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No. 127: Jan-Feb 2000

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The Strange Case Of Angled Lines In The Atmosphere

The subject phenomenon is weird to say the least. We have seen nothing like it before and have no idea how to explain it.

January 30, 1965. Near Johannesburg, South Africa. Testimony of R. Crowder.

"It was the day of Churchill's funeral. I had been flying a Piper-Colt around South Africa's southern Transvaal, dodging the usual huge CuNims, and headed back to Baragwanath airfield near Johannesburg as the towering thunderheads ran out of 'puff', and began to topple and decay. Coming in to land, it seemed that something was wrong with my eyesight as there seemed to be faint flickers in the air itself, only a dozen feet or so above the ground. Taxiing and parking, I found when my wife and I got out of the plane that there were clear straight lines in the air itself. My wife saw them too. So did half-adozen fellow pilots whom I routed out of the bar to act as witnesses.


"These sky-lines were quite characteristic. There were a least half-adozen in the air, apparently starting close to the ground and fading away twenty or thirty feet up. They were all inclined slightly to the vertical, were of a dirty-brown colour, slightly blurred, roughly four inches wide, several feet apart, of some depth. This was apparent when I walked backwards and forwards across them because they appeared to move towards and also away from me, an event which seemed to indicate that they were slightly curved. If they were more than a hundred or so feet away, they were lost sight of."

(Crowder, Robert; "The Strange Case of Angled Lines in the Atmosphere: A Thunderstorm Effect?" Journal of Meteor ology, U.K., 24:220, 1999.)

From Science Frontiers #127, JAN-FEB 2000. 1997 William R. Corliss