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No. 22: Jul-Aug 1982

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Old hannah's explosions

December 10, 1899. Staffordshire, Eng land, near Old Hannah's Cave. Two men heard explosions like rifle shots.

"Realizing that no one was shooting, they looked up the cliff and witnessed an explosion which emitted a flash from a hole or fissure in the upper part of the cliff. This had a bluish column 'not of steam or fire or smoke, but apparently of aqueous vapour,' which travelled with immense force across the valley (approximately 12 m wide). Within minutes another discharge from higher up the cliff and then 'several ones with crackling sounds producing semi-transparent wavy streaks in the air, not smokey in appearance.' Next came a very loud explosion which 'we had the good fortune to see plainly.' Wardle describes this as 'like a gun but with crackling, a series of continuous reports, cleaving the air in a zigzag or riverlike course in a narrow band about 15 cm to 20 cm broad, of bluish colour."

Several other reliable descriptions exist of detonations and flame-like discharges around old Hannah's Cave. The supposition is that natural gases liberated by decaying organic material and, perhaps, geochemical reactions are ignited by static electricity. A recent landslip seems to have extinguished this curious phenomenon.

(Pounder, Colin; "Speculations on Natural Explosions at Old Hannah's Cave, Staffordshire, England," National Speleological Society, Bulletin, 44:11, 1982.)

Comment. No one should overlook the similarity between Old Hannah's activity and the will-o'-the-wisps, earthquake lights, the Barisal Guns, mistpouffers, the Moodus Sounds, and other sound and light phenomena. See our Catalog Earthquakes, Tides, Unidentified Sounds. This volume is described here.

From Science Frontiers #22, JUL-AUG 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss