From ‘Human Planet’ Photos, to the Altai Mountains, to that 1927 Koko Nor’s UFO Sighting,…

Rainy day blogpost-writing-infotainment…

Saw this link on “Human Planet – Photographer Visits 40 Countries – Vid“.  It aired on BBC One in March.  Definitely worth watching: (Click Image to watch):

Photos (this one above, of hunters in the Altai Mountains) by © Timothy Allen. Click Image to watch his narrated slideshow for exceptional images from all over.  Source: BBC  –

I’m going to run with this… Well, this image above, set in the Altai mountain range in East-Central Asia made me think of the paintings of Nicholas Roerich (Nikolai Rerikh), who traveled through the region in the 1920’s.   (This Russian painter,  philosopher, and peace-maker lived 1874–1947;  See for more info.  Interesting life!)   This particular painting came to mind:

Nicholas Roerich. The Greatest and Holiest of Tangla.
1932. Tempera on canvas. 61,5 x 97.
I’ve seen it in the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York, USA.

I actually don’t know (yet) for sure if  Tangla is even in or near the Altai Mountains, but for some reason I think it is.   And I also want to find out if this unidentified flying object (UFO), which Roerich mentioned in his travel logs (see quotes below), may have come from that general area.  So I went searching for more…

Belukha Mountain , located in the Katun Mountains, is the highest peak of the Altai Mountains. – Image Source: Postcard on

First, an attempt to Google my way to a map that would show both, only got me as far as Konstantin Ustinov’s “Signs of Light”, which on first impression is about subtle realities in the Altai Region.  It mentions ‘Belukha‘, for instance, Altai’s highest mountain, and “The great valley of Tangla” is referred to with similar awe, just one sentence apart.  I take that as a hint that the Tangla Valley springs from the Altai… (also spelled Altay).  To quote:  [my emphasis]:

“… [Deodars of Light. 251. ] … Orion constellation and ruby column of Light is above Belukha.     Mountain hermitage. 1.  Every heart kindled soars in thought to great valley of Tangla, to sacred Mountain Hermitage.  Awe seizes aspirant at mentioning of earthy heaven.  Fiery arrows of Supermundane World heat mind with imagination. But one having been to there at least in dream only once is delirious with vision of wonderful place. Not mere beings but God-men inhabit Sanctuary of earthy world. Let us brothers turn to Mystery of Mysteries, Holy of Holies so that we at least touch fiery purity of Shambala name. …” (Source:

My first question was, “Who is Konstantin Ustinov?“, which side-tracked me to read about Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko, who lead the Soviet Union in the 13 months before Mikhael Gorbachev’s era.   But that’s someone entirely different…  The one I was curious about actually laid it out (in badly translated Russian) who he is (Vladimir Pavlushin (Konstantin Ustinov)), here:  I only read an excerpt…  

To return to the above photo, the mountains in the painting above are also shown in other versions, such as the painting ‘Song of Shambhala’.  Too bad it doesn’t come with audio…

Song of Shambhala, by Nicholas Roerich, 1943.  State Museum of Oriental Arts, Moscow, Russia (temporarily)

Then my monkey mind swung to a faint memory of a passage from one of Roerich’s books…  Not the book “Altai-Himalaya’, but the ‘Shambhala – In Search of the New Era’ (from 1930!).  I read it a long time ago after I learned about it while living/working at Shambhala Mountain Center, not too far from here in Northern Colorado.  There I learned much about the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoché, who also wrote and taught extensively on the topic of Shambhala’s sacred warriorship, etc.   See also his books).  

On the Nicholas Roerich Museum‘s website, a small but truly wonderful treasure of a museum in Manhattan (, you can also find some of his writings, including this one mentioning the long-famous UFO sighting! :

INSERT: Another continent, a little closer to home.  Roerich’s quoted words (to the right)  makes me think of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado… That general area has also been a hotbed of UFO sightings for a long time. (Click image for some examples from the Crestone Eagle, April 1993)

“…     Moving sands. Like miserly guardians they defend the treasures which sometimes appear on the surface.  Nobody shall dare to take them because they are guarded by hidden forces and can be given out only at a predestined time.  From the earth are spreading some poisonous essences.  Do not lean over the ground, do not try to raise from the ground that which does not belong to you. Otherwise you will fall dead, as falls the robber. 
     An experienced rider sends a dog before him, because the dog will first feel the influences of these earthly essences. Even an animal will not dare to enter the forbidden zone.  No bonfires will attract you in these hidden places.  Only some vultures will fly high over the mysterious land.  Are they not also guardians?  And to whom belong the bones, which glimmer so whitely on the sands? Who was this intruder, who dishonored the predestined dates?   A huge black vulture rushes over the camp. 

INSERT:  One of the versions of “Command of Rigden Djapo” (1926–27) (The colorful red version used for the above book’s cover hangs in New York) This one, Tempera on canvas. 61 x 120 cm. is in a private collection in Moscow.
On –> Paintings –> Chronological –> 1926-1930

    But what is this high above in the air?  A shiny body flying from north to south.  Field glasses are at hand.  It is a huge body.  One side glows in the sun.  It is oval in shape.  Then it somehow turns in another direction and disappears in the southwest, behind Ulandavan, the red pass in the Humboldt chain.  The whole caravan excitedly discusses this apparition.  An air balloon?  An Ebolite? An unknown apparatus? Not a vision, because through several field glasses you cannot see visions. And then the lama whispers: “A good sign. A very good sign. We are protected.  Rigden-jyepo himself is looking after us!”  In the desert you can see wonderful things and you can smell fragrant perfumes. But they who live in the desert are never astonished. 

