Thursday, February 2, 2012

Records of the Seasons, 1883

(page 23)

[circa] 1122 ... there were many shipmen on the sea and on fresh water who said that they saw in the north-east a great and broad fire near the earth, which at once waxed in length up to the sky, and the sky separated into four parts, and fought against it as if it would quench it, but the fire nevertheless waxed up to the heavens. The fire they saw in the dawn, and it lasted so long till it was light over all.

from Chronology; or, A Concise View of the Annals of England, 1769

(page 51)

[circa] 1394 ... An apparition of fire was seen in diverse places in England, in several forms; sometimes like a turning wheel, burning; sometimes like a barrel, with flames gushing out of the head; and sometimes like a long burning lance. When it appeared to any persons, it would go as they went, and stop as they stopped. 

from The Church Historians of England, 1854

(page 795)

In this year, truly, several people saw a sign; in appearance it was a fire: it flamed and burned fiercely in the air; it came near to the earth, and for a little time quite illuminated it; afterwards it revolved and ascended up on high, then descended into the bottom of the sea; in several places it burned woods and plains. There was no man who knew with certainty what this divined, nor what this sign signified.

In the country of Northumberland this fire showed itself; and in two seasons of one year were these demonstrations. 

from Force and Nature, Charles Frederick Winslow, 1869

(page 460)

... such or similar will-o'-the-wisps exist not alone in the marshes, and are not the only examples of spontaneous aerial combustion or luminosity that have been seen. So remarkable a phenomenon of this class was witnessed by myself in South America, in May 1865, that I am induced to give it permanent record in this connexion, inasmuch as so important a fact is not only a contribution to knowledge, but may also excite more active inquiry into the nature and causes of such spectral lights.

At the time mentioned, I was engaged in a geological reconnaissance along the coast region of the province of Piura, Peru, accompanied by two American companions, and an Indian attendant. We halted one day at dark, about half way between the river Piura, or town of Sachura, and Point Aguja, within sound of the waves of Sachura Bay. The leaden sky and damp bleak wind common to that locality between sunset and sunrise were chilling us long before we made our beds on the drifting sand of that Sahara-like region.

Sleeping little, I observed for much of the night that the cloudy sky only broke sufficiently to permit occasional glimpses of the stars. Toward morning it was more densely overcast, and bleaker than ever. Tired of discomfort, I summoned my companions before daylight in order to get breakfast and prepare for an early start.

We had barely risen, when one of them, an old resident of Paita, exclaimed, "Why, doctor, there is the British mail steamer bound south." I looked westward, over the Bay of Sachura; and there, sure enough, apparently a long way off, were two orange-coloured lights, each with a conspicuous train, and one just ahead of the other, resembling the flames or light from two smoke-stacks.

But, as I regarded them intently, I was struck with the rapidity and inequality of their motion, which seemed to increase and waver from moment to moment. They appeared, indeed, to be chasing each other. They were moving horizontally at almost the same level, only a few feet from the surface of the land or water, and with greater rapidity than it was possible for any steamer to move. 

At first, supposing them far off at sea, I was surprised at the quickness of their motion and transient variations of relative distance; and soon became convinced that they issued from no steamship's funnels, but were luminous objects of some sort, one following or chasing the other, not many thousands of yards, perhaps feet, away.

I called the attention of my companions to these points; and they came to similar conclusions. What were these lights? Our curiosity became intensely excited. They would vanish for a moment as the low dunes toward the bay intervened, and appear again moving swiftly southward, sometimes almost coming together, then separating, and never more than ten or fifteen feet apart, and each showing bright yellow luminous trains two or three feet long; both objects strongly brilliant, but not defined with clear outlines. In a word, they resembled large flaming torches without smoke in hot pursuit one after the other, just above the surface of the earth and sea. 

They were visible many minutes, and suddenly vanished, while yet in full blast, behind what I supposed to be a range of hillocks on the edge of the bay. Of course I was on the qui vive for the same or similar phenomena to reappear. We observed in all directions. Some minutes elapsed, when one of my companions detected and followed for a while a small bright light in the south-west. He traced it; but I failed to descry it, to his great surprise.

I patiently watched, while my companions busied themselves in preparing for the journey. They grey of dawn was beginning to steal into the eastern night, and I beginning to despair, when to my great delight another luminous object appeared, approaching from the south-west and sailing toward the north, higher in the air that those before described; and almost immediately there appeared another slowly following, but not violently chasing the first, as in the former phenomenon.

These strange objects swept along at different heights, without trains, appearing like irregularly-shaped bladders of light, sometimes near each other, then far apart, rising and falling as if moved by currents of air, or more like slowly sailing birds, and changing their motions in all directions. In aspect they were at first yellow and bright; afterwards, as daylight advanced, growing paler and blueish white, like the fumes of phosphorus seen in the dark.

