Sunday, 24 September 2017

Exploding Skies

There have been a number of occasions in Ireland when the sky just seemed to explode. I’m posting two here. While it would be easy – and most likely correct – to assume a meteor was responsible in each case, both incidents were preceded by some strange weather.
The first incident occurred on 7 February 1868 and was reported in The Cork Examiner.
The travellers by the evening passenger train from Dublin, which arrived at Cork at eight o’clock, p.m., on Friday last, were favoured with an atmospheric transformation scene, as remarkable for its unusual character as for its singular beauty. When the train had left the Limerick junction the sky which had since the setting in of night been clear with a bright moon, became suddenly overcast, with vast irregular masses of cloud of unusual density and darkness, and having strange livid edges of glowing red, the combined aspect being unearthly and awful. Some of the passengers, attracted by this unusual appearance while observing the threatening masses overhead, were suddenly dazzled by a glare of light which illuminated the entire heavens with an extreme brilliancy, lasting, some say, upwards of half a minute; others not more than ten seconds. It was entirely instantaneous in its appearance, and died out with the same suddenness. All concur in stating that no meteor or other aerial body was perceptible, and no one could account for the origin of the phenomenon. The recurrence of darkness was immediately followed by an extremely heavy down-pour of mingled hail and snow, which in a few minutes sheeted the country around. In a quarter of an hour the cloud itself had passed eastward, and left the night as calm and bright as before.
The second incident took place on 13 July 1908 and was reported in The Irish News and Belfast Morning News.
Since the hot weather cooled down we have had some strange meteorological experiences. On the 13th, while it was teeming at the Carlisle Circus, not a drop of rain fell at the docks. A few days previously, an extraordinary shower fell on the Lisburn Road. Between Melrose Street and College Gardens it rained as if it had been a cloud burst; from College Gardens to the Infirmary the road was as dry as powder; but from the latter point to Shaftesbury Square it was simply pouring. It would be difficult to explain this occurrence, which, though extraordinary, is not unique. Moreover, the sky was uniformly clouded at the time; there was no break in the clouds – not a trace of the blue.
But a much stranger thing happened on Wednesday during the progress of a prolonged rain storm. The whole sky was overcast. A drizzling sort of rain – not much more than a mist – was falling. It suddenly ceased, and people though the clouds were breaking; but in about two minutes, without warning, a terrific explosion was heard, which shook the windows of the writer’s house. A hissing noise followed, as if a fire were being extinguished, while at the same moment a blaze of fire opened out of a cloud somewhat in the shape of a cross. The illumination bore no resemblance to any kind of lightning, remaining much longer in the vision, and expanding itself right across the clouds. Citizens wondered what had happened, some thinking that it was an explosion of one of the gas mains, others a great conflagration in some part of the city. The area in which the remarkable event happened would be that part of the sky spreading over the Botanic Gardens, but it would be difficult to exactly locate the exact place. Certain gases may have formed in the clouds, and through their antagonistic properties had found vent in the nature of disturbing friction. In any case, this phenomenon has set some people thinking of the end of the world and so on.
Some time ago a similar occurrence took place near Crumlin. Some men were working in a field when they heard an explosion, and, looking in the direction from whence it proceeded, they saw an object falling in a corner of the field, and raising a cloud of dust. They inspected the spot where it fell, and found a large mineral mass embedded in the ground about a foot and a half deep. The stone was hot to the touch; they let it cool, and brought it to a house quite adjacent. The stone is now in the public library on the ground floor, and can be seen at any time.
Of course this stone was a meteoric one – at least this is the opinion of good judges in such matters. It appears there was no rain, nor was the sky much clouded when the Crumlin meteor fell, so that the circumstances are quite different in comparison to the incident narrated above. The Crumlin meteoric explosion took place in the middle of the day, whereas this phenomenon occurred in the evening.
Sources:
  • The Cork Examiner, 10 February 1868
  • The Irish News and Belfast Morning News, 17 July 1908