Saturday, April 12, 2008

from Works, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1902

(page 259)

We had driven out through the Allerheiligen (All Saints) gate, and had soon left Hanau behind us, after which we reached the scenes which aroused my attention by their novelty, if, at this season of the year, they offered little that was pleasing. A continual rain had completely spoiled the roads, which, generally speaking, were not then in such good order as we find them now; and our journey was thus neither pleasant nor happy. Yet I was indebted to this damp weather for the sight of a natural phenomenon which must be exceedingly rare, for I have seen nothing like it since, nor have I heard of its having been observed by others.

It was this: namely, we were driving at night up a rising ground between Hanau and Gelhausen, and, although it was dark, we preferred walking to exposing ourselves to the danger and difficulty of that part of the road. All at once, in a ravine on the right-hand side of the way, I saw a sort of amphitheatre, wonderfully illuminated. In a funnel-shaped space there were innumerable little lights gleaming, ranged step-fashion over one another; and they shone so brilliantly that the eye was dazzled.
But what still more confused the sight was, that they did not keep still, but jumped about here and there, as well as downwards from above as vice versa, and in every direction. The greater part of them, however, remained stationary, and beamed on. It was only with the greatest reluctance that I suffered myself to be called away from this spectacle, which I could have wished to examine more closely. The postilion, when questioned, said that he knew nothing about such a phenomenon, but that there was in the neighbourhood an old stone-quarry, the excavation of which was filled with water. Now, whether this was a pandemonium of will-o'-the-wisps, or a company of luminous creatures, I will not decide.

Friday, April 11, 2008

from Report of the 41st Meeting of the British Assn. for the Advancement of Science, 1871

(page 31)

Extraordinary Meteor—The following account of an extraordinary meteor occurs in a letter I received from a brother who is a missionary stationed in Agra. He does not give the exact place where he was at the time, but it must have been very near to Agra. The letter is dated Agra, 24th November, 1870. A missionary from Allahabad was with him when he saw it. —Mills Hill, Chadderston, near Manchester. Robert Gryson.

Agra, Nov. 24, 1870—I recently saw a marvellous meteor. I was in camp, and had risen for an early march a few minutes before 3 a.m. on November 4th. I was standing under the shade of a cluster of trees, when a sudden flash of light fell around. Two or three camp fires were blazing near, and at first I thought it might be a sudden flare up from one of them; but on casting my eyes up towards the heavens, I saw a large oval light, stationary. It appeared to be composed of a large number of irregularly shaped, differently sized stars, yet so closely packed as to form one light, yet giving the whole a sort of dappled appearance. At first I was struck dumb with amazement—thought it must be some mental illusion, or that my eyes were playing me false. But as I gazed it remained steadily fixed. _______, of Allahabad, was with me. I roused him; he was soundly asleep, and some seconds passed in waking him up. In the interval it appeared to have been lengthened, nearly, though not quite, by a straight line, and as we gazed it assumed the shape of a large magnet, with the upper limb rather shorter than the other. It then gradually expanded, diminishing in brightness as it increased in size, assuming a wavy, serpentine form, though keeping much to a horseshoe shape, until it became so attenuated as to be no longer visible. It must have continued in sight five minutes. It was seen by all the servants; and one of them cried out, "Bhagwauka seela hae," by which he appeared to mean that in his opinion the Almighty was amusing Himself with fireworks; literally, "It is God's sport or amusement." (Nature, Jan. 12th, 1871)

Monday, April 7, 2008

from Proceedings of the British Meteorological Society, 1865

(page 289)

Though the fiery shower was passed, there appeared at 3:47 a phenomenon much more startling than that. It appeared like a serpent, of symmetrical form, and of such brightness as to impress me with the idea of solidity: it was coiled up. The apparent diameter of the coil was about three times that of the moon. I called a witness, who pronounced it to be like a conger eel. A star of the fourth magnitude in Leo Minor appeared to be exactly in the centre of the coil, the position being right ascension 10h 23m, north declination 36°. For 2 minutes no change of position could be observed, although it was agitated by a tremulous motion. It then began to move, at first very slowly, gradually to uncoil itself and expand its proportions; its course was southward; its motion became accelerated, and simultaneously its size increased and brightness diminished. Eventually it assumed a parabolic form, the apex taking precedence, and finally vanished at 3h 55m, having been visible 8 minutes and traversed a space of about 15°. The point where this object appeared is 13° north, and slightly east of the point of apparent divergence of the meteors. It is worthy of remark that it passed through and disappeared near that place. It is much to be desired that this remarkable object may have been seen at distant places. The sky was very clear, and nearly cloudless throughout, a strong breeze blowing from the west.

