Sunday, March 30, 2008

from The Quarterly Review, 1834

(page 385, Burnes's Travels into Bokhara)

We cannot in the least account for the appearance of the following phenomenon, but as Mr. Burnes saw it himself, we have nothing further to do but to give it in his own words.

"Before crossing the Indus, we observed a singular phenomenon at the fork of the Indus and Cabool river, where an ignis fatuus shows itself every evening. Two, three, and even four bright lights are visible at a time, and continue to shine throughout the night, ranging within a few yards of each other. The natives could not account for them, and their continuance during the rainy season is the most inexplicable part of the phenomenon, in their estimation."

from Force and Nature. Attraction and Repulsion, 1869

(page 460)

So remarkable a phenomenon of this class was witnessed by myself in South America, in May 1865, that I am induced to give it permanent record in this connexion, inasmuch as so important a fact is not only a contribution to knowledge, but may also excite more active inquiry into the nature and causes of such spectral lights.

At the time mentioned, I was engaged in a geological reconnaissance along the coast region of the province of Piura, Peru, accompanied by two American companions, and an Indian attendant. We halted one day at dark, about half way between the river Piura, or town of Sachura, and Point Aguja, within sound of the waves of Sachura Bay. The leaden sky and damp bleak wind common to that locality between sunset and sunrise were chilling us long before we made our beds on the drifting sand of that Sahara-like region.

Sleeping little, I observed for much of the night that the cloudy sky only broke sufficiently to permit occasional glimpses of the stars. Toward morning it was more densely overcast, and bleaker than ever. Tired of discomfort, I summoned my companions before daylight in order to get breakfast and prepare for an early start. We had barely risen, when one of them, an old resident of Paita, exclaimed, "Why, doctor, there is the British mail steamer bound south." I looked westward, over the Bay of Sachura; and there, sure enough, apparently a long way off, were two bright orange-coloured lights, each with a conspicuous train, and one just ahead of the other, resembling the flames or light from two smoke-stacks.

But, as I regarded them intently, I was struck with the rapidity and inequality of their motion, which seemed to increase and waver from moment to moment. They appeared, indeed, to be chasing each other. They were moving horizontally at almost the same level, only a few feet from the surface of the land or water, and with greater rapidity than it was possible for any steamer to move.

At first, supposing them far off at sea, I was surprised at the quickness of their motion and transient variations of relative distance; and soon became convinced that they issued from no steamship's funnels, but were luminous objects of some sort, one following or chasing the other, not many thousand yards, perhaps feet, away. I called the attention of my companions to these points; and they came to similar conclusions.

What were these lights? Our curiosity became intensely excited. They would vanish for a moment as the low dunes toward the bay intervened, and appear again moving swiftly southward, sometimes almost coming together, then separating, and never more than ten or fifteen feet apart, and each showing bright yellow luminous trains two or three feet long; both objects strongly brilliant, but not defined with clear outlines. In a word, they resembled large flaming torches without smoke in hot pursuit one after the other, just above the surface of the earth and sea. They were visible many minutes, and suddenly vanished, while yet in full blast, behind what I supposed to be a range of hillocks on the edge of the bay.

Of course I was on the qui vivo for the same or similar phenomena to reappear. We observed in all directions. Some minutes elapsed, when one of my companions detected and followed for a while a small bright light in the south-west. He traced it; but I failed to descry it, to his great surprise. I patiently watched, while my companions busied themselves in preparing for the journey. The grey of dawn was beginning to steal into the eastern night, and I beginning to despair, when to my great delight another luminous object appeared, approaching from the south-west and sailing toward the north, higher in the air than those before described ; and almost immediately there appeared another slowly following, but not violently chasing the first, as in the former phenomenon. These strange objects swept along at different heights, without trains, appearing like large irregularly-shaped bladders of light, sometimes near each other, then far apart, rising and falling as if moved by currents of air, or more like slowly sailing birds, and changing their motions in all directions. In aspect they were at first yellow and bright ; afterwards, as daylight advanced, growing paler and blueish white, like the fumes of phosphorus seen in the dark. They were more defined in form than the first, less intensely brilliant, yet apparently shapeless, and varying from six to fifteen inches in their various diameters. They were strange "spectral" lights without definite forms or proportions; at moments almost lost to sight, then reappearing again more brightly, and apparently having some relative connexion with each other, like that of gregarious birds. They were a long time visible, and finally were lost in the daylight. They appeared to float over both the shores and waters of the bay.

What were they ? I know not. The recollection of them is a marvel to me to this day.

from French Canada and the St. Lawrence, 1913

(page 307, Traditions, Folk-Lore and Ballads)

He was on his way home at a late hour when, suddenly, "it seemed to him as if the Isle d'Orléans was on fire. He stared with all his might and saw at last that the flames were dancing up and down the shore as if all the will-o'-the-wisps, all the damned souls of Canada, were gathered there to hold the witches' sabbath. Then he saw a curious sight; you would have said they were a kind of men, a queer breed altogether. They had a head big as a peck measure topped off with a pointed cap a yard long; then they had arms, legs, feet and hands armed with long claws, but no body to speak of."

From The Observatory, 1883

(page 12)

These Sun-spots have been attended with the most striking displays of aurora, the last one being rendered still more interesting by the unusual phenomenon of a rapidly drifting torpedo-shaped cloud of phosphorescent light which passed across the heavens from east to west in about two minutes.

from French Canada and the St. Lawrence, 1913

(page 306)

Who has not heard of the phantom light
That over the moaning waves at night
Dances and drifts in endless play?
Close to the shore, then far away,
Fierce as the flame in sunset skies,
Cold as the winter light that lies
On the Baie des Chaleurs.

from The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 1836

(page 191)

Luminous Appearance at Sea off the Shetland Isles—A curious luminous appearance at sea is mentioned in the following abstract from a letter to Robert Stevenson, Esq. Engineer, by the Light-house Keeper on Sumburgh Head in Shetland: "Monday, September 19, 1836—Sumburgh Head Light-house—The herring-boats went out through the night—there came on a severe gale of wind from the north-east, which drove them from their nets, and scarcely any one of them got into their own harbours. Mr. Hay's fishermen lost 180 nets, Mr. Bruce of Whalsey lost 114 nets, and a great many of the poor men lost the whole of their nets. The fishermen also informed me, that upon the same night, there appeared to them a light which greatly annoyed them. It appeared like a furnace standing in the water, and the beams of the light stood to a great height. It became fainter on the approach of day, and at length vanished away by day-light. It continued for two nights. It stood so near some of the boats that the men thought of cutting from their lines to get out of its way."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 152)

From the Rev. E. W. E.

June 26, 1905.

Mrs. Jones of Egryn's last meeting at _____, being rather late on Wednesday, May 24th, it was therefore after midnight that Mrs. E. and myself retired upstairs to rest. After putting out the light in our bedroom I could not go to bed. Then looked out of the window, but could see nothing. Then I went to the back bedroom, where our two boys sleep; and whilst I was looking out of this window towards the Penrhys hill, my wife came behind and put her hand on my shoulder, then asked me if I were looking for something. I said yes, that I was looking for something strange, because I felt very strange. Mrs. E. had just pushed the curtain on one side when she exclaimed, "There's something!" I said, "Where?" When she told me the direction I then exclaimed, "Yes, really, there is the strange light." It appeared to us in the form of a column of fire about two feet wide and several feet high, quite distinct, and of the tint of a fiery vapour.

