Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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.

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