from The London Magazine, 1784

(page 123)

In Paper XI. Dr. Cooper, Arch-deacon of York, gives an account of the meteor on the 18th of August, 1783, which he saw. The letter, which is addressed to Sir Joseph Banks, is dated from Hartlepool, near Stockton. Dr. C. was on a journey to the sea-side. The weather was sultry, the atmosphere hazy, the night was dark and still. Neither the road, the hedges, nor even the horses heads were perceptible: sulphureous vapours seemed to surround him on every side, when a brilliant tremulous light appeared to the N.W. by N.

At first it seemed stationary, but soon burst from its position, and took its course to the S.E. by E. passing directly over their heads with a buzzing noise, at the height of sixty yards. Its tail seemed to be twenty-four or thirty feet in length. At last it divided into several glowing balls of fire. Two explosions were then heard. The light was the most vivid the Doctor had ever seen. The horses on which they rode shrunk with fear, and the utmost consternation appeared in the countenances of several people whom they met on the road.

from Report of the 22nd Meeting of the British Assn. for the Advancement of Science, 1852

(page 181)

1830. June 25—(The following is added to an account of a most tremendous thunder-storm.) The storm passed about two miles E. of Gloucester at 10 p.m., and at some period between 10:20 and 10:40, Mr. ____, who had a complete view of the whole, perceived a strange meteor in the W. or W.S.W., where the sky was cloudy, precisely like the moon behind clouds, of the same colour, and nearly as large, so that he thought for a moment it had been the moon. He called several other people, who all saw it. It lasted about three minutes as near as he could judge, and gradually disappeared as if obscured by clouds, or retiring in a straight line backwards, for it was quite stationary. He stated also that he saw another thing of the same kind, very much smaller, on the same night.

from The Gentleman's Magazine, 1783

(page 712)

Salisbury, Aug. 23. About nine last Monday evening an uncommon and beautiful meteor suddenly burst from the elements in the N.E.
It remained about half a minute in one station, affording a tremulous light not unlike the moon emerging from a cloud; then proceeded in a very regular and swift horizontal motion through the East, where, dividing into several glowing balls of light, it disappeared.

from The Hundred Wonders of the World, 1821

(page 415)

On the 9th of July, 1686, at half past one in the morning, a fire-ball with a tail was observed in 8 1/2 degrees of Aquarius, and 4 degrees north, which continued nearly stationary for seven or eight minutes, with a diameter nearly equal to half the moon's diameter. At first, its light was so great that the spectators could see to read by it; after which it gradually disappeared.

from The Hundred Wonders of the World, 1821

(page 419)

On the 4th of October of the above year, 1783, two meteors were seen in England. The first, at three in the morning, on account of the early hour, was witnessed by but few spectators, who represented it as rising from the north to a small altitude, and then becoming stationary with a vibratory motion, and an illumination like day-light: it vanished in a few moments, leaving a train behind. This sort of tremulous appearance has been noticed in other meteors, as well as their continuing stationary for some time, either before they begin to shoot, or after their course is ended.