After looking at the column for a second or two, then some bright balls of fire appeared in the column near its base, then these brilliant balls would burst and disappear upwards. Then the column would disappear, but in a moment would appear again in the same form, in the very same spot, and then the balls would appear in the column, and the balls burst and disappear upwards in the same way. This we distinctly saw six times (6 times).

It was, as nearly as we could judge, about 12.45 on Thursday morn, May 25, and lasted in all about three minutes.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 151)

From Dr. E. J. M., of Tylorstown.

June 18th, 1905.

About 10 p.m. on Saturday night I was coming home with Mrs. M. when she drew my attention to a bright light which could be seen over Libanus (C.M.) Chapel, towards the side of the mountain. It appeared as a ball of fire about the size of a cheese plate; it was perfectly fixed.

As soon as I saw it I marked its position, in order to be sure that it could not be due to some one with a light on the road which passes over the mountain, but its position was far enough away from the road.

I then looked towards Stanley Town — which is on the same side of the mountain in another direction, and which is nearer to the place I was standing — in order to compare the lights from the gas lamps on the road. There was no comparison between the lights, as the gas lamps were not nearly so brilliant as this light, and the light I saw was of a more reddish colour.

It remained fixed in the same position for about three minutes, and then disappeared instantaneously. Mrs. Jones was in the chapel at the time holding a meeting. I may say that I was not thinking of the light at the time.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 149)

Mrs. M. writes as follows :

May 29, 1905.

My husband wants me to write of what I have seen at P____ and heard when with Mrs. Jones, Egryn, March 15th. After the evening service we had a little way to walk from the town down to West-End, where we were staying. We both were invited to have supper next door to where we were sleeping, so after supper we went up to a sitting-room on the third floor. It seems that they were having the lights at West-End since the Revival broke out at the commencement of the year above a little chapel of the Methodists, so they were very curious to see the lights this night, when Mrs. Jones was with them, so that they would be more satisfied. We had no lights in the room. There were two windows to the room: just the room to have proper sight of the light if it would come. Anyway, in a very little while we saw two balls of fire moving back and fro, but it was so very far we were not satisfied with that. We were about twelve to eighteen in the room. Eight were singing hymns, so as to pass the time in watching and waiting for the lights. In a little while we had a better view, and, nearer us, several globes of light, some very light colour, and others deep red. We were enjoying ourselves. I am well used to seeing that kind of light here.

My husband and I have witnessed the sight many a time here. When we saw the light ascending high in the air, like a cross, I felt nervous, but it descended again nearer us — a cross and two other crosses, one each side of the middle one. The two crosses came nearer us now and stood not far from us, and dozens of small balls of fire dancing back and fro behind the crosses, and we heard a voice singing.

I have heard the singing once after at H_____, but differently to that at P_____, like a well-trained choir, and saw the cross the same time on the sky. The two Misses G., _______, are witnesses of the cross in the sky and the singing.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 148)

From Mr. L. M., of H______. May 30, 1905.

With regard to the lights which appear in this neighbourhood, perhaps one instance of my experience will suffice. I have been an eye-witness of them on more than one occasion. I happened to be with Mr. Beriah Evans, Carnarvon, on that night, the report of which has been given to the world by Mr. Evans himself. I can testify to the truth of the report.

The night which I am going to relate you my experience was Saturday evening, March 25, 1905, when Mrs. Jones, the evangelist, of Egryn, was conducting a service in the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at Llanfair, a place about a mile and half from Harlech on the main road between Harlech and Barmouth.

My wife and myself went down that night specially to see if the light accompanied Mrs. Jones from outside Egryn. We happened to reach Llanfair about 9.15 p.m. It was a rather dark and damp evening. In nearing the chapel, which can be seen from a distance, we saw balls of light, deep red, ascending from one side of the chapel, the side which is in a field. There was nothing in this field to cause this phenomenon — i.e. no houses, etc. After that we walked to and fro on the main road for nearly two hours without seeing any light except from a distance in the direction of Llanbedr. This time where lives the well-known Rev. C. E. The distance between us and the light which appeared this time was about a mile. Then about eleven o'clock, when the service which Mrs. Jones conducted was brought to a close, it appeared brilliant, ascending high into the sky from amongst the treestwo balls of light ascended from the same place and of similar appearance to those we saw first. In a few minutes afterwards Mrs. Jones was passing us home in her carriage, and in a few seconds after she passed, on the main road, and within a yard of us, there appeared a brilliant light twice, tinged with blue. In two or three seconds after this disappeared, on our right hand, within 150 or 200 yards, there appeared twice very huge balls of similar appearance as that which appeared on the road. It was so brilliant and powerful this time that we were dazed for a second or two. Then immediately there appeared a brilliant light ascending from the woods where the Rev. C. E. lives. It appeared twice this time. On the other side of the main road, close by, there appeared, ascending from a field high into the sky, three balls of light, deep red. Two of these appeared to split up, whilst the middle one remained unchanged. Then we left for home, having been watching these last phenomena for a quarter of an hour.

Perhaps I ought to say that I had an intense desire to see the light this night for a special purpose; in fact, I prayed for it, not as a mere curiosity, but for an higher object, which I need not mention. Some will ridicule this idea, but I have a great faith in prayer.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 106)

From Mr. J. J., of D________, Merionethshire. The original account, which I received in January, 1905, is in Welsh; I give here a translation of it:

In reference to the fire concerning which you wrote to me. There are several here who have seen it in varying forms — sometimes near Chapel Egryn, sometimes on the roof thereof, and sometimes some halt mile or more from the place. When I saw it, it was about half a mile from the chapel and about a mile from where I stood. That was about 5 o'clock in the evening. The first form in which it appeared to me was that of a
pillar of clear fire quite perpendicular. It was about 2 feet wide and about 3 yards in height. Suddenly another small fire began by its side some 2 yards distant from the first pillar. It rapidly increased until it assumed the same measurement and form as the first. Then another small fire suddenly arose on the other side of the first pillar, and increased rapidly until it assumed the same size and form as the other two columns. So there were three pillars of the same size and form. And as I gazed upon them I saw two arms of fire extending upwards from the top of each of the pillars.

The three pillars and their arms assumed exactly the same shape and remained so for about a minute or two. As I looked towards the sky I saw smoke ascending from the pillars, and immediately they began to disappear. Their disappearance was equally swift with their growth. It was a gradual disappearance: the fire became small and went out.

I thought they were natural fire, but it was a very wonderful fire. I never saw fire the same as it in my life — three pillars or columns of the same measure and of exactly the same shape and equidistant from each other. I do not propose to offer any kind of explanation. I leave that to you.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 143)

The following accounts of previous appearances of lights at various places along the coast of Tremadoc Bay are taken from Bye-Gones (a series of notes on antiquarian subjects which appears weekly in the Border Counties Advertizer, Oswestry, and is reprinted in quarterly parts), the extracts having been kindly furnished me by the editor:

From "Bye-Gones," March, 1875 (p. 198).

Yoke House, Pwllheli, 2nd March, 1875. — The curious lights appeared again on Sunday night. We saw twelve at the same time; two were very bright, the one of a red, the other of a blue colour. They were inland, the same as before, but from what we could observe they did not confine themselves to marshy ground, although at first they seemed to rise from the ground where we knew there were swamps. It was a very dark and foggy night, and my brother, my son Percy, my keeper and I went out about a mile to see if we could get near them. When we had gone about half a mile we observed four or five behind us. We went to the farm adjoining, and called their attention to them. Mrs. Picton-Jones and two servants watched them for an hour and a half, and had, from their description, a better view than we had, as we were occasionally in hollows. On our way home from Bryntani farm we saw a bright light at Yoke House, which we all thought was a lamp put out to direct us home, the night being so dark and our course across country. The other servants by this time, having come home from church and chapel, were watching the curious antics of the lights.

