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No. 59: Sep-Oct 1988

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Lightningless thunder?

August 22, 1987. Wotton-under-Edge, England.

"There had been thunder about, but the clouds were high, and there was intermittent sunshine. I was at work with a friend of mine, sawing logs, in one part of the garden. My wife was picking beans, about 80 yards away. Without any kind of warning, there was a violent detonation overhead, at what might have been tree-height. Service in war enables one to describe an explosion better than those whose experience is limited to Guy Fawkes' Day. This seemed to me about the same as an air-burst from a German 88 mm high velocity gun. My friend and I took it to be lightning; but neither of us saw any flash -- perhaps because we were both looking downwards at the time.

"Shortly afterwards, my wife appeared, dazed and shaken. The explosion had evidently been closer to her, for she (having served in the WRNS) was reminded of an ammunition ship blowing up 'whoosh,' suggestive of a very high speed aircraft flying very low. That is what she momentarily thought it was, coming from the ridge of the Cotswold escarpment, under which this house lies; and she instinctively ducked. Immediately before the detonation, there seemed to her to be a sound not unlike machine-gun fire; and there was a movement of the air which disturbed the surface of the soil where she was working. She also saw no flash. For some hours afterwards she had a massive headache.

"Two near neighbors of ours observed the explosion, which they too assumed to be lightning. One of them, about a quarter of a mile away, says he saw a flash. The other saw none."

(Carter, G.; "Two Unusual Lightning Events on 22 August 1987," Weather, 43:58, 1988.)

From Science Frontiers #59, SEP-OCT 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987