph if the objects were visible for fifteen minutes. I offer the following explanation: In September 1998, I took a field trip to the area, when one possible explanation for the ‘one-photo-theory' came to mind. As I was holding up the UFO photo in front of me, looking at the scene and simultaneously trying to steer the outboard motor to get in Jim's position, one thing became quickly apparent.

"When I imagined what the real scene must have looked like," he continued, "it almost sent chills down my spine. Although UFO number one looks like only a dot in the photograph, it would have looked damn close in real life! If Jim wanted to at the time, he could have driven the boat towards the UFO and been underneath it in less than 30 seconds and could have taken more photographs at very close range.

"But surrounded by ice cold water," he said, "it wouldn't surprise me if he had chosen to do just the opposite—that is, take one quick photo and continue to drive down the lake while keeping a fearful and very watchful eye on the objects. The water was rough and conditions were less than ideal."

So slowly but surely, Jasek chips away at the daunting task of understanding Jim Conacher's mysterious photo. This is often how progress is made in the field of ufology, by patient investigation and scrupulous attention to detail. And if the UFO phenomenon ever yields up its secrets to those who seek them, a simple vacation snapshot may turn out to have been another significant piece of the infinitely complex puzzle.

The web site address for UFO*BC [British Columbia] is The Yukon Territory subsite is at: The enlargements and some analysis of the Tagish Lake photos can be found there. Also, visit Sean Casteel's "UFO Journalist" web site at:

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