I should mention that we had a lamp with us, but it was darkened, except when we came to banks or ditches. Those at Yoke House saw the same light, and thought it was our lamp, but were all mistaken, as, when we got within about 200 yards of our pond, the light turned into a deep blue colour and disappeared. In front of the other pool there are some sheds, and one light that had appeared before we started seemed to go in and out, round the corner, on to the cart horse stable, round its gable end, then on to the barn, exactly the same as if it were a human being, with the exception of rising to such a height that even 'Tall Agrippa' could not come up to it. Their movements and the distance which they spread were the same as described before. Our house is about three-quarters of a mile from the Cardigan Bay, and the promontory is about seven miles as the crow flies. Last night they did not appear, but we saw several flashes of lightning. — I am, sir, your obedient servant, G. T. Picton-Jones." (Cambrian News).

From "Bye-Gones," March, 1875 (p. 210).

"Having read the account by Mr. Picton-Jones of the strange lights seen by him near Pwllheli, I beg to say that I witnessed a very similar phenomenon on the marshy ground near Borth. Some five or six years ago,
owing to an accident on the Cambrian Railway, I had to post from Machynlleth to the neighbourhood of Towyn, where I was then residing. It would then be about 12 o'clock p.m. when I came in sight of the low ground and sandy dunes between Borth and the Dovey, the night being perfectly clear and still and the stars shining, when, to my astonishment, I saw four or five lights moving apparently on the sand hills near the farm of Ynyslas. I called the post-boy's attention to them, and never did I see a man so paralysed with fright: I thought he would have fallen off the box, and the perspiration, as I could see by the light of the lamps, fairly ran down his face. He evidently considered them of supernatural origin, as he told me an incoherent story of a boat's crew of shipwrecked foreigners having been murdered when they came ashore there many years ago (upon further inquiry I found there was some tradition of the sort). However, there the lights were, moving about in a sort of aimless way until, as near as I can remember, we reached within a mile or two of Aberdovey.

They were white, and about the size and brilliancy of the lamps
carried by railway guards and porters. There is yet another phenomenon of which no satisfactory explanation has ever yet been given. On the 24th of September, 1854 (I refer to my game book of that year), a friend was shooting with me in Herefordshire. The day was perfectly still, the sky cloudless, when sounds like discharges of heavy artillery came from the west, which, striking against a range of wooded hills running north and south under which we were shooting, made most wonderfully distinct echoes. These discharges, or whatever they were, continued for several hours at regular intervals of about two minutes. Since then similar sounds have been heard two or three times (judging from the letters to the papers), and principally by persons living in Cardiganshire, but their origin has never yet, so far as I can see, been discovered."

From "Bye-Gones," October, 1877 (p. 292).

Now we have a statement from Towyn that within the last few weeks lights of various colours have frequently been seen moving over the estuary of the Dysynni river and out at sea. They are generally in a northern direction, but sometimes they hug the shore, and move at a very high velocity for miles towards Aberdovey, and suddenly disappear."

The following paragraph is taken from the Western Mail of March 13th, 1905:

Mysterious lights were seen in Wales before this year of revival. Here is an old extract: 1694. Apr. 22. 'A fiery exhalation rising out of the sea opened itself in Montgomeryshire a furlong broad and many miles in length, burning all straw, hay, thatch, and grass, bat doing no harm to trees, timber, or any solid things, only firing
barns or thatched houses. It left such a taint on the grasse as to kill all the cattle that eate of it. I saw the attestations in the hands of the sufferers. It lasted many months.' From Memoirs of Evelyn (1819 edition). Also in the Powys-Land Papers for 1883."

Extract from Pennant's Tour in Wales, Vol. II., p. 372, ed. 1810:

Winter of 1694. — A pestilential vapour resembling a weak blue flame arose during a fortnight or three weeks out of a sandy, marshy tract called Morfa Byden, and crossed over a channel of 8 miles to Harlech. It set fire on that side to 16 ricks of hay and 2 barns, one filled with hay, the other with corn. It infected the grass in such a manner that cattle, etc., died, yet men eat of it with impunity. It was easily dispelled: any great noise, sounding of horns, discharging of guns, at once repelled it. Moved only by night, and appeared at times, but less frequently; after this it disappeared."

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 106)

In the same town on July 30th at midnight a Mrs. O., whom I have seen, called the attention of my friend, Mr. J. R. J., who lives next door to her, to a ball of fire or torch which she saw travelling over the hill side to the north of Ynysybwl, rather more than a mile, as the crow flies, from her house. Three relatives of Mrs. 0., with her and Mr. J. R. J., watched the light moving about in a zig-zag from the top of the hills to the valley below, across fields and hedges, for about 20 minutes. The night was dark; the light went out at intervals and reappeared. It does not appear possible that any person could have borne a powerful lamp over the area pointed out to me, or have moved from point to point so rapidly as the light travelled, the apparent rate being six miles an hour. There is no evidence discoverable of bodies of ignited gases having been seen in the locality previously, and one of the witnesses was not in the least affected by the Revival efforts of Mrs. Jones. There is no solution of this incident at present.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 104)

... I heard of the appearance of " lights " at Ynysybwl, a small colliery town a few miles north of Pontypridd, Glam., and on August 2nd, 1905, I visited the town to interview some of the percipients. Mrs. Jones of Egryn preached at Ynysybwl on July 4th, 5th and 6th, but there is no trustworthy evidence of lights being seen before July 23rd. On that evening several persons went to Ynysyboeth to hear Mrs. Jones once more and by all accounts they were very much affected by the service. On their return to Ynysybwl they held an open-air meeting, at about 10.30 p.m., in the open space known as Robert Town Square. The religious fervour was intense and the service lasted until 1 a.m. One correspondent (see 27a) reports that his attention was called, during the service, to a "ball of light about the size of the moon," with a slight mist over it. Then stars began to shoot out around it, the light rose higher and grew brighter but smaller.

Another at the same gathering describes the light as a "block of fire" rising from the mountain side and moving along for about 200 or 300 yards. It went upwards, a star "shot out to meet it, and they clapped together and formed into a ball of fire." The form changed into something like the helm of a ship. The appearance lasted about a quarter of an hour. This deponent went home to fetch his wife to see the light, but from his house he saw nothing, although the house faces the same mountain side. Returning to the square he again saw it. A third witness says that the light was a ball of fire, "glittering and sparkling," and it seemed to be "bubbling over." A Mrs. J. and her daughters saw the light at 12.30 a.m. as a ball of fire, white, silvery, vibrating, stationary. Mrs. J. also saw two streamers of grey mist emanating from the ball and in the space between them a number of stars. The daughter saw nothing of the stars, but remarks, as no one else does, that the form became oval instead of round. In conversation they told me also that the ball decreased in size. Another witness, whose account has not been written, described his vision to me as a ball of fire with 4 or 5 pillars of light on the left of the ball, the intervening space containing no stars. He was standing near the last-named witnesses. It will be sufficient here to point out that whilst all the witnesses saw a ball of fire, each saw something in connection therewith not mentioned by the others. All agree in thinking that the duration of the light was from 10 to 15 minutes, but whether "vision" minutes are of the same duration as those of solar time remains to be proved. There is no evidence that any one consulted a watch or clock to mark the time that really elapsed.