The second of these meteors appeared at forty-three minutes past six in the evening, and was much smaller, and also of much shorter duration, than the one seen in August. It was first observed to the north, like a stream of fire, similar to that of the common shooting stars, but large; and having proceeded some distance under this form, suddenly burst out into that intensely bright blueish light, peculiar to such meteors, which may be most aptly compared to the blue lights of India, or to some of the largest electrical sparks. The illumination was very great; and on that part of its course where it had been so bright, a dusky red streak or train was left, which remained visible about a minute, and was thought by some gradually to change its form. Except this train, the meteor had not any tail, but was nearly of a round body, or, perhaps, somewhat elliptical. After moving not less than ten degrees in this bright state, it became suddenly extinct, without any appearance of bursting or explosion.

from Thunder and Lightning, 1905

(Page 73)

In some cases, fireballs have been seen to come down from the sky apparently, and then, after almost reaching but not actually touching the ground, to ascend again. Thus on a hot day in summer 1837, M. Hapoule, a landed proprietor in the department of the Moselle, standing in front of the entrance to his stables under the shelter of a porch during a storm, saw a fireball about the size of an orange moving in the direction of a dung-heap not far from him. But instead of going right into it, it stopped about a yard off, and changing its route, it went off at an angle, keeping the same level for some distance, when it suddenly seemed to change its mind again, and rose perpendicularly till it disappeared in the clouds.

These sudden changes, as we have seen, are strangely characteristic of the habits of fireballs. The Garde Champêtre of the village of Lalande de Libourne (Gironde) was traversing the country one evening about half-past ten, engaged in organizing a garde de surveillance, when he suddenly found himself surrounded by a bright and penetrating light. Astonished, he looked behind him, and saw a fireball, just broken loose from a cloud, descending quickly to the ground.

The light vanished presently, but he made his way
towards where the fireball seemed to be falling. When he had gone about two hundred yards, he saw another brilliant light breaking out from the top of a tree and spreading itself into a sheaf of rays, every point of which seemed to emit electric sparks. At the end of a quarter of an hour the light became weaker, and then disappeared. The tree was afterwards cut down, and it was found that the lightning had gone down the centre to a distance of three yards, and had then passed down outside to the soil, leaving trace of a semi-circular route; and finally, after rising again on the opposite side of the tree to a height of four yards, tearing off two narrow strips of bark, had disappeared. At the foot of the tree a small hole, about an inch and a quarter in diameter, retained a certain degree of warmth for an hour and a half afterwards.

Fireballs often keep within the frontiers of cloud-
land. They may be seen passing sometimes from one cloud to another in the high regions of the atmosphere.

On September 22, 1813, at seven in the evening,
M. Louis Ordinaire saw a fireball leave a cloud at the zenith—the sky being very much lowering at the time—and go towards another. It was of a reddish-yellow and extremely brilliant, lighting up the ground with a bright radiance. He was able to follow its movements for at least a minute, and then saw it disappear into the second cloud. There was an explosion followed by a dull sound like the firing off of a cannon in the distance.

After a violent storm which broke out near Wake
field on March 1,1774, there remained only two clouds in the sky, just above the horizon. Balls of fire were observed gliding from the higher of the two into the lower, like falling stars.

In high mountainous districts—in the Alps, for
instance—you may often look down from above upon a storm. It is fascinating thus to watch the grandiose spectacle of the elements at war. Here from the pen of Pere Lozeran du Fesch is a striking picture of such a scene—

It was on the 2nd of September, 1716, about three o'clock in the afternoon. A traveller was making his way down towards Vic from the summit of Cantal, accompanied by a guide.

The weather was calm and very warm, but down below, about the middle of the mountain, a vast sea of mist stretched out in wavelike clouds.

These clouds were furrowed continually by lightning flashes, some going quite straight, some zigzag, some taking the shape of fireballs. When the two men came near this region of clouds, the mist grew so thick they could hardly see the bridles of their horses.

"The air became gradually more cold and the darkness more dense as they proceeded downwards. Now they were in the midst of the fireballs flying in every direction all round them, revolving as they went, reddish in colour, like saffron lit up.

They were of all sizes—some quite small on their first appearance, seeming to grow immensely in volume in a few moments. Drops of rain fell when they passed. Up to this point the sight had been curious but not terrifying, but suddenly now, one of these fireballs, about two feet in diameter, burst open near the traveller and emitted streams of a bright and beautiful light in every direction, and there was a dull report followed by a tremendous crash. The two men were much shaken and the air all round them seemed polluted. After a minute or two, however, all trace of the explosion had been dissipated, and they proceeded on their way."

