Date sent:        Fri, 30 Aug 1996 11:20:28 +0930 (CST)
From:             Duncan Steel <DSTEEL@GINA.SCIENCE.ADELAIDE.EDU.AU>
To:                 bkobres@uga.cc.uga.edu
Subject:          FYI, 1885 EVENT?

>Date: Wed, 28 Aug 1996 23:30:27 -0500
>From:haaron@iu.net (Frank Aaron)
>Subject:1885 Meteorite
>Evans Lyne,
>While doing some historical research, I came across the following article in
>an 1885 newspaper.  This is a verbatim copy of the article.
>Frank H. Aaron, 605 Kingston Circle, Satellite Beach, FL 32937
>Ph: 407-777-2851  Fx: 407-773-4612
>   "An unusual meteorlogical phenomenon was witnessed in the mid-Pacific ocean
>from the deck of the British bark, Innewick, which arrived at Victoria,
>British Columbia, on March 2d.  Captain Walters, of the bark, gives the
>following account of it: At midnight on February 24th, in Latitude 37 degrees
>North, Longitude 170 degrees West, the wind began blowing stiffly from the
>South Southeast, and the vessel was running before it under short sail.  An
>hour later the wind had increased to a terrific gale, and the sky became
>intensely black.  At 5:00 A.M. on February 25th, I was suddenly aroused by the
>First Mate, and going up on deck, I found that the sky had changed to a fiery
>red, as if the entire heavens were ablaze.  Five minutes after I reached the
>deck, a large mass of fire shot out from the heavens directly over the vessel,
>and as it fell into the sea fifty yards to our lee, it was accompanied with a
>hissing and an explosion, the report being so heavy that it shook the vessel
>from head to stern.  This ball of fire had hardly disappeared when the mate
>cried out. "My God! What is that!" and pointed to our leeward, where there was
>a conic tower of white foam rapidly approaching the doomed vessel.  The
>rumbling noise from this volume of water was deafening.  Suddenly our sails
>were struck flat aback, and it seemed that the masts would be taken out of the
>vessel, but we filled away again, and were gratified to see the white foam
>column passing us astern.  Our first fears were intensified when a sheet of
>flame ran down our mizzen mast, and from the rigging shot out great sparks of
>fire.  The sky continued its glaring redness until daylight, and then
>everything resumed its normal condition."
>Note: The location given is approximately 600 nm NNE of Midway Island, or 1200
>nm NW of Hawaii.
>After you have had time to study this account, I would appreciate hearing your
>opinion of the event.  I found this article many years ago, and had hoped that
>some day the remains of this object could be recovered,
>If there is a real interest in this incident, more information can be obtained
>from other newspapers which may have given a more detailed account.  Also, it
>may even be possible to a copy of the ship's Log.

Hi Duncan.  I found a few things pertinent to the 1885 report.  First, the
observation sounded a bit familiar to me but I could not at first remember
where I had come across such.  Eventually I realized Corless had collected:

a number of similar reports from ships at sea under a topic heading of
‘unusual lightning’ or something like that--I don’t have the book with me
now.  Several of these mention balls of fire and red sky, one is particularly
interesting in that the side of the ship was scorched and during the event
the ship iced over even though the air temperature was around 19 degrees
centigrade.  This report mentioned a wave or splash too, if I remember
correctly.  What seems common to these observations is that they are from
dark conditions.  I suspect that it is simply the fact that electrical phenomena
is easier to see under such circumstances.  There is a resource form your
part of the world:

that discusses water spouts and small tornado (willy-willy?) phenomena.
He mentions the ability of these critters to scorch vegetation in their path.
Corless, also, has collected quite a few reports of fiery tornadoes.  Apparently
it has not been established that an electrical discharge is involved with
bringing a funnel down to earth or water but, from what I have read, there is
suspicion that this might be the case.

As to the foamy conical column, a picture is worth a thousand words:

http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/twister.jpg [twister.jpg added 07/23/01]

I’ve tried to keep an ear to the ground as to what pure storm phenomena can
do in part to delineate such from impact reports.  We can be fairly certain
that our ancestors--even a couple of centuries ago--did not distinguish sky
phenomena into realistic categories.  Fighting dragons could be water spouts,
multiple tornadoes, incoming meteors or a splitting comet.  One legged birds
and serpents also could be metaphors used to describe such observations.  I
generally filter for events that are described as happening suddenly or out of
the blue, if a storm is said to be going on prior to the event it becomes pretty
difficult make a confident call.

On a more hopeful note, I think the possibility of nailing the 1159 and 1628 BC
climate anomalies to impact events is becoming quite good.  The correlation:


of the floating Anatolian tree-ring sequence with the long European record
should be quite helpful.  This 469 year interval is a credible period for the time
between T’ang and Fa, who play similar roles in Chinese lore.  I’ve added a
bit of what Legge had to say about early Chinese chronology at:


I think what is key here is to convince researchers in the field that it is worth
their time to identify, and look at carefully, strata from these two dates.  Mike
Baillie seems interested in this.

Have a nice day.

BTW, you are mentioned at:



Had connection problems over the weekend and didn’t mail the above so I’m just
appending these blurbs from Corless rather than incorporating them into the note.

