Captain Charles J. Norcock and members of the crew of “H.M.S. Caroline” saw an unusual atmospheric phenomenon about 17 miles south of Cheju Island, south of the Korean peninsula, at 10 P.M. on February 24, 1893. First reported by the officer of the watch, bright globular lights were seen between the ship and an island on a cold, windy, moonlit night. The lights, bearing north, stayed in sight for two hours. The ship was traveling at seven knots.
Exactly twenty-four hours later, the unusual lights were again seen by the crew of the “Caroline,” this time due east of So Island, approximately 50 miles north of Cheju. Again, the night was clear, moonlit, and cold, but only a slight wind was blowing. The lights were traveling with the ship on a northwest bearing. Soon a small islet was passed and this, for a time, obscured the lights from view.
“The globes of fire altered in their formation as on the previous night,” Norcock said, “now in a massed group, with an outlying light away to the right, then the isolated one would disappear, and the others would take the form of a crescent or diamond, or hang festoon-fashion in a curved line. A clear reflection or glare could be seen on the horizon below the lights. Through a telescope the globes appeared to be of a reddish colour, and to emit a thin smoke. [possibly steam from the field touching the water-CF-]
“I watched them for several hours, and could distinguish no perceptible alteration in their bearing or altitude, the changes occurring only in their relative formation, but each light maintained its oval, globular form.
“They remained in sight from 10 P.M. until daylight (about 5:30 A.M.). When lost sight of, the bearing was one or two points to the westward of north. At daylight, land 1,300 feet high was seen to the north and north-northwest, distant 50 miles, the mirage being extraordinary.”
Norcock reported that a Captain Castle, commanding “H.M.S. Leander,” saw lights in the same area at about the same time. Castle was of the opinion, however, that what the officers of his ship witnessed was a volcanic disturbance.
“The background of high land seen on the first night dispels all idea of these extraordinary lights being due to a distant volcano,” Norcock remarked. “The uniformity of the bearing renders the theory of their being fires on the shore most improbable. I am inclined to the belief that they were something in the nature of St. Elmo's fires.” 15
St. Elmo's fire is “the glow accompanying the slow discharge of electricity to earth from the atmosphere” that “usually appears as a tip of light on the extremities of pointed objects such as church towers, the masts or ships . . . it is commonly accompanied by a crackling or fizzing noise.” It is seen “most frequently . . . at low levels through the winter season during and after snowstorms.” 16
While it was cold on the evening of the “Caroline's” sightings, there are several features that do not fit the regular pattern of St. Elmo's fire: (1) There were no indications that the lights were seen at the pointed extremities. They were said to have followed the ship at a distance, and there was nothing in the report to the effect that the “Caroline's” masts had attracted the lights. (2) There was no indication that a snowstorm had occurred during or after the sighting. No sound such as “a crackling or fizzing noise” was reported. The fact that the lights had disappeared from view as a small island was passed indicates either that the lights passed behind the island, a considerable distance from the ship, or that the lights from the island had been refracted upward. The “thin smoke” that seemed to appear with the lights is not a characteristic of St. Elmo's fire.
Until the twentieth century, ships' captains and crews were some of the best systematic observers of aerial phenomena. They had a clear, commanding view of the skies, and only professional astronomers and meteorologists saw the heavens as much.
Like those who report modern UFO sightings, the sailors often attempted to explain the phenomena they had seen in terms of the familiar. An analysis of their reports shows that their explanations were not sound.
Note 15: Nature, May 25, 1893.
Note 16: The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition (Cambridge, England: At the University Press, 1911), XXIV.
Reference for the above text is: Mysteries of the Skies by Gordon I. R. Lore and Harold H. Deneault, pp. 47-48, © 1968.
UFOCAT PRN – 85653 [DOS: 02-24-1893]
UFOCAT URN – 010422 Computerized Catalog (N = 3073) by Jacques Vallee, no date
UFOCAT URN – 010423 Flying Saucers on the Attack by Harold T. Wilkins, p. 141, © 1967
UFOCAT URN – 079596 Mysteries of the Skies: UFOs in Perspective by Gordon I. R. Lore and Harold H. Deneault, pp. 47-48, © 1968
UFOCAT URN – 081546Canadian UFO Report by John Magor, July 1969
UFOCAT URN – 085653 Book of the Damned by Charles Fort, p. 284, © 1919
UFOCAT URN – 205736 *U* UFO Computer Database by Larry Hatch, # 00145, © 2002
UFOCAT PRN – 85653 [DOS: 05-25-1893]
UFOCAT URN – 079251 Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie, p. 32, © 1953
UFOCAT URN – 119699 Flying Saucer Review by Gordon Creighton, October 1981, p. 28
Eastern Asia – South Korea, Cheju-do. Body of water is East China Sea.
Cheju Island Latitude 33-24-06 N, Longitude 126-32-46 E (D-M-S) [Che-ju, Cheju-do, Jeju]
Eastern Asia – South China Sea
So Island Unable to locate.
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