On January 6, 1850, near Merlan, about six in the afternoon, a fireball burst above the heads of two men, enveloping them in a bluish light, without hurting them or even damaging their clothes, but giving them a momentary thrill as from an electric battery. It left no traces of any kind, not even a smell.

Mr. G. M. Ryan records an instance which he
witnessed at Karachi in Scinde. While in his drawing room one day with two friends who were taking refuge from a storm, he rose from his chair and went to the door to open it, the windows as well as the door being shut at the time. Returning, he saw in the air and between his friends, a ball of fire of about the size of a full moon. At the same time there was a terrible clap of thunder. Two of the spectators were slightly wounded; one felt a sharp pain on the left side of the face, the other, a sensation in one arm with a feeling as if his hair were burning. There was a strong smell of sulphur. In the next room there were two rifles in a case; one was intact but the other was broken, and there was a hole in the wall at the point where the muzzle leant against it, and there were two holes in the
same wall a story higher.

On Sunday, August 19, 1900, several people were
assembled in a room in the château of the Baron de France at Maintenay (Pas-de-Calais), when there was a violent storm raging over the country.

Suddenly there appeared in the midst of the eleven
people who were there, a globe of blue fire about the size of an infant's head, which quietly crossed the room, touching four people on its way. None of them were injured. An awful explosion was heard at the moment when the electric ball disappeared through an open door in front of the great staircase.

On August 3, 1809, a fireb
all struck the house of a Mr. David Sutton, not far from Neweastle-on-Tyne. Eight people were having tea in the drawing-room when a violent clap of thunder knocked down the chimney.

Immediately after they saw on the ground, at the
door opposite the fireplace, the brilliant visitor which announced itself in the sonorous voice of Jupiter the thunderer. It remained discreetly at the entrance of the room, no doubt waiting for the sign to advance. No one making a move, it came into the middle of the room, and there burst with a crash, throwing out fiery grains like aeroliths. The spectacle must have been magnificent—but, we must acknowledge, rather disquieting.

On September 27, 1772, at Besançon, a voluminous
fireball crossed over a corn-shop and the ward of a hospital full of nurses and children. This time again the lightning was merciful—it spared nurses and children, and went and drowned itself in the Doubs.

Nearly thirty years before, in July, 1744, it showed
the same regard for an honest German peasant woman. She was occupied in the kitchen superintending the family meal, when, after a terrible clap of thunder, she saw a fireball the size of a fist come down the chimney, pass between her feet without hurting her, and continue on its course without burning or even upsetting the spinning-wheel and other objects on the floor. Much frightened, the young woman tried to escape; she threw herself towards the door and opened it, when the fireball at once followed her, played about her feet, went into the next room, which opened out-of-doors, crossed it, and through the door into the yard. It went round the yard, entered a barn by an open door, climbed the wall opposite, and reaching the edge of the roof, burst with such a terrific noise that the peasant woman fainted. The barn at once took fire and was reduced to cinders.

Towards the middle of the last century, March 3,
1835, the steeple of Crailsheim was set on fire by lightning. The guardian's daughter, aged twenty years, was at this moment in her room and had her back turned to the window, when her young brother saw a fireball enter by the window-sill and descend on to his sister's back, giving her a sudden shock all over her body. The young girl then saw at her feet a quantity of small flames, which went towards the kitchen, the door of which had been opened, and set fire to a pile of mossy wood. There was no further damage than this attempt at incendiarism, which was easily extinguished.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

from Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, 1847

(page lxix)

Moozuffer, 25th January, 1849—I cannot permit this opportunity to pass by without describing to you, in the best way I am able, a most extraordinary phenomena which we all witnessed on the night of the 23rd instant. It would indeed require a far abler and more scientific pen than mine to do justice to it—however, I hope you will take the will for the deed, and pardon all imperfections.

