Go Back Report # 1352



Note—There are two discrepancies between the two versions of this case in regards to the location (Longitude) and the ship’s name. There is the possibility that the text directly below (1851) was a correction of a transcription error on someone’s part of the 1749 version.-CF-


    351. On the fourth of November, 1749, in 42° 48' N. Lat., 2° W. Long., the crew of the ship Montague1 beheld, a little before noon, and beneath an unclouded sky, a globe of bluish fire, like a millstone, rolling rapidly upon the sea. At a short distance from the vessel, it rose perpendicularly from the water, and struck the masts with an explosion louder than the discharge of a hundred cannon. Five sailors were thrown senseless upon the deck, one of whom was severely burned.


Reference for the above text is: Elements of meteorology by John Brocklesby, 1851, p. 145.

This reference: E-mail from Ole Jonny Brænne to Chris Aubeck and forwarded to me (CF) on July 24, 2011.



From text   Latitude 42-48 N, Longitude 002-00 W (D-M)

These coordinates would put the ship on land, due south of:

San Sebastián   Latitude 43-19-00 N, Longitude 001-59-00 W [Spain – bay]

See the reasoning at the end of the next text. (CF)




          XIX. Nov. 4. 1749, in lat. 42° 48’, long. 09° 03’, the Lizard2 then bore, N. 41° 05’, about the distance of 569 miles. I was taking an observation on the quarter-deck, about 10’ before 12: one of the quartermasters desired I would look to windward, which I did, and observed a large ball of blue fire rolling on the surface of the water, at about 3 miles distance from us: we immediately lowered our topsails, and had our fore and main clew-garnets manned to haul up our courses; but it came down upon us so fast, that before we could raise the main tack, we observed the ball to rise almost perpendicular, and not above 40 or 50 yards from the main chains: it went off with an explosion as if hundreds of cannon had been fired at one time; and left so great a smell of brimstone, that the ship seemed to be nothing but sulphur. After the noise was over, which I believe did not last longer than half a second; we looked over head, and found our main topmast shattered into above an hundred pieces, and the mainmast rent quite down to the heel. There were some of the spikes, that nail the fish of the mainmast, drawn with such force out of the mast, that they stuck in the main deck so fast, that the carpenter was obliged to take an iron crow to get them out: there were five men knocked down, and one of them greatly burnt, by the explosion. We believe, that when the ball, which appeared to us to be of the bigness of a large millstone, rose, it took the middle of the main topmast, as the head of the mast above the hounds was not splintered: we had a very hard gale of wind, from the N. by W. to the N. N. E. for two days before the accident, with a great deal of rain and hail, and a large sea; from the northward we had no thunder nor lightning, before nor after the explosion. The ball came down from the N. E. and went to the S. W.

     This account was given by Mr. Chalmers, who was, when the above-mentioned accident happened, on board his Majesty’s ship the Montague, under the command of Admiral Chambers.


Reference for the above text: “An Account of an Extraordinary Fireball Bursting at Sea,” communicated by Mr. L. E. Chalmers (1749), The Philosophical Transactions (from the year 1743, to the year 1750), translated into English by John Martyn, Vol. 10, No. 494, pp. 366-367, Royal Society of London, published 1756.
My reference: E-mail from
Chris Aubeck to me (CF) on July 27, 2011. With thanks to Chris, Fabio Picasso, Roberto Labanti, and Ole Jonny Brænne.





From text     Latitude 42-48, Longitude 009-03 (D-M)

Notice that these coordinates do not contain any compass points (N,S,E,W). Since the latitude given is the same in both versions of the case, Longitude 9 degrees west would put the ship on land at Galicia, Spain, and 9 degrees east is again land at Corsica.

HOWEVER, in both texts, if we change the latitude to south, both coordinates put the ship in water west of the southern tip of Africa.


Note 1: Montague – Ship’s history:


Her second rebuild took place at Portsmouth Dockyard, from where she was relaunched on 26 July 1716 as a 60-gun fourth rate to the 1706 Establishment.

Montague was broken up in 1749, specific date not given.


Note 2: Lizard – Ship’s history:


According to this site, there have been several Lizards, which they listed in chronological order. None was in service in 1749:

One was a 14-gun sloop launched in 1744 and wrecked in 1748. Next was a 28-gun sixth rate launched in 1757, used for harbour service from 1795 and sold in 1828.






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