Go Back Report # 1282





     Several of the vessels just arrived from the southward report that there was a great deal of electrical atmospheric disturbance on Monday and Tuesday nights, but whether it was the effect, or was simply coincident with the eclipse, ourinformants could not say. In one case it was attended with fatal results, and a man was killed on board the schooner Urania, by the explosion of an electric meteor. The vessel was off Crowdy Head on Monday, August 17, about midnight, when a heavy southwesterly squall came on, and all hands were called to shorten sail; a seaman named H. G. Sales was steering, and at 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the 18th, a meteor, like a ball of fire, fell immediately over the vessel’s stern, and exploded with a loud report resembling that of a heavy piece of ordnance. Sparks of fire were scattered all about the deck, and the steersman was killed by the shock. Everyone on board felt a violent shock like that of a galvanic battery, but none of the crew were injured except Sales, who was at his last gasp picked up. His body showed no marks, but appeared to be blackened, and some six or seven hours after, decomposition set in, and the poor fellow was buried over the side. He was a young man, about three and twenty, and a smart seaman. The fireball apparently travelled with the wind, which was from the southwest, and when it burst, the flash was so intensely brilliant that the steward, who was lying in his berth below, declared that he saw the fire through the seams of the deck. The cabin at the same moment was filled with smoke, which blackened papers lying about. Captain Johnstone informed us that the discoloration of the paint was like that produced by “smoking the ship” with charcoal. A peculiar and indescribable smell was perceived for some time after the explosion, and a quantity of flakes like the soot from a steamer’s funnel were scattered about. Captain Milman, of the Lady Young, s., informs us that on his last trip to Sydney a fireball was observed passing ahead of his ship, about 1 a.m. on Monday, the 17th. It traveled in a horizontal direction from northwest to southeast. Apparently it was so near the ship that the officer of the watch altered her course to avoid it, when it burst, and for the moment the whole heavens seemed to be in a blaze of light; and, at the same time, there was terrific thunder. Lightning and thunder continued at intervals throughout the night and next day (Tuesday), until about half past 8 o’clock, when the weather cleared up.


Reference for the above text is:The Queenslander, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, August 29, 1868, p. 3.

Received from: Chris Aubeck (Magonia Exchange), E-mail dated May 24, 2011.




Australia – New South Wales

Crowdy Head   Latitude 31-50-00 S, Longitude 152-45-00 E (D-M-S) [point]

Sydney             Latitude 33-52-00 S, Longitude 151-15-00 E [section of harbor]

Reference: http://geonames.nga.mil/ggmaviewer/




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