At 6:30 p.m. observed a very remarkable milky appearance in the water, the color assuming the same tint as a shallow mud-bank or sand-bank. The sea, which had a few minutes before been turbulent and confused, suddenly became smooth and placid, and the air felt cold and chilly. In the space of an hour the whole verge of the horizon, as far as the eye could reach, was most brilliantly illuminated. The vessel shortly after entered a vast body of water of the most dazzling brightness, and of a highly phosphorescent nature; in fact it looked as if we were sailing over a boundless plain of snow, or a sea of quicksilver. The surface of the ocean for miles in extent was unbroken—not a wave or ripple disturbed it, and the waters seemed so dense and solid, that the Moozuffer actually appeared as if she was forcing her way through molten lead. That part of the surface which was broken by the stroke of our huge paddle-wheels, resembled small patches of thick milk or cream. The sky, and everything around us, was quite lighted up by it.

The weather was particularly fine, though the atmosphere was damp and moist: the wind was light from the N.W., stars over head clear and light, but those of a lesser altitude were rendered dim by the haze. The horizon nearly the whole time was dark, and ill-defined; a few thin cumuli, floating very low down, occasionally swept past; but no other peculiarity in the atmosphere could be perceived until about ten o’clock, when a singular light was seen in the heavens to the northward, as if day was dawning, or the full moon was either setting or just rising. It strongly resembled a faint Aurora Borealis, being of a roseate tinge near the horizon, and was a steady fixed light, but without those corruscations which are usually observed in the higher latitudes. It extended along the horizon in the form of a segment of a circle from N.W. to N.E., and the altitude of the centre of the arch was 15°. It continued visible until a few minutes after midnight, when it disappeared as suddenly as it appeared, and the sea about the same period lost also its luminous quality. The light in the heavens, and the lightness of the sea, were, however, again seen for about ten minutes at two a.m., when both became once more invisible. The horizon, except where the light appeared, was everywhere dark and indistinct, and could not be made out; the sky and sea were apparently blended together.

The phenomena was altogether as beautiful as it was extraordinary. I could have stood on the deck gazing at it the whole night, and should not have felt fatigued. There was something grand and sublime in such a scene as I have faintly endeavored to portray. No language of mine could ever do justice to it. We were upwards of six hours in passing through this vast body of luminous water, and during that time we ran a distance of upwards of forty miles.

... the light seen in the heavens I cannot account for, unless it was the low fleecy clouds which hung on the verge of the horizon that reflected back the brightness of the sea; but why the whole sky should not have assumed the same appearance, I cannot imagine. It continued to shine in one spot only, and disappeared at the same time the sea lost its brilliancy.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

from Report of the Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1853

(page 235)

I have the honor to transmit an account of a singular phenomenon witnessed by myself and my family on the morning of the 4th of September, 1850.

I was then residing at the Vicarage, South Mimms, Middlesex, in a situation peculiarly favourable for astronomical observation.

I had been engaged for several consecutive days in observing the planet Mercury during his approach to the sun; partly to test the accuracy of my power of observation by the calculations of the Nautical Almanack, but chiefly to remark how nearly I could trace the planet in his course to the sun, before he should be wholly lost in his rays.

For this purpose I used the most careful adjustments my instrument was capable of, and continued my observations without noticing anything peculiar.

When, however, on the morning of the 4th of September I was preparing my equatoreal before it was fixed on the planet, I observed, passing through the field of view, in a continuous stream, a great number of luminous bodies; and I cannot more correctly describe the whole appearance, than by employing the same language which I used when I communicated the circumstance to the Royal Astronomical Society, in the Monthly Notices of Dec. 13, 1850, and Dec. 12th, 1851.

When I first saw them I was filled with surprise, and endeavoured to account for the strange appearance by supposing that they were bodies floating in the atmosphere, such as the seeds of plants, as we are accustomed to witness them in the open country about this season; but nothing was visible to the naked eye.

The sky was perfectly cloudless; and so serene was the atmosphere, that there was not a breath of wind through the day, even so much as to cause any perceptible tremor of the instrument; and I subjected the luminous bodies to examination by all the eye-pieces and coloured glasses that were needful; but they bore every such examination just as the planets Mercury and Venus did, both of which were frequently looked at by me, for the purpose of comparison, during the day; so that it was impossible I could resist the conclusion (much as I was early disposed to hesitate) that they were real celestial bodies moving in an orbit of their own, and far removed beyond the limits of our atmosphere.

