Historical Reprints Science Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning
Catalog # SKU3861
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Camille Flammarion, Walter Mostyn
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Thunder and Lightning

Camille Flammarion
Translated By Walter Mostyn

It would be an interesting thing to make a careful study once a year, towards the end of the summer, of the habits and customs of thunder and lightning. Perhaps in this way we should succeed one day in determining the still mysterious nature of these elusive forces. I, for my part, have been engaged upon the task for many years past.



It has produced a big accumulation of records, and in this volume I can find room but for a resume of them, as varied as possible. In my first chapter I shall present a few characteristic examples, just to give my readers some hint of this variety.

Not to go too far back, let us begin with a harmless-I might almost say playful-fireball performance, of which M. Schnaufer, Professor at Marseilles, has given me the particulars.

In October, 1898, the fireball in question made its appearance in a room and advanced towards a young girl who was seated at the table, her feet hanging down without touching the floor. The luminous globe moved along the floor in the girl's direction, began to rise quite near her and then round and round her, spiral fashion, darted off towards a hole in the chimney-a hole made for the stove-pipe, and closed up with glued paper-made its way up the chimney, and, on emerging into the open air, gave out upon the roof an appalling crash which shook the entire house. It was a case of coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion!

A similar occurrence is recorded as having been observed in Paris, on July 5, 1852, in a tailor's room, including the same curious detail of the departure through the hole in the chimney, closed up with paper.

It was in the Rue Saint Jacques, near the Val de Grace. The fireball burst into the room from the chimney, knocking over the paper guard in front of the fireplace. In appearance it suggested a young cat, gathered up into a ball, as it were, and moving along without using its paws. It approached the tailor's legs as though to play with them. The tailor moved them away to avoid the contact, of which he naturally was in terror. After some seconds, the globe of fire rose vertically to the height of the man's face as he sat, and he, to save himself, leaned quickly back and fell over. The fireball continued to rise, and made its way towards a hole which had been made at the top of the chimney for the insertion of a stove-pipe in the winter, but which, as the tailor put it afterwards, "the fireball couldn't see," because it was closed up with paper. The ball stripped off the paper neatly, entered the chimney quite quietly, and having risen to the summit, produced a tremendous explosion, which sent the chimney-top flying, and scattered it in bits all over the neighbouring courtyard and surrounding roofs.

There we have a unique occurrence, recorded for us by Babinet and Arago, and of which I have given here the exact particulars. In both these cases we have to note the attraction of the hole in the chimney and the explosion of the thunderbolt on getting to the top. But it is not easy to detect the law underlying these phenomena.

In one of the latest volumes of the Association Francaise a somewhat similar case is dealt with.

"A violent storm," says the writer, M. Wander, "had descended upon the commune of Beugnon (Deux-Sevres). I happened to be passing through a farm, in which were two children of about twelve and thirteen. These children were taking refuge from the rain under the door of a stable, in which were twenty-five oxen. In front of them extended a courtyard, sloping downwards towards a large pond, twenty or thirty yards away, beside which grew a poplar-tree. Suddenly there appeared a globe of fire, of the size of an apple, near the top of the poplar. We saw it descend, branch by branch, and then down the trunk. It moved along the courtyard very slowly, seeming almost to pick its way between the pools of water, and came up to the door where stood the children. One of them was bold enough to touch it with his foot. Immediately a terrible crash shook the entire farm to its foundations, the two children were thrown to the ground uninjured, but eleven of the animals in the stable were killed!"

Who is to explain these anomalies? The child who touched the fireball escapes with a fright, and a few feet behind him eleven animals out of twenty-five perish on the spot!

During the storm which broke out at the town of Gray, on July 7, 1886, my friend M. Vannesson, President of the Tribunal, saw a fireball of from thirty to forty centimetres in diameter, which exploded on the corner of a roof, cutting clean off the end portion of the central beam to the length of about half a yard (like a bundle of matches, but without setting it on fire), scattering the splinters over the upper story and loosening the plaster upon the walls below. It then rebounded on the roofing of a little outside staircase, made a hole in it, smashing and sending flying the slates, came down upon the road, and rolling right in the midst of some passers-by-who, like the child in the farm, escaped with a fright-disappeared.

200 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 13 point font

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