On July 26th, at a meeting of the Salvation Army, in the same square, Mr. D. D. tells me that he saw over a wood on the mountain side a black cloud from which emerged first a white light, then a yellow, and finally a brilliantly red triangle.

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 100)

On December 22nd, 1904, at 5:18 p.m., another deponent saw, in company with two other persons, a large light "about half way from the earth to the sky, on the south side of Capel Egryn, and in the middle of it something like [a] bottle or black person, also some little lights scattering around the large light in many colours. Last of all the whole thing came to a large piece of fog, out of sight."

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 100)

A young woman of some education wrote (February 4th, 1905): "I saw the light you refer to one night in the beginning of January [between 10 and 10:30 p.m.]. At first I saw two very bright lights, about half a mile away" [it was between Dyffryn and Llanbedr], "one a big white light, the other smaller and red in colour. The latter flashed backwards and forwards, and finally seemed to become merged in the other. Then all was darkness again. It did not appear in the same place again, but a few minutes after we saw another light which seemed to be a few yards above the ground. It now looked like one big flame, and all around it seemed like one big glare of light. It flamed up and went out alternately for about ten minutes, very much in the same way as some lighthouses."

from Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1905-7

(page 99)

Another correspondent says that only once did he see the light, on January 2nd, 1905. "It was hovering above a certain farmhouse, and it appeared to me as three lamps about three yards apart, in the shape of a Prince of Wales's feathers, very brilliant and dazzling, moving and jumping like a sea-wave under the influence of the sun on a very hot day. The light continued so for ten minutes. All my family saw it the same time. It was 10:40 p.m. at the time."

from Whirlwinds and Dust-Storms of India, 1860

(page 65)

Eccentric Movement of a Star.

Three officers of the Bengal Artillery relate as follows — One
evening, during the last week in April, an hour and half after sunset, the atmosphere being perfectly clear and without clouds, and no moon shining, a little haze only, low in the horizon, three of us, Lieuts. Machell, Turnbull and myself, saw a star in the west move and undergo sundry eccentric motions.

When first noticed, it was at an elevation of about 12° above
the horizon, and its direction from us was about W. 10° S.

We imagined it must be merely an optical illusion, but each of us then looked at it from a fixed position, and brought it on a line with some fixed object.

M. reclined his head against a wall, and brought it in a line
with a string held vertically, as in laying a mortar. I also adopted a plan, and brought the Star in a line with the two
posts of my bed, and we each remarked that the Star moved a good deal to the left of us, that is, in a Southerly direction, though not in a direct line, South.

It sometimes dropped down some distance and went off in
a zig-zag direction, then rose again, and at times remained stationary. It also varied much in brilliancy and in colour, sometimes becoming quite bright, at other times scarcely perceptible. When it approached the horizon, we generally lost sight of it altogether, which may possibly be accounted for by its getting obscured in the haze. The Star once or twice moved to the right, but during the half hour we continued to observe it, it had moved considerably to the left of our position, or to the South, over a space perhaps of 8° or more. It described no regular motion, and went off by fits and starts, and varied from its original position in the heavens considerably, as I tested by forming a triangle with it and two other fixed stars.

Its velocity too was different at different times.

My decided opinion is that it was not a meteor, but one of
the fixed stars, though I confess I have not been able to identify it with any one of them since that night.

from A Year In Europe, 1824

(page 365, chapter: Voyage to New York)

About two o'clock today, a meteor was seen by the captain and a number of the passengers, though the sun was shining brightly. It appeared at an elevation of about 45°, and passed rapidly toward the horizon, in an oblique direction. It was transparent, much resembling a globe of glass, with a short neck or train.

from Executive Documents of the House of Representatives, 1877

(page 86, Report of the Chief Signal-Officer)

November 17, 1876—At 4:24 p.m. I was startled by two flashes of light, which dimmed, to a great degree, the flame of an argand burner. I immediately ran to the window to look for fire, but seeing none, I rushed out of doors, and looking around I saw in the WNW., i.e., 23° N. of W., an irregular streak of fire perpendicular to the earth. Below this a second, and a third below this.

The first streak at an altitude of 28°, about 2°.5 long and 12' wide, then a space of 3° long and about the same width as the upper. A third was like the second or middle one, but was shorter and much brighter. All had the peculiar bright white light of the sun, not yellowish like the moon.

I immediately ran to tell Mr. Newman, who lives in the next house. He was hunting his hat to run to tell me that he had seen it fall. He describes it as descending slowly in a zig-zag manner, as indicated by its path, and that it seemed to swell and shrink in size while falling, and that the moon is about the size of the ball, and that the outlines of the meteor were not round but irregular.

We watched the light from 4:24 p.m. to 5 p.m., at which time the upper line of light had faded out of sight. The middle one had moved westward (nearly northward) 10°, and was now inclined to the horizon.

The third or lower was also inclined to the horizon and moving to the westward also. The middle one had then the exact shape of the hull of a large vessel, as plainly distinguishable as well-defined cirri streaks in day-time.

The lower faded out at 5:35 p.m. The middle one or hull-shaped lasted until 5:46 p.m., or a total length of time of one hour and twenty-two minutes.

This meteor was seen by three white men, including myself, and many natives, who were much frightened by the appearance.

from Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1884

(page 408)

A Peculiar Variety of Meteors. By W. F. Denning.

On the morning of April 20, at 1h 36m A.M., while watching
the progress of the Lyrids I saw a remarkable meteor, projected apparently on the stars _ and _ of Serpens, as it rose upwards with great rapidity in the south. The meteor was about the third magnitude, but the singularity about it was its marvellous velocity and seeming nearness. It appeared to be in the air, a few yards distant, and I believe its path, extending (as it instantaneously impressed me) over some 16° on the background of the sky, must have been traversed in less than the twentieth part of a second. Of course there is a great difficulty in estimating such short intervals, but I feel confident the duration was even more transient than that assigned.

Now and then I have observed similar meteors before. They
immediately strike one by their close proximity and enormous velocity. They are mere gleams of pale white light, which have little analogy to ordinary shooting stars, and suggest an electric origin, though I do not know whether the marvellous quickness with which they flash upon the eye is not to be held responsible for the sensation of nearness. They are somewhat rare, and one may watch through several whole nights without a single
example, but, as far as my memory serves, I must have witnessed some scores of these meteoric flashes. I never register the paths; they are so rapid as to make but a vague impression on the retina, and the direction is necessarily much involved in doubt. As to the meteor of April 20, it ascended in Serpens from the western boundaries of Scorpio, and probably diverged from a radiant near the bow of Sagittarius. It was the only one I saw of the kind alluded to, or which could have belonged to a radiant so low in the S.E. amongst eighty-one meteors recorded during the nights of April 18, 19, and 20, 1885.