They were more defined in form than the first, less intensely brilliant, yet apparently shapeless, and varying from six to fifteen inches in their various diameters. They were strange "spectral" lights without definite forms or proportions; at moments almost lost to sight, then reappearing again more brightly, and apparently having some relative connexion with each other, like that of gregarious birds.

They were a long time visible, and finally were lost in the daylight. They appeared to float over both the shores and waters of the bay. What where they? I know not. The recollection of them is a marvel to me to this day.

from The Baital Pachisi; or Twenty-five Tales of a Demon, 1855

(page 503)

The monarch's spiritual preceptor was named Devasami, who had a son named Hariswami, who was handsome as Kamdev, as deeply-read in the Shastras as Brihaspati, and rich as Kuver. He was married to a brahman's daughter named Lavanyavati, and they were deeply attached to each other.

One on occasion, during the hot season, they were sleeping at night on the roof of a shed. It chanced that the veil was blown aside from the woman's face, and at that moment a Gandharb was passing through the air in his chariot. Suddenly his look fell upon her, and bringing his chariot down, he took her up while yet asleep, and placing her in the car, flew off.

Definition of "Gandharb" from The Popular Dictionary in two parts: English and Hindustani, 1889:

Gandharb: an aerial minstrel, a kind of celestial musician.

from Bohn's Ecclesiastical Library, History of the Church by Sozomen and Philostorgius, 1855

(page 503)

After gaining this victory over Maximus, and after the arrival of Theodosius at Rome, when the emperor was on the point of taking his departure thence, a new and strange star was seen in the sky, which announced the coming of very great calamities upon the world. It appeared first at midnight, near the east, in the very circle which is called the Zodiac. It was large and bright, and in brilliance it was not much inferior to the morning star. After this, a concourse of stars gathered around it on every side, like a swarm of bees gathering in a cluster round their queen. Then, as if impelled by some mutual collision, the light of all the stars mingled together, and shone forth in a single flame, assuming the shape of a double-edged sword, huge and terrible.

But that one star which first appeared seemed like the hilt of the sword above mentioned, or rather like a root shooting up the large body of light, from what appeared to be a star, surmounted with flowers darting up like the flame from a lamp. Such was the novel and wondrous sight exhibited by the star which then appeared. Its course, moreover, was very different from that of the rest of the stars; for from the time of its first appearing in the place where we have said, and moving on from thence, it began to rise and set together with the morning star.

Afterwards, however, receding by little and little, it went up towards the north, advancing slowly and gradually, and following its own course with a slight deflection towards the left of those who beheld it, but in reality it pursued in the same course as the other stars, with which it came into contact from time to time.

(page 517)

When Theodosius had entered the years of boyhood, on the 19th of July, a little after noon-day, the sun was so completely eclipsed that the stars appeared; and so great a drought followed on this eclipse that a sudden mortality carried off great multitudes of men and of beasts in all parts. Moreover, at the time the sun was eclipsed, a bright meteor appeared in the sky, in shape like a cone, which some persons in their ignorance called a comet, for there was nothing like a comet in the phenomena of this meteor as it appeared. For its light did not end in a tail, nor had it any of the characteristics of a star, but it seemed like the flame of a huge lamp, subsisting by itself, with no star below it to answer to the appearance of a lamp.

Friday, January 27, 2012

from Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1888

(page 203)

... quoting from our own Journal, Dr. Tripe reported that in 1874, in a fearful storm of hail, rain, wind and lightning, he saw a large ball of fire rise apparently about a mile distant from him from behind some low houses. The ball at first rose slowly, but moved quicker as it ascended; when at about 45°, it started off at an acute angle from south to west with such great rapidity as to produce the appearance of forked lightning; it made three zigzags before entering a dark cloud.

Monday, January 23, 2012

from The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1809

(page 88)

Of a very remarkable meteor seen at Oxford by the Rev. John Swinton, B.D., F.R.S.

The person who first saw the very remarkable luminous appearances in the air here, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 1769, was the Rev. Mr. Cleaver, student of Christ-church; who, on his return home, at a village called Horton, 6 or 7 miles from Oxford, about 7h 15m p.m. observed, with some degree of astonishment, a dark fuscous vapour, resembling a blackish cloud, contigous to the northern horizon. Out of this vapour there issued another of a flame colour, in the N.N.W. His account of it was, that "it looked like a house, or building, set on fire."

from The London Magazine, 1784

(page 120)

Portion of a letter from Mr. Aepinus, Counsellor of State, in Russia, to Mr. Pallas, Counsellor of the Imperial College at St. Petersburgh, in consequence of the communication relative to a volcano in the moon discovered by Mr. Herschell, F.R.S., made to the Imperial Academy of Sciences, by Mr. De Magellan, member of the same Academy, May 4, 1783.