     Again around the bonfire ten fingers are raised and a story, convincing in its simplicity and reality, will uplift the human heart.  …”  

– Nicholas Roerich, August 1927  –  Read the whole: go to, pick “Writings”, pick “Shambhala” in the menu, do a search (Edit–> Find) for “oval” (only used once), and -tada!- you’re in the quoted paragraph.].

A bit searching on that turned out that he mentioned the same UFO in his books ‘Altai-Himalaya’, as well as in ‘Heart of Asia’.  The quotes are similar, but not identical:

In Altai-Himalaya Book (Downloadable here: On August fifth—something remarkable! We were in our camp in the Kukunor district not far from the Humboldt Chain.  In the morning about half-past nine some of our caravaneers noticed a remarkably big black eagle flying above us. Seven of us began to watch this unusual bird. At this same moment another of our caravaneers remarked, “There is something far above the bird.”  And he shouted in his astonishment. We all saw, in a direction from north to south, something big and shiny reflecting the sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp this thing changed in its direction from south to southwest. And we saw how it disappeared in the intense blue sky. We even had time to take our field glasses and saw quite distinctly an oval form with shiny surface, one side of which was brilliant from the sun.

And in ‘Heart of Asia‘ (Source: ), he wrapped the observation in the mystique surrounding the mythical kingdom of Shambhala, about which he gathered information during his travels…:

“Not far from here, when the Dalai Lama went from Tibet to Mongolia, all people and all animals of the caravan began to tremble. And the Dalai Lama explained that they should not be afraid, because they had touched the forbidden zone of Shambhala and the aerial vibrations are unfamiliar to them.           

INSERT:  The eight stupas in front of Kumbum, representing major events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. [Photo by Lola Boatwright] Source:

From the Kumbum monastery, a high lama came to visit us, with his ornamented tent and colorful attendants. He gave us the sign of Shambhala and told us that some Chinese asked the Tashi Lama recently to give them passports to Shambhala. Only the Tashi Lama can do this. And just now the Tashi Lama in China has published a new prayer, addressed to Shambhala. Now everything can be reached only through Shambhala.

Again barren rocks, the desert. . . .

We look at one another amazed, for we all sense simultaneously a strong perfume, as of the best incenses of India. From where does it come, for we are surrounded by barren rocks? the lama whispers:

“Do you feel the fragrance of Shambhala?”

A sunny, unclouded morning—the blue sky is brilliant. Over our camp flies a huge, dark vulture. Our Mongols and we watch it. Suddenly one of the Buriat lamas points into the blue sky:

“What is that? A white balloon? An airplane?”

We notice something shiny, flying very high, from the northeast to the south. We bring three powerful field glasses from the tents and watch the huge spheroid body shining against the sun, clearly visible against the blue sky and moving very fast. Afterwards we see that it sharply changes its direction from south to southwest and disappears behind the snow-peaked Humboldt chain. The whole camp follows the unusual apparition and the lamas whisper:

“The Sign of Shambhala!”

On the gray background of the hilly desert something white is shining. What can it be? Is it a huge tent? Is it snow? But there can be no snow now in the desert. Besides, this white spot is too big for a tent. And why is it so distinct from its surroundings? We approach. Coming nearer, it appears larger than we expected. It is a huge pyramid formed by the drippings of a large geyser of glauber salt—a real fortune for the druggist. An icy cold salt spring flows underneath this huge white mass. A lama whispers:

“This is the sign of the third frontier of Shambhala!”


But after all, do not try to convince people. Real knowledge will only enter open doors. If prejudice exists, it must be outgrown through inner development.  …

–> So, now I will try to find on maps:  the Altai Mountains, the Humboldt Chain (and its ‘red pass?’), in the Kokunor District, not far from Kumbum monastery.  

‘Koko Nor’ is what I’m calling it. (Image: Wikipedia; from space, 1994)

Many names have changed, usually to Chinese.  ‘Koko Nur’, ‘Koko Nor’ or ‘Kukunor’, a saline lake situated in Amdo, the most northeastern region of the Tibetan Plateau, is now ‘Qinghai Lake’, in the Chinese province of Qinghai.  Both the Mongolian and the Chinese name for the place mean “Blue/Teal Sea/Lake”.

I like the older maps best.  Less industrialized overlay of what’s more interesting to me.    This map of the Gobi Desert, for instance, shows both Altai Mountains (from the upper left of the map going diagonal towards the south-east), and Koko Nor (at bottom of map at 100 degrees longitude).  Some of the old traveling routes from Amdo, Tibet to Mongolia are shown too:

Kumbum Monastery (in Chinese: Ta’er Si) is of the Gelukpa-sect (Tibetan Buddhist), which was built in 1560 in Huangzhong County and also one of the six grand monasteries in Tibet.  The French lady explorer Alexandra David Néél, who explored Tibet in the 1930s when it was still forbidden to foreigners, did translation work there for two years.  Kumbum / Taer… must remember that one.  And Longtchengpa was born there.  Anyhow, looked at enough maps to just pick one and add a couple words to it.  The UFO might have flown like that.  Where exactly the Humboldt Chain is, I don’t know, but if it’s in the south / southwest of the Kokunor District, it’s probably the eastern end of the Kunlun Range, I’d guess.   So, no obvious hint of Altai in its fly-path.  More likely from the Gobi Desert or so.  Who knows…

Hm… It’s still raining…   But that was fun.  ;-)

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3 Responses to From ‘Human Planet’ Photos, to the Altai Mountains, to that 1927 Koko Nor’s UFO Sighting,…

  1. Pingback: A Selection of Nicholas Roerich Paintings + a Video | Not All Alleged Is Apparent…

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