I have consulted several catalogues for notices of abnormal
meteors such as the one described, but in most cases there is an absence of individual notes, and I have failed to gather much evidence of the kind required. But a most excellent instance, and I think the only one, is referred to in Col. Tupman's catalogue of nearly two thousand shooting stars observed by him while cruising in the Mediterranean during the years 1869-71. The particulars are:—

1870, January 9, 14h 59m; mag. 3; path from 169° + 2o° to
157°—10° ; length 3i°; duration 0.1 second. "An instantaneous flash; seemed to be in the air, quite near. Very curious." It will be seen that Col. Tupman's description is very similar to my own. Though his meteor had a path of no less than 31°, he estimated the duration as only the tenth of a second. On the whole I incline to the belief that meteors of this abnormal class give the idea of great nearness as the result of their astonishing speed, and that they will be invariably found directed from radiants close to the Earth's apex. Their appearance, however, is such as to vividly impress the observer as to their special character. It therefore seems desirable to mention the circumstances, so that workers in this department may record such further instances as they may notice, notwithstanding the uncertainty attached to the path directions of such very transient phenomena. It is just possible they may indicate a form of meteoric display essentially different to that commonly understood.

from The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings Manual, 1882

(Page 116)

In the years 1866, 1867 and 1868, there were also extraordinary meteoric displays on the night of November I3th. It was on the last mentioned date that I had the opportunity to observe the remarkable shower of shooting-stars of which I have attempted to represent all the characteristic points in Plate XII. My observations were begun a little after midnight, and continued without interruption till sun-rise. Over three thousand meteors were observed during this interval of time in the part of the sky visible from a northern window of my house. The maximum fall occurred between four and five o'clock, when they appeared at a mean rate of 15 in a minute.

In general, the falling stars were quite large, many being superior to Jupiter in brightness and apparent size, while a few even surpassed Venus, and were so brilliant that opaque objects cast a strong shadow during their flight. A great many left behind them a luminous train, which remained visible for more or less time after the nucleus had vanished. In general, these meteors appeared to move either in straight or slightly curved orbits; but quite a number among them exhibited very extraordinary motions, and followed very complicated paths, some of which were quite incomprehensible.

While some moved either in wavy or zig-zag lines, strongly accentuated, others, after moving for a time in a straight line, gradually changed their course, curving upward or downward, thus moving in a new direction. Several among them, which were apparently moving in a straight line with great rapidity, suddenly altered their course, starting at an abrupt angle in another direction, with no apparent slackening in their motion. One of them, which was a very conspicuous object, was moving slowly in a straight course, when of a sudden it made a sharp turn and continued to travel in a straight line, at an acute angle with the first, retreating, and almost going back towards the regions from which it originally came. As nearly all the meteors which exhibited these extraordinary motions left the trace of their passage in the sky by a luminous trail, it was easily ascertained that these appearances were not deceptive. On one occasion I noticed that the change of direction in the orbit corresponded with the brightening up of the meteor thus disturbed in its progress.

Among these meteors, some traveled very slowly, and a few seemed to advance as if by jerks, but in general they moved very rapidly. One of the meteors thus appearing to move by jerks left a luminous trail, upon which the various jerks seemed to be left impressed by a succession of bright and faint spaces along the train. Some of the largest meteors appeared to rotate upon an axis as they advanced, and most of these revolving meteors, as also a great number of the others, seemed to explode just before they disappeared, sending bright fiery sparks of different colors in all directions, although no sound was at any time heard. The largest and most brilliant meteor observed on that night appeared at 5h. 30m., a little before sunrise. It was very bright, and appeared considerably larger than Venus, having quite a distinct disk. This meteor moved very slowly, leaving behind a large phosphorescent trail, which seemed to issue from the inside of the nucleus as it advanced. For a moment the train increased in size and brightness close to the nucleus, which then appeared as an empty transparent sphere, sprinkled all over with minute fiery sparks ; the nucleus then suddenly burst out into luminous particles, which immediately vanished, only the luminous trail of considerable dimensions being left.

Many of the trails thus left by the meteors retained their luminosity for several minutes, and sometimes for over a quarter of an hour. These trails slowly changed their form and position; but it is perhaps remarkable that almost all those which I observed on that night assumed the same general form—that of an open, irregular ring, or horse-shoe, somewhat resembling the letter C. This ring form was subsequently transformed into an irregular, roundish cumulus-like cloud. The trail left by a very large meteor, which I observed on the evening of September 5th, 1880, also exhibited the same general character of transformation.

Friday, March 28, 2008

from Elementary Meteorology, 1893

(page 176)

The following report of an appearance of globular lightning in the Glendowan Mountains, in the County Donegal, Ireland, by Mr. M. Fitzgerald, is very remarkable:

"I noticed a globe of fire in the air floating leisurely along. After passing the crown of the ridge, where I first noticed it, it descended gradually into the valley, keeping all the way about the same distance from the surface of the land, until it reached a stream about 300 yards from where I stood. It then struck the land, and re-appeared in about a minute, drifted along the surface for about 200 yards, and again disappeared in the boggy soil, re-appearing about twenty perches further down the stream; again it moved along the surface, and again sank, this time into the bank of the stream, which it flew across, and finally lodged in the opposite bank, leaving a hole in the peat bank, where it buried itself.

"I at once examined its course, and found a hole about twenty feet square, where it first touched the land, with the pure peat turned out on the lea as if it had been cut out with a huge knife. This was only one minute's work, and, as well as I could judge, it did not occupy fully that time. It next made a trench about twenty perches in length, and four feet deep, afterwards ploughing up the surface about one foot deep, and again tearing away the bank of the stream about five perches in length and five feet deep, and then, hurling the immense mass into the bed of the stream, it flew into the opposite peaty brink. From its first appearance till it buried itself could not have been more than twenty minutes, during which it travelled leisurely, as if floating, with an undulatory motion through the air and land, over one mile. It appeared at first to be a bright red globular ball of fire, about two feet in diameter, but its bulk became rapidly less, particularly after each dip in the soil, so that it appeared not more than three inches' diameter when it finally vanished."

from Elementary Meteorology, 1893

(page 176)

Dr. Tripe stated to the Meteorological Society that, "On July 11, 1874, he was watching the progress of the most fearful storm he ever witnessed of hail, wind and lightning, and was looking due south, when he saw a large ball of fire rise apparently about a mile distant from behind some low houses. The ball at first rose slowly, but accelerated its pace as it ascended, so as gradually to acquire a very rapid motion. When it had risen about 45°, it started off at an acute angle towards the west, with such great rapidity as to produce the appearance of a flash of forked lightning. It made three zigzags before it entered the dark cloud."

from Dwight's American Magazine, 1845

(page 619)

The Jersey Times says that a globe of fire, apparently of the dimensions of a good-sized balloon, was observed to move about from position to position, making its appearance now in one place, then in another. It might be seen at one moment blazing with all the lustre of the sun as it sets in the autumnal sky, in another shining with a full, clear and burnished light irradiating the whole aerial vault. Sometimes stationary. It would all of a sudden change its position, and locate itself upon a spot at a considerable distance. It remained for nearly an hour, when, in a second, becoming detached from the spot on which it was fixed, it flew with a tremendous velocity through the sky, and took refuge behind a dark and murky cloud.

from Among the Isles of Shoals, 1873

(page 137)

And here I am reminded of a story told by some gentlemen visiting Appledore sixteen or eighteen years ago. They started from Portsmouth for the Shoals in a whaleboat, one evening in summer, with a native Star-Islander, Richard Eandall by name, to manage the boat. They had sailed about half the distance, when they were surprised at seeing a large ball of fire, like a rising moon, rolling toward them over the sea from the south. They watched it eagerly as it bore down upon them, and, veering off, went east of them at some little distance, and then passed astern, and there, of course, they expected to lose sight of it; but while they were marvelling and speculating, it altered its course, and suddenly began to near them, coming back upon its track against the wind and steadily following in their wake. This was too much for the native Shoaler. He took off his jacket and turned it inside out to exorcise the fiend, and lo, the apparition most certainly disappeared! We heard the excited account of the strange gentlemen and witnessed the holy horror of the boatman on the occasion; but no one could imagine what had set the globe of fire rolling across the sea. Some one suggested that it might be an exhalation, a phosphorescent light, from the decaying body of some dead fish; but in that case it must have been taken in tow by some living finny creature, else how could it have sailed straight "into the teeth of the wind"? It was never satisfactorily accounted for, and must remain a mystery.

