Thursday, December 4, 2008

from Medical Times, 1842

(page 253)

Major Bonnycastle, in his Canadian Tour, gives an account of a very singular electrical phenomenon observed by him upon the ocean. He says: “About two in the morning the mate roused all the sleepers in their hammocks, by calling loudly for the master to come on deck, as he observed a most unusual appearance on the lee-bow. The weather had been cold, but there was a clear, starry firmament, when in a moment the heavens became overcast to the southward, and an instantaneous and intensely bright light, resembling a fiery aurora, shot out of the sea, and rendered everything minutely discernible, even to the masthead. The mate and his watch immediately put the helm down, calling up the whole crew, and awakened the captain; but before this was accomplished the light had spread more vividly than ever over the whole sea, and the waves, hitherto tranquil, became much agitated, while thick, dark clouds from the land seemed to threaten dreadful weather. The spectacle continued to increase in beauty; the whole sea, as far as could be seen, was at length one entire sheet of an awfully brilliant flame, above which shone along the base of the high, frowning, and dark land abreast of them, a long and magnificent line of fire. The fish, plentiful in these latitudes, and of a large size, seemed alarmed; long tortuous darting lines of light, in a contrary direction to the sea, showed immense numbers of large fish flying about as if they were lost. The wind, which had increased a little, had a peculiar hollow sound; and after a length of time passed in contemplating this splendid and extraordinary scene, day broke slowly, the sun rising very fiery and gloomily. To sail on a sea of fire,” the writer observes, “is the only similitude I can fancy to this really awful scene. I have frequently seen the waters of the ocean on fire, as it is vulgarly termed; but then only in small masses, and no more to be compared to what we there witnessed than a November day, when the sun passes murkily through the fog of England, is to the bright and glorious appearance of that luminary on a fine day in the tropics.”

No comments: