Monday, March 24, 2008

from The Mystic Star, 1870

(page 225, Essay on Electricity, and its Agency, in the Operations of Nature)

During the last seven years lights have frequently appeared to rise out of the water of Lake Michigan and float a few feet above; sometimes darting into the atmosphere higher, apparently, than the highest mast of any vessel; anon disappearing and reappearing at a distance of a number of rods. Hitherto I regarded them as probably the lights of vessels, alternately hid and uncovered by the sails; and the sudden motions as sudden starts of the vessel, or optical illusions. But last summer was excessively hot, during a long time almost cloudless. Last spring the lights reappeared in greatly increased numbers, at great distances from each other; sometimes scintillating in numerous small sparks, exhibiting alternately the stationary and darting, both horizontally and vertically, motions in great variety, and on successive nights, immediately after dark, when it was known there were no vessels in sight. On one occasion a fireball rose out of the water, say twenty or thirty rods from the light house, stood two minutes six or eight feet above it, and then darted off towards Manitou Island with immense celerity.

September 16, 1865, at 8:30 p.m., I stepped to the door of the light house. The Aurora, without a dark bank underneath, was coruscating brilliantly. Presently I observed lightning in the water of the lake and by closely inspecting the sky from the tower, satisfied myself that it was not reflected, but actually darted from under the water to the surface and disappeared every five or eight seconds, and spreading out like sheet lightning but not rising above the surface into the atmosphere. The fainter flashes were white light, more intense were yellow, and most intense were intensely red like the setting sun. At nine o'clock a red nucleus began to form apparently eight or ten feet under the surface of the water, which gradually increased to the size of the solar orb and dazzling as the sun, about fifty rods from the shore. This appearance lasted about thirty-five minutes; and on its disappearance was succeeded by large brushes of flame, two or three at a time, darting to the surface of the water and topsy-turvy under it again three to five rods from each other. These resembled full sized sheafs of wheat so exactly that the very heads seemed visible. In five minutes these brushes were succeeded by broad sheets of light on the surface of the water like a bed-spread; but these did not sink nor rise visibly into the atmosphere; and were soon superceded by a milky whiteness of the water gradually spreading over an extensive surface; and simultaneously the Aurora, which had become faint, kindled up splendidly, vivid streamers issuing from a dark bank to the height of sixty degrees.

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