from The Philosophy of Storms, 1841

(page 412)

At half past two on the morning of the 7th, Mr. Auber observed several globes of fire moving upon the sea, at various distances from the shore, whilst others remained stationary. One of them, from its position, appeared to be on the top of the Montaneta of Realejo, and caused him to suppose that that extinct volcano was going to threaten the valley of Orotava with an eruption; but he was soon undeceived, by observing that the globe moved about on the surface of the water like the others, and at some distance from the spot where he first thought it was situated. These luminous globes appeared to move towards the south west, and follow the direction of the waves. The light which they spread in the atmosphere, extended more than 45° high; and although he was three miles off, it was often sufficiently strong to enable him to read rather small print; but no detonation was heard. The number of globes increased from half past two o'clock till four, when they began to diminish. Mr. Auber, at one period of his observations, counted fourteen moving about at one time, but the glare of light which he perceived on his right, where the surrounding houses bounded his view, caused him to suppose their number to be much more considerable. Their duration was from one minute, to five or six, but seldom longer; and their apparent diameter was about the half of that of the moon at her full, when she reaches the zenith. When they had all disappeared, the darkness was extreme, and he could not see the neighboring houses; but a quarter of an hour afterwards, the reappearance of the same globes, or the formation of new ones, allowed him to see the island of Palma, though nearly sixty miles distant. The rain fell with equal force whilst these globes were appearing on the sea and after their disappearance. It was mentioned, that
a globe of fire had fallen at the foot of the mountain of Tygaygn, which bounds the valley of Orotava to the west, and that it had made a deep hole in the earth; search was made respecting the truth of this assertion, but it did not lead to any positive result. I was likewise informed, that similar globes of fire were seen traversing the Llano de Caspar, the spot which I have mentioned as bearing such evident marks of the effects of the water. My informant, who was a small farmer living near Tygayga, and almost on a level with the Llano de Caspar, likewise added, "that all the heaths appeared to be on fire; and, at the same time, I saw a column of water several fathoms wide, move across the top of the valley."

from Electrical Engineer, 1890

(page 143)

The following remarkable occurrence is reported from the central electric lighting station at Pontevedra in Spain, a report of which has been communicated by Sen. E. Cabellero, manager of this station, to the Academy of Madrid. On January 2nd, at 9:15 in the evening, with a clear and serene sky, a globe of fire, of the size of an orange, was all at once observed to fall upon the electrical conductors which radiate through the town; it was impossible to say how it fell or whence it came. Along this path it progressed with a relatively slow motion to the central station, destroyed the distributing apparatus, and raising the armature of a circuit-breaker, it struck the moving dynamo. Under the eyes of the engineer and the terrified workmen, it rebounded twice from the dynamo to the conductors and from the conductors to the dynamo, then fell, and burst with a loud noise into a multitude of fragment without producing any accident, or leaving the slightest trace of its mysterious nature. During its evolutions the lights wavered in the town, which would have been plunged into complete darkness if the coolness of the electricians had not allowed them to put everything in order again in a few seconds after the vanishing of the meteor. Several persons had seen the ball of fire before it penetrated the station.

from The London Magazine, 1783

(page 493, excerpts)

Another gentleman, who was on the road from Stamford a few miles from the habitation of the last mentioned one, saw the meteor rise from the horizon, about N.W. by N. or perhaps N.N.W. and pass to the east of his zenith, moving pretty quickly towards the S.E. by S. or S.E. He lost sight of it by its going behind a cloud, as the former gentleman, did. To this latter gentleman it appeared as if there were three balls in a line, about two feet asunder, and following one another in the same track. Some little time after the meteor had disappeared, he heard a noise, as of thunder, beween the E. and S.E.

This remarkable circumstance of the meteor appearing like three distinct balls, is confirmed by a gentleman who saw it near Upper Clapton; and who has obliged me with a drawing of it, representing the meteor as it appeared to him.

Mr. Amyss, master of the White-Horse inn, about five miles from St. Edmunds-Bury, in the road to Newmarket, was looking out the window that fronts the north-west, and saw a great light in the horizon, seemingly over Cavenham, a village on the borders of the fens, and which, as I find by Kirby's map of Suffolk, bears about N.W. by N. or perhaps a little more westerly of the White-Horse inn. It kept proceeding slowly on towards Mr. Amyss' house; and when it was within about a quarter of a mile of it shed innumerablel stars, each of which appeared to have a tail. It passed directly over his house; and, as the observer thought, but just clear of the chimneys. He ran to a back window, and saw it keep on its course towards Great Saxham, the seat of Hutchinson Muire, Esq. and soon lost sight of it beyond the trees and rising grounds which confine his horizon that way. About a minute after he lost sight of the meteor, he heard a loud noise, as if something very heavy had fallen down in a room over his head. He then looked at his watch, and found it wanted 20 minutes to 10 o'clock. He judged that he saw the meteor for three minutes; but in this he might be easily deceived, and I believe he was. He says the light was of a bluish cast, and that the length of the meteor was about three rods; which is 16 or 17 yards.


I have also an extract of a letter from a gentleman, a lieutenant on one of his Majesty's ships of war, which was then cruising off the north of Ireland, who relates that he saw the same meteor moving along the north-east quarter, nearly parallel to the horizon, and at no great height above it; but he adds something singular enough, namely, that a little time afterwards he saw it moving back again, the contrary way to that which it came.

from The Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, 1819

We ought probably to rank with meteoric stones the ignited bodies, or fire-balls, which are not only distinguished from them by their substance not being metallic. Like meteoric stones, they generally fall in the warmest months, and in calm weather; they burn in the same manner, and traverse their path with the same velocity; their explosions are nearly similiar, and that of 1772 had a rotation round its centre. These ignited globes have a roundish form and gelatinous consistence. A globe of fire which fell in the East Indies, in 1218, left, after a dreadful explosion, a round large heap of gelatine, of tolerable consistence. A similar mass, but grey and spungy, was found at Coblentz, after the explosion of a ball of fire.

from Plutarch's Lives, 1859

(page 311)

... he relates, that for seventy-five days together, before that stone fell, there was seen in the heavens a large body of fire, like an inflamed cloud, not fixed to one place, but carried this way and that with a broken and irregular motion; and that by its violent agitation, several fiery fragments were forced from it, which were impelled in various directions, and darted with the celerity and brightness of so many falling stars. After this body was fallen in the Chersonesus, and the inhabitants, recovered from their terror, assembled to see it, they could find no inflammable matter, or the least sign of fire, but a real stone, which, though large, was nothing to the size of that fiery globe they had seen in the sky, but appeared only as a bit crumbled from it.

from Elements of Meteorology, 1869

(page 145)

In the midst of a storm in Scotland, two globes of fire, connected together like chained cannon-shot, were seen by a Mr. Lumsden, passing through the sky revolving one about the other, and striking at last upon the summit of a hill.

from Elements of Meteorology, 1869

(page 145)

On the fourth of November, 1749, in 42° 48' N. Lat., 2° W. Long., the crew of the ship Montague beheld, a little before noon, and beneath an unclouded sky, a globe of bluish fire, like a millstone, rolling rapidly upon the sea. At a short distance from the vessel, it rose perpendicularly from the water, and struck the masts with an explosion louder than the discharge of a hundred cannon. Five sailors were thrown senseless upon the deck, one of whom was severely injured.

from Tales of the Castle: or, Stories of Instruction and Delight, 1785

(page 253)

The globe of fire which was the subject of the Memoire of M. le Roy, was observed the 17th of July, 1771, about half past ten in the evening. There suddenly appeared in the north-west a fire like to a great falling star, which augmenting as it approached, soon took the form of a globe, that afterwards had a tail, which entrained all after it. This globe having traversed a part of the heavens, became slower in its motion, and took the form of Batavian Tears, when it shed a most powerful light: its head appeared enveloped in sparks of fire, and its tail edged with red contained all the colours of the rainbow. At length it burst, shedding a vast number of luminous particles like the brilliance in fire-works.