From:  Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena
Page 72, Luminous Phenomena
         Hannay, J. B.; Nature, 25:125,1881.
         Those on board the Campbelton Steamer Kinloch (Capt. Kerr), which left Greenock
         on its usual run about half-past eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning after the storm
         that raged during the night, had a somewhat extraordinary experience while passing
         down the Firth. The vessel was enveloped in a dense shower of hail, and for some
         time it was awfully dark, and occasionally the vessel was lit up by vivid flashes of
         lightning. One of the flashes was very bright, and its shape was something like
         that of the arteries of the human body, with a central column all shattered and
         broken. About noon, while opposite the Cloch Lighthouse, and not far from the
         shore, the captain observed immediately over the ship what appeared to be a
         series of clear balls of lightning, each about a foot in length, and resembling a
         chain, except that they were disconnected. This phenomenon was quickly suc-
         ceeded by an explosion in the funnel of the steamer, and several balls of fire upon
         the bridge running about, and then bounding off into the water. The first impres-
         sion of the spectators was that something had exploded on board, but on inquiry it
         was found that this was not the case. The mate stated, however, that a ball of
         lightning had almost struck him where he stood. A fireman rushed upon deck to
         see what had happened, as the engine-room was filled with smoke, and a choking
         sensation was experienced below. The explanation appears to be that a portion of
         the lightning had passed down the funnel until its force was spent by the fire, and
         the sudden recovery of the draught of the funnel afterwards accounted for the loud
         report that was heard. The captain, in his long experience at sea, never encoun-
         tered such a phenomenon before, and it may be taken as an indication of the extra-
         ordinary atmospheric forces which had been at work during the storm, and which
         seemed to centre in this locality. (Nature, 25:125, 1881)

         Anonymous; Monthly Weather Review, 15: 84, 1887.
         Capt. C. D. Swart, of the Dutch bark "J. P. A., " makes the following report of a
         remarkable phenomenon observed by him at 5 p. m. March 19, 1887, in N. 37 39'
         W. 57 00':
         During a severe storm saw a meteor in the shape of two balls, one of them very
         black and the other illuminated. The illuminated ball was oblong, and appeared as if
         ready to drop on deck amidships. In a moment it became as dark as night above,
         but below, on board and surrounding the vessel, everything appeared like a sea of
         fire. The ball fell into the water very close alongside the vessel with a roar, and
         caused the sea to make tremendous breakers which swept over the vessel. A suffo-
         cating atmosphere prevailed, and the perspiration ran down every person's face on
         board and caused everyone to gasp for fresh air. Immediately after this solid lumps
         of ice fell on deck, and everything on deck and in the rigging became iced, notwith-
         standing that the thermometer registered 19 Centigrade. The barometer during this
         time oscillated so as to make it impossible to obtain a correct reading. Upon an
         examination of the vessel and rigging no damage was noticed, but on that side of the
         vessel where the meteor fell into the water the ship's side appeared black and the
         copper plating was found to be blistered. After this phenomenon the wind increased
         to hurricane force. (Monthly Weather Review, 15:84, 1887)


[The below is probably related to the Rio Cuarto Craters in Argentina as these people live in that area. These stories have not spread far into the more northern parts of South America, suggesting that the Rio Cuarto event may have occurred recently. bobk]



 The people were all sound asleep. It was midnight when an Indian noticed that the moon was taking on a reddish hue. He awoke the others, "The moon is about to be eaten by an animal." The animals preying on the moon were jaguars, but these jaguars were spirits of the dead. The people shouted and yelled. They beat their wooden mortars like drums, they thrashed their dogs, and some shot at random with their guns. They were making as much noise as they could to scare the jaguars and force them to let go their prey. Fragments of the moon fell down upon the earth and started a big fire. From these fragments the entire earth caught on fire. The fire was so large that the people could not escape. Men and women ran to the lagoons covered with bulrushes. Those who were late were overtaken by the fire. The water was boiling, but not where the bulrushes grew. Those who were in places not covered with bulrushes died and there most of the people were burnt alive. After everything had been destroyed the fire stopped. Decayed corpses of children floated on the water. A big wind and a rain storm broke out. The dead were changed into birds. The large birds came out from corpses of adults, and small ones from the bodies of children.


 Long ago Moon was attacked and wounded, and thus the Great Fire originated. As soon as people noticed blood on Moon, they started to chant and to shout and they struck their dogs to make them bark. Men discharged their rifles in the hope that the monster which was preying on Moon would be frightened and relinquish his prey, but all this was of no avail. Moon was far away and his weapons broke because his spear and his club were carved of soft yuchan wood (Chorisia insignis) instead of hard palo mataco (Achatocarpus praecox). A fragment of Moon fell down and caused a fire. Everyone rushed to a lagoon where abundant bulrushes grew. As the fire was spreading over the surface of the earth burning the grass and the trees, people entered the lagoon. Those who had taken refuge among the bulrushes were saved, but those who had remained in the open places perished in the boiling water.


Sun (ahewa) is a big, fat woman who walks across the sky and every evening enters a fissure between the sky and the earth. At the time of the winter solstice she is a young swift-moving girl. As a result, days are short. At the summer solstice she is an old woman who walks slowly and with difficulty. That is why summer days are long and why the Sun disappears late. Moon (aworc'k) is a pot-bellied man whose bluish intestines can be seen through his skin. His enemy is a spirit of death, the celestial Jaguar. Now and then the Jaguar springs up to devour him. Moon defends himself with a spear tipped with a head carved of the soft wood of the bottletree (yuchan, Chorisia insignis), which breaks at the first impact. He also has a club made of the same wood which is too light to cause any harm. The Jaguar tears at his body, pieces of which fall on the earth. These are the meteors, which three times have caused a world fire. The bloody Moon is almost entirely devoured by Jaguar. Men, however, are afraid, and they beat their drums, strike their dogs, shout, and make all possible noise to frighten the celestial Jaguar and force him to relinquish his prey. Finally, he weakens and Moon can disentangle himself from his grip. Moon seizes his weapons and puts Jaguar to flight. After a little while, Moon grows and again becomes a pot-bellied man. The eclipse is over. Jaguar also bears a grudge against Sun, but Sun's weapons are made of iron and she is fearless.