Rockefeller seeks crop circle answers

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The Independent Online
ONE OF America's richest men is funding a former Hampshire local government officer to investigate crop circles. Laurance Rockefeller, a business- man and philanthropist member of the fabled political dynasty, is backing research by Colin Andrews into the mysterious shapes that sometimes appear in cornfields.

The 89-year-old brother of the late Nelson Rockefeller, vice-president of the US under Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1976, is known for his interest in unexplained phenomena. Last year he funded an investigation by nine prominent scientists into UFO evidence. (They concluded there was Something Out There.)

Mr Andrews, who started studying the shapes in the wheat fields of Wessex as an amateur 10 years ago, has become a successful author and full-time researcher, making his home in Connecticut.

"Mr Rockefeller asked me if I would like to submit some research projects to him which he might be able to help finance," said the former borough council engineer for Test Valley yesterday. "With his help we engaged staff in my Connecticut offices and we have flown regular observation flights over Wiltshire and Hampshire.

"The office is now equipped with seven computers and staff are working on crop circles data from around the world. Global positioning technology has helped us via satellites to locate each formation and to be able to return after harvest to carry out measurements."

Mr Andrews declined to reveal the extent of Rockefeller generosity but said it was "significant". Fraser Seitel, Mr Rockefeller's spokesman in New York, said: "Mr Rockefeller has given a modest amount to Mr Andrews for research into these phenomena. He is an eclectic man who is interested in many things, especially matters spiritual and philosophical. He is not necessarily a believer, but he is interested to see if we can shed light on some of these things we don't have answers to."

The puzzling patterns in the crops have spawned a host of theories embracing everything from alien spacecraft to freak wind conditions.

Mr Andrews, who now has a database of 10,000 crop circles all over the world, admits he is largely a sceptic.

"Many crop circles - perhaps 80 per cent - are hoaxes," he said. "But there is that remainder of perhaps 20 per cent that remain inexplicable, such as complex patterns that appear in a field in a short time, when a farmer had seen the field was empty. I don't think they're the skidmarks of UFOs. Our research is to discover what they are."

He plans more observation flights over Hampshire and Wiltshire this year.