The 12th of November, 1761, M. le Baron des Adretz, one league from Ville Franche, in Beaujolois, saw a bright globe of fire, which seemed swiftly falling and increasing in size as it fell. A train of fire marked its route; after it had traversed nearly an eighth of the horizon, it seemed as large as an exceedingly large sun, cut horizontally in half. It turned up-side down, and out of it came a prodigious quantity of flaming sparks, like the largest of those seen in fire-works. In the town of Beaune, this meteor gave a light equal to that of noon-day.

The 3d of November, 1771, at half past nine in the evening, a very extraordinary meteor was seen at Sarlat. The Heavens became so light, that they thought day again was going to break. A most luminous globe of fire appeared, from which came large sparks, like artificial stars, and the circle by which it was surrounded, was formed of differently-coloured rays. When this enormous globe was about six fathoms high, two species of volcano came from it, which took the form of two large rainbows, one of which lost itself towards the North, and the other towards the South.

from History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, 1854

(page 117)

We have the description of a very extraordinary one given us by Montanari, that serves to show to what great heights in our atmosphere these vapours are found to ascend. In the year 1676, a great globe of fire was seen at Bononia, in Italy, about three quarters of an hour after sun-set. It passed westward with a most rapid course, at the rate of not less than a hundred and sixty miles in a minute, which is much swifter than the force of a cannon-ball, and at last stood over the Adriatic Sea. In its course it crossed over all Italy; and by computation it could not have been less than thirty-eight miles above the surface of the earth. In the whole line of its course, wherever it approached, the inhabitants below could distinctly hear it, with a hissing noise resembling that of a firework. Having passed away to sea towards Corsica, it was heard at last to go off with a violent explosion, much louder than that of a cannon; and immediately after another noise was heard, like the rattling of a heavy cart upon a stony pavement—which was probably nothing more than an echo of the former sound. Its magnitude when at Bononia appeared to be twice as long as the moon one way, and as broad the other; so that, considering its height, it could not have been less than a mile long and half a mile broad. From the height at which this was seen, and there being no volcano in that quarter of the world from whence it came, it is more than probably that this terrible globe was kindled on some part of the contrary side of the globe, in those regions of vapours which we have been just describing; and thus, rising above the air, and passing in a course opposite to that of the earth's motion, in this manner it acquired its amazing rapidity.

from History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, 1854

(page 117)

About nine at night, a globe of fire appeared to rise from the side of the mountain Pichinca, and so large, that it spread a light over all the part of the city facing that mountain. The house in which I lodged looking that way, I was surprised with an extraordinary light darting through the crevices of the window-shutters. On this appearance, and the bustle of the people in the street, I hastened to the window, and came time enough to see it in the middle of its career, which continued from west to south till I lost sight of it, being intercepted by a mountain which lay between. It was round, and its apparent diameter was about a foot. I observed it to rise from the sides of Pichinca; althought, to judge from its course, it was behind that mountain where this congeries of inflammable material was kindled. In the first half of its visible course it emitted a prodigious effulgence, then it began gradually to grow dim; so that, upon its disappearing behind the intervening mountain, its light was very faint.

from Popular Lectures on Science, 1846

(from table on page 540)

April 14-15, 1718—Three globes of fire three and a half feet in diameter. They destroyed a church.

March, 1720—A globe of fire struck the earth and rebounded. After the rebound, struck the dome of a tower and set fire to it.

1770—Three globes of fire issued from low clouds, and suddenly disappeared without any explosion.

1772—A globe of fire oscillated for a long time in the air over the village, on which it fell vertically. It destroyed the houses on which it fell.

from The Family Magazine, 1834

(page 271)

About four o'clock in the morning a large meteoric body,
resembling a globe of fire, exploded in the zenith of the heavens, and poured a continuous stream of flaming particles on the sky beneath. The increasing scintillations from this luminous globular body were showered down like drops of falling rain, illuminating the whole visible horizon, and scattering rich rays of light on each airy path as they fell. After this meteoric shower of fiery rain had for some time descended, a luminous serpentine figure was formed in the sky, which, on its explosion, produced a shower of fire equally brilliant and incessant. The inflammable particles then apparently cohering in one ignited mass, rolled up in a ball to the zenith; and from this lofty elevation burst, and shot out streams of electric fire from its luminous orb, which continued to fall until the hour of six in the morning, when the dawning day put an end to their glory and their flight.

from The Eclectic Magazine, 1873

(page 592)

But on one occasion a very remarkable phenomenon, only (but very readily) explicable in this way, was witnessed by three practised observers—Admiral Smyth, Professor Pearson, and Sir. T. Maclear—at three different stations. Admiral Smyth thus describes what he saw:

"On Thursday, June 26, 1828, the evening being extremely fine, I was watching the swecond satellite of Jupiter as it gradually approached to transit Jupiter's disk. It appeared in contact at about half-past ten, and for some minutes remained on the edge of the disk, presenting an appearance not unlike that of the lunar mountains coming into view during the moon's first quarter, until it finally disappeared on the body of the planet. At least twelve or thirteen minutes must have elapsed, when, accidentally turning to Jupiter again, to my astonishment I perceived the same satellite outside the disk! It remained distinctly visible for at least four minutes, and then suddenly vanished!"

For our own part, we can conceive of no possible explanation of this remarkable phenomenon, unless it be admitted that the change was in the apparent outline of Jupiter. Of course, to suppose that even a cloud-layer rose or fell, in a few minutes, several thousand miles (about 8,000, if the stated times be correct), is as inadmissable as to suppose the solid crust of a globe to undergo so vast a change of level ...

from The Rebellion Record, a Diary of American Events, 1864

(page 99)

Remarkable Phenomenon—A writer in the Staunton Spectator, dating at Lewisburgh, Greenbrier County, Virginia, September fifteenth, writes to that paper a description of a remarkable atmospheric phenomenon witnessed in that town. It was seen by our pickets, a few miles from the town. The same scene has been described in several respectable papers, the editors of which all vouch for the reliability of their informants. The writer says:

"A remarkable phenomenon was witnessed, a few miles west of this place, at the house of Mrs. Pearcy, on the first day of this month, at about three o'clock p.m., by Mr. Moses Dwyer, her neighbor, who happened to be seated in her porch at the time, as well as by others at or near the house.

"The weather was quite hot and dry; not a cloud could be seen; no wind even ruffled the foliage on the surrounding trees. All things being propitious, the grand panorama began to move. Just over and through the tops of the trees, on the adjacent hills on the South, immense numbers of rolls, resembling cotton or smoke, apparently the size and shape of doors, seemed to be passing rapidly through the air, yet in beautiful order and regularity. The rolls seemed to be tinged on the edge with light green, so as to resemble a border or deep fringe. There were apparently thousands of them, and were, perhaps, an hour in getting by. After these had passed over and out of sight, the scene was changed from the air above to the earth beneath, and became more intensely interesting to the spectators, who were witnessing the panorama from different stand-points.

