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No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

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Heard Above Cayuga's Waters

In 1934, Science printed several letters describing and speculating about the socalled "Seneca Guns". (Lake Seneca is one of New York State's Finger Lakes.) The locals and Indians of bygone days have repeatedly testified about the eerie, unexpected booms heard around the shores of Lake Seneca. It seems that the phenomenon is not restricted to this Finger Lake, for a letter from G. Kuchar describes a modern "bombardment" of "lake guns" heard at Lake Cayuga about 15 miles east of Lake Seneca.

"In the early morning hours of August 8th, 1996 (maybe about 6:30 or 7:00 AM), I was awoken by what I thought were loud explosions of thunder. It was a very loud, abrupt sound, sort of like close-by thunderclaps except that they seemed somewhat distant and yet had no reverberations or rumblings. I went to the window which faced a large building across the way...The early morning appeared warm, humid, and overcast. The explosive "thunderclaps" happened again, a whole series of them, and they seemed to originate up in the air and to my right, but I could detect no flashes of light, and the blasts seemed to come at random points in the sky (which was not very visible to me because of the big building looming across the lawn). I couldn't figure out where the storm cloud was that was producing these blasts, since everything was uniformly overcast, and there was no darkness moving in or evident in my field of view. From the sound of the blasts, which were very impressive, powerful noises, I pictured in my mind's eye that huge cloud-to-ground bolts of lightning must be erupting somewhere aloft and to the right and out of sight of my position at the window. But they seemed too scattered about, and then one boomed to the rear of my position, and that was soon followed by a blast slightly to the left of that one and way to the left of all the previous ones. Yet, there was no flash of lightning and no dark mass of cloud moving from right to left.
"About 2 hours later, a young man who frequents that region told me that what had woken me up was not thunder but what the locals called 'Lake farts'."

(Kuchar, George; personal communication, August 1996)

Comment. Both the Cayuga and Seneca Guns have been blamed on eruptions of natural gas from the lake. However, no one ever reports flashes of light that would signify spontaneous detonations of such gas. How could non-detonating gas eruptions cause such powerful booms emanating from various directions? For more on these perplexing "water guns", see GSD1 in Earthquakes, Tides, etc. They are actually a worldwide phenomenon; e.g. the famous Barisal Guns heard in the delta of the Ganges.

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From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. � 1996-2000 William R. Corliss