Nothing could have given me greater pleasure than the communication which I received from you respecting Mr. Herschell's discovery of a volcano burning in the moon. However interesting this observation may be to every lover of natural philosophy, it affects me still more particularly, as the fact when confirmed will demonstrate the truth of my Conjectures concerning the Volcanic Origin of the Inequalities in the Moon's Surface, which conjectures were formed in the year 1778, and published in a memo printed at Berlin in the year 1782.

(Footnote to letter referencing luminous spot on the moon ...)

† It was on the 11th of October, 1772, when the nephew of the late Professor Beccaria discovered a luminous spot on the moon during its total eclipse of that night; the professor having left his nephew and his sister at this own electrical observatory in Cartegna, where he intended to observe that eclipse, but was prevented, by receiving notice of the arrival of M. de Sauffure at Mondavi, where the professor went immediately to meet that philosopher, leaving his nephew with a small achromatic telescope of Dollond, with proper instructions to make the observation of that eclipse. Both the nephew and his sister did clearly distinguish a luminous spot in or near the place marked Copernicus on the moon's maps; and henceforth Professor Beccaria mentioned this observation in his public lectures of natural philosophy, to show that the round cavities of the moon's surfaces were as many craters of extinct volcanos.

... The reader may see this account given by the professor himself, in a letter directed to the Princess Josephina de Savoy-Carignan, where he delivers his opinion concerning that luminous appearance observed by Don Ulloa on the moon, during the total eclipse of the sun on the 24th of June, 1778, contending that such a luminous spot was a volcano actually burning, and not a real hole through the mass of the moon, as Don Ulloa had assumed to be the case.

... But it deserves to be remarked, that the two volcanos observed by Don Ulloa, and by the nephew of Professora Beccaria, must have been of an amazing size, both being discernible by small telescopes.

from Scots Magazine, 1811

(page 648)

On the 15th of May, at half past eight o'clock in the evening, a luminous meteor was seen at Paris: the sky was serene and the atmosphere was very calm. This meteor, which appeared to be at a considerable height, lasted several minutes. It balanced itself in all directions in the air, and at length exploded, without any report or detonation. Nothing more than a smoke of vapour was perceived, which afterwards formed a cloud.

It was seen also at Augsburgh, at 37 minutes past 8 o'clock in the evening, at which time an indistinct noise was heard, which issued from a small black cloud, thick, globe-shaped, about half the diameter of the moon, and westward of a large stormy cloud. This globe divided itself at the height of an angle of 7 degrees 40 minutes; and was instantly followed by a luminous zig-zag in a southerly direction; another zig-zag still larger succeeded to the former, and pointing vertically, then rapidly to the north under an angle of 2 degrees 30 minutes, but the light of this was paler than that of the former. It again resumed a vertical direction, and returned to the southward under an angle of 2 degrees, but very obscure.

A black vapour seemed to issue from the globe and to lose itself in the atmosphere.

On the same day, at a quarter past 3 o'clock in the evening, the same meteor phenomenon was observed at Lansanne, in the north-west region of the heavens. The weather was calm and serene. It was a kind of water spout, formed apparently of a thin cloud completely resplendent with light, the base of it something larger than the top, the whole length occupying a space of about 30 degrees. Its direction was at first vertical, but it afterwards bent itself insensibly into the figure of an S. This meteor rested perfectly stationary without any visible progressive motion, and without any perceptible noise whatsoever. It disappeared after having lasted about a quarter of an hour.

from The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1809

(page 480)

XI. On the Remarkable Meteor seen Aug. 18, 1783. By Wm. Cooper, D.D., F.R.S., Archdeacon of York. p. 116

No person, says Dr. C., could have a better opportunity of discerning this awful meteor than myself. The weather being, for this climate, astonishingly hot, by Fahrenheit's thermometer, on a north position, and in the open air, having for several days preceding graduated between the hours of 10 in the morning and 7 in the evening from 74° to 82°, I set out on a journey to the sea side. The weather was sultry, the atmosphere hazy, and not a breath of air stirring.

Towards 9 at night it was so dark, that I could scarcely discern the hedges, road, or even the horses' heads. As we proceeded, I observed to my attendants, that there was something singularly striking in the appearance of the night, not merely from its stillness and darkness, but from the sulphureous vapours which seemed to surround us on every side. In the midst of this gloom, and on an instant, a brilliant tremulous light appeared to the N.W. by N. At first it seemed stationary; but in a short time it burst from its position and took its course to the S.E. by E. It passed directly over our heads with a buzzing noise, seemingly at the height of 60 yards. Its tail, as far as the eye could form any judgment, was about 8 or 10 yards in length. At last, this wonderful meteor divided into several glowing parts or balls of fire, the chief part still remaining in its full splendour.

Soon after this I heard two great explosions, each equal to the report of a cannon carrying a 9 lb. ball. During its progress, the whole of the atmosphere, as far as I could discern, was perfectly illuminated with the most beautifully vivid light I ever remember to have seen. The horses on which we rode shrunk with fear; and some people whom we met on the road declared their consternation in the most expressive terms.