"In the deep valley beneath, thousands upon thousands of (apparently) human beings (men) came in view, travelling in the same direction as the rolls, marching in good order, some thirty or forty in depth, moving rapidly, 'double-quick,' and commenced ascending the sides of the almost insurmountable hills opposite, and had the stoop peculiar to men when they ascend a steep mountain. There seemed to be a great variety in the size of the men; some were very large, whilst others were quite small. Their arms, legs, and heads, could be distinctly seen in motion. They seemed to observe strict military discipline, and there were no stragglers to be seen.

"There was uniformity of dress—loose white blouses or shirts, with white pants, wool hats, and were without guns, swords, or any thing that indicates 'men of war.' On they came, through the valley and over the steep hill, crossing the road, and finally passing out of sight, in a direction due north from those who were looking on.

"The gentleman who witnessed this is a man with whom you were once acquainted, Mr. Editor, and as truthful a man as we have in this county, and as little to be carried away by 'fanciful speculations' as any man living. Four others (respectable ladies) and a servant-girl witnessed this phenomenon.


"P.S.—On the fourteenth instant, the same scene, almost identical, was seen by eight or ten of our pickets at Bunger's Mill, and by many of the citizens in that neighborhood; this is about four miles east of Pearcy's. It was about an hour passing."

—Richmond Dispatch, October 2.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

from Narrative of an Expedition to The Polar Sea, 1820-1823

(page 102)

In this day's journey we saw an unusual phenomenon: in the N.E. horizon there appeared an insulated dark-grey cloud, from which white beams streamed to the zenith and across it to the opposite horizon, resembling the beams of the Aurora, but whether luminous or not we could not tell, on account of the daylight. The phenomenon lasted about half an hour. One of our Cossacks, who had been before on the Polar Sea, maintained that the cloud was occasioned by vapour rising from a sudden crack in the ice. On the same evening there was an Aurora extending from N.E. to N.W.

from The Practical Astronomer, 1856

(page 335)

I cannot here omit to mention a very unusual phenomenon that I observed about ten years ago in my darkened room. The window looked toward the west, and the spire of Chichester Cathedral was before it at the distance of 50 or 60 yards. I used very often to divert myself by observing the pleasant manner in which the sun passed behind the spire, and was eclipsed by it for some time; for the image of the sun and of the spire were very large, being made by a lens of 12 feet focal distance; and once, as I observed the occultation of the sun behind the spire, just as the disk disappeared, I saw several small, bright, round bodies or balls running towards the sun from the dark part of the room, even to the distance of 20 inches. I observed their motion was a little irregular, but rectilinear, and seemed accelerated as they approached the Sun. These luminous globules appeared also on the other side of the spire, and preceded the sun, running out into the dark room, sometimes more, sometimes less, together, in the same manner as they followed the sun at its occultation. They appeared to be, in general, one-twentieth of an inch in diameter, and therefore must be very large, luminous globes in some part of the heavens, whose light was extinguished by that of the sun, so that they appeared not in open daylight; but whether of the meteor kind, or what sort of bodies they might be, I could not conjecture."

Professor Hansteen mentions that, when employed in measuring the zenith distances of the polar star, he observed a somewhat similar phenomenon,
which he describes as "a luminous body which passed over the field of the universal telescope; that its motion was neither perfectly equal nor rectilinear, but resembled very much the unequal and somewhat serpentine motion of an ascending rocket;" and he concluded that it must have been " a meteor" or "shooting star" descending from the higher regions of the atmosphere.

from The Edinburgh Journal of Science, 1826

(Page 222)

ART. IV.—Account of an Earthquake at Sea, felt in the Mediterranean,
on the 29th November 1810, in his Majesty's frigate Salsette. In a letter from Captain Beaufort R.N. F.R.S. to Dr. Brewster.


As it appears from a passage in your last Journal, that you
are desirous of putting on record notices of earthquakes that have been felt at sea, the following account of one which I witnessed in the Mediterranean is at your service.

On the 29th of November 1810, at 7 A. M., his Majesty's
frigate Salsette being about nine leagues S.W. by W. (true) from the island of Cerigo, and ten leagues south from Cape Matapan, the sky suddenly assumed a remarkably black and threatening appearance, which, however, spent itself before eight o'clock in the heavy rain. The wind had changed during the shower from E.S.E. to N.W., where it continued the rest of the day, and very faint, with the exception of one gust, which will be again mentioned.

At 11 a.m., solar time, while tranquilly standing to the southward, the ship was felt to quiver violently from stem to stern—the masts, yards, and rigging partaking of the general tremor, and even the guns being strongly affected. The agitation, which commenced with considerable force, seemed rather to increase for about two-thirds
of its duration, and then gradually subsided till it became insensible. According to the general opinion, it lasted between two and three minutes; but, when allowance is made for the surprise occasioned by such an unusual phenomenon, a minute and a half will probably be the safer estimate. The sensation it produced will be accurately recognised by any person who has been launched in a boat over a rough beach of gravel; indeed, the resemblance was so alarmingly manifest, that the leads were instantly thrown overboard; but no bottom was found with seventy fathoms of line, and I have since sounded nearly in the same spot with 500 fathoms without reaching the ground. No peculiar smell was detected in the air, nor was there any ebullition in the sea, nor tremor on its surface, nor change of colour; yet the water alongside had something of a fretful unnatural appearance, not easy to describe—the little waves suddenly rising and dropping as if their motion was arrested by some unseen impulse acting in a direction contrary to their course. It did not appear that any change had taken place in either the barometer or thermometer; but circumstances unfortunately prevented their being examined for ten or twelve minutes.

Many persons afterwards asserted that this
singular scene was accompanied by a hollow indistinct noise; but nothing of the kind was heard by the officers, who with me had been attentive observers of all that passed. In about five minutes after it had ceased, we were assailed by a very sharp squall, accompanied by large hail, and by repeated flashes of forked lightning, with thunder, at the distance of a few seconds of time. The squall was transient, the musky appearance of the sky quickly vanished, and the afternoon was peculiarly serene and clear. We afterwards ascertained that, on the same day, earthquakes had taken place both in Candia and in the Morea; and as the ship was nearly in a line connecting the extremities of those countries, it was probably the same great convulsion which had extended throughout that space. The only accounts, however, that could be obtained were too loose to identify the shocks, much less to discover in which direction they had been propagated.

It is remarkable that from two officers of the English garrison at Cerigo, who came on board the following morning, we
learned that no earthquake had been felt in that island, though it forms such a connecting link between the above places, and though that which we had experienced must have been of very considerable violence, to be transmitted through a mass of water of at least 500 fathoms in depth. Slight shocks, I imagine, are seldom communicated, even through shallow water; for it has twice happened to me in Smyrna to have been wakened at night by smart vibrations of the bed, when nothing was felt on board, though the ship was at anchor only one-third of a mile from the house in which I slept, and though officers and sentinels were upon deck, by all of whom such an occurrence could not have been unobserved.

Though very unlikely to have been connected with the
earthquake which was felt on board the Salsette, it may not be uninteresting to mention that, on the preceding evening, between 9 and 10 o'clock, several meteors, of different degrees of brilliancy, were seen; and that one of them, which emitted a long train of sparks, passed so near the ship that I heard the whizzing sound of its flight through the air, and, immediately after its disappearance, the fall of a ponderous body into the water.

I am, &c. F. B.