Sunday, December 14, 2008

from The Philosophy of Storms, 1841

(page 412; excerpt from Mr. Alison's Narrative of an Excursion to the Summit of the Peak of Teneriffe, in February, 1829.)

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 observation, 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 supposed 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 half 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. 

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