They continued passing, often in inconceivable numbers, from half past 9 A.M., when I first saw them, almost without intermission, till about half past 3 P.M., when they became fewer, passed at longer intervals, and then finally ceased.

The bodies were all perfectly round, with about the brightness of Venus, as seen in the same field of view with them; and their light was white, or with a slight tinge of blue; and they appeared self-luminous, as though they did not cross the sun's disc; yet when seen near him they did not change their shape, or diminish in brightness.

They passed with different velocities, some slowly, and others with great rapidity; and they were very various in size, some having a diameter, as nearly as I could estimate, about 2”, while others were approaching 20”.

I tried various powers upon them, and used both direct and diagonal eyepieces; but with every one I employed they showed the same appearance, being as sharply defined as the planet Jupiter, without haze or spot, or inequality of brightness.

I naturally anticipated some such appearance at night, but after half past 3 I saw nothing peculiar, though I waited till 11 P.M.; but have since been informed that at 5 past 11 (it is believed on the same night) a meteor of amazing brilliance and size, and passing in the same direction and about the same altitude, was observed by Mr. Bailan of Wrotham Park, in the immediate neighbourhood of South Mimms.

I repeated my observations the following morning, and then saw one such single body pass in the same direction as those of the preceding day.

They occupied a tolerably well-defined zone of about 18° in breadth; and, though with some exceptions, their direction was due east and west. Their motion was perfectly uniform, so far as I was able to follow them with the instrument at liberty; and they were observed continuously by myself and members of my family, accustomed to the use of instruments, both by day and night.

The telescope I employed on this occasion is one of 3 1/2 feet focal length, and 2 3/4 inches aperture, by Mr. Dollond, of faultless performance and mounted equatoreally by Mr. Jones of Charing Cross, the circles divided by Mr. Rothwell of London, and reading off to 5".

I understand that a similar phenomenon has been witnessed by Mr. Cooper of Markree Castle, County of Sligo, though I have not communicated with that gentleman on the subject; but I take the opportunity of subjoining a portion of the contents of a letter to me from Charles B. Chalmers, Esq., F.R.A.S., now residing at Jugon, Côtes du Nord, France.

He thus writes: “About the latter end of the year 1849, I witnessed a phenomenon similar to that which you saw in September 1850, in every respect, excepting that I thought some of the bodies were elongated, though certainly the majority were globular; and their brightness appeared to me about equal to that of Venus, as seen at the same time.

“I was then residing at Weston-Super-Mare, in Somersetshire; and the instrument with which I saw them was a 5-feet telescope, equatoreally mounted, in a fixed observatory.

“I was engaged similarly to yourself in observing the planet Mercury; about half past 10 A.M. I was at first inclined to believe it must be the seed of some plants of the thistle nature floating in the air, but from my position that could not have been the case.

“The wind on the day I observed the phenomenon was very slight; but such as it was it came from the sea. The bodies all appeared sharply defined, no feathery appearances that I could detect; and I did not observe any difference in their brightness during the time I observed them.”

from Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1876

(page 595; excerpt)

The Meteor of January 23, 1877—According to the Indianapolis Daily Journal, of January 25, the meteor "disappeared just as it seemed to touch the earth, apparently not more than one-fourth of a mile distant. It presented the appearance of a flexible band of beautifully polished silver, and as it pursued its downward course waved like a ribbon in the breeze. Exclamations of astonishment and admiration burst simultaneously from the lips of all who saw it."

from Treasures of Use and Beauty: An Epitome of the Choicest Gems of Wisdom, History, Reference and Recreation, 1883

(page 77)

1780. May 19—Notable dark day in New England. A dense and mysterious darkness covered the land, continuing from twelve to fifteen hours, filling all hearts with wonder, and multitudes with fear and consternation—the superstitious regarding it as the "day of doom," and the learned and scientific wholly unprepared to account for the wonderful phenomenon. The darkness at midday was so dense that people were unable to read common print, or determine the time of day by clocks or watches, and at night, although at the full of the moon, the darkness was so impenetrably thick that traveling was impracticable without lights, and a sheet of white paper was equally invisible with the blackest velvet. The atmosphere seemed charged with a thick, oily, sulphurous vapor, and streams of water were covered with a thick scum, and paper dipped in it, and dried, appeared of a dark color, and felt as if it had been rubbed with oil.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

from Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1875

(page 156)

Read the following extract from the Report on the affairs of the settlement of Port Blair and the Nicobars for the month of May, 1874.

"On the 31st of the month, at about 5:30 p.m., an extraordinary phenomenon was observed. The sky at the time was quite clear and the weather fine. I was out sailing in my boat, when suddenly a luminous body darted from the heavens from north to south. When first observed, it was like an ordinary meteor with a long tail. In its progress, it seemed as it were to slide into two distinct meteors attached to each other by the tail of the first thus *-----*-----, and then, after a further rapid progress, it appeared to burst into eight parts, and disappeared from view.

"I have never witnessed so strange a spectacle before, and mention the occurrence here in the hope that it may have been observed in India, and that a more perfect account of it may be forthcoming from some scientific individual."

The President remarked that the phenomenon observed was very similar to a very bright meteor seen in the Panjab some time since; it was however, very remarkable that in the present instance no report had been heard. The meteor must have been extraordinarily bright to have been visible in the afternoon in the month of May.

from The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, Vol. XIV, 1830

(Page 124, excerpt)

The Abbate Soldani, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Siena, has published a more detailed account of the same phenomenon. He informs us, that an alarming cloud was seen in Tuscany, near Siena and Radacofam, proceeding from the north, about seven o'clock in the evening, discharging sparks like rockets, and throwing out smoke like a furnace, with explosions more resembling the discharge of cannon and musketry than thunder, and casting down ignited stones to the ground, while the lightning which issued from it was remarkably red, and less rapid than an ordinary flash. To persons in different situations, the cloud appeared to be of different shapes; and, though it remained suspended for a considerable time, its fire and smoke were visible in every direction. Its altitude, from a combination of circumstances, was judged to be much above the common region of the clouds. One of the stones, which was of an irregular figure, weighed five pounds and a half, was black on the outside, as if suffused with smoke, and seems, internally, to be composed of matter of the colour of ashes, and in which were perceived small specks of metal, as of gold and silver. Besides this, about nineteen others were shewn to Soldani and all of them characterized by a black and glazed outer surface, by their resistance to acids, and by a degree of hardness which permitted them not to be scratched with the point of a penknife.

Signore Montauli, who observed the cloud as he happened to be travelling, described it as appearing much above the elevation of ordinary clouds, as wrapt in smoke and flame, and as gradually becoming white, without being visibly affected by the sun's rays, which beamed full on its lower portions. In the heart of it he could discern, as it were, the basin of a fiery furnace, with a rotatory motion.

from The Gallery of Nature and Art; or, a Tour Through Creation and Science, 1821

(page 347)

Thunder-clap, with an extraordinary fire-ball, bursting at sea. By Mr. Chalmers.

Nov. 4, 1749, in the latitude of 42° 48', longitude 9° 3', the Lizard then bore N. 41° 5' about the distance of 569 miles, as Mr. C. was taking an observation on the quarter-deck, about ten minutes before 12 o'clock, one of the quarter-masters desired he would look to windward, which he did, and observed a large ball of blue fire rolling on the surface of the water, at about three miles distance from them. It came down upon them so fast, that before they could raise the main tack, they observed the ball to rise almost perpendicular, and not above forty or fifty yards from the main chains: it went off with an explosion as if hundreds of cannon had been fire at once; and left so great a smell of brimstone, that the ship seemed to be nothing but sulphur. After the noise was over, which did not last longer than half a second, they found the main-topmast shattered into about a hundred pieces, and the mainmast rent quite down to the heel. There were some of the spikes, that nailed the fish of the mainmast, drawn with such force out of the mast, that they stuck in the main deck so fast, that the carpenter was obliged to take an iron crow to get them out: five men were knocked down, and one of them greatly burnt by the explosion. They thought that when the ball, which appeared to be the size of a large millstone, rose, it took the middle of the main-topmast, as the head of the mast above was not splintered. The ball came down from the N.E. and went to the S.W.