Tue, 06 Jul 2010 18:50 EDT
Date: 5 July 2010
Seldom do we get the chance to photograph one of the most striking
phenomena that our universe has to offer: the entry of a strange body
into the terrestrial atmosphere.
The images and video were sent by Ricardo Vargas from Puerto Montt
although other users such as Christian Munoz also confirms having
witnessed the descent around 8 a.m., although from Puerto Varas.
It is more than likely just a meteor, that is to say, a space rock
falling toward earth without fully disintegrating, forming what we
romantically dub "shooting stars". However, burned-out satellites and
boosters fall to earth, generating flames during the process.
What is it, really? That's up to you. But don't forget to make a
wish, just in case.
Comment: Yes, it's "just a meteor." Nothing to
It's amazing how nonchalant reporters are about the many meteors that
are falling like raindrops around the planet. Either they are unaware
or they want to make sure that you are.
You can put the word meteor in the search engine and see for yourself
just how many are being seen. Here's a couple to get you started.
Pennsylvania, US: Another Fireball Caught on York Water
Company Video Camera
US: Meteor Caught on tape over Huntsville and
Thu, 08 Jul 2010 01:39 EDT
A smoldering chunk of rock from outer space punctured the driveway of
a home in Decatur on Sunday.
"We know how to celebrate the Fourth of July the right way," said Margie
Small. "We don't have fireworks. We have meteorites."
Small discovered the meteorite early Sunday afternoon at their home on
YouTube - News Vancouver Island
Thu, 08 Jul 2010 03:37 EDT
Mount Washington - When Candice Kowalchuk decided to spend the summer on
Mount Washington, she never imagined the nightlife would be quite like
this. "It wasn't a plane. I saw it flying at a right angle trajectory
and then it starting flying horizontally straight up, then it did some
zig zags, and it was hovering" she says.
Kowalchuk says Monday and Tuesday night, beginning around 11:30, she has
seen up to eight objects darting through the night sky, changing in
colour from orange to green, and looking like nothing she has ever seen -
or can find online.
But Kowalchuk has been unable to capture what she says five others
living on the mountain have also seen - for the rest of us. She says she
tried to take pictures, with no success.
At the Centre of the Universe observatory in Saanich, where a
giant telescope scans the night sky, people call in up to 100 UFO
sightings per year. "But they usually turn out to be mundane, anything
from car lights bouncing off vapour trails in the sky, to lights
bouncing off the wings of bats or birds" says Astronomer Dr. James Di
An /A News viewer from Sooke sent in shots of what astronomers believe
is a meteor streaking across the horizon Tuesday night.
So it is likely cosmic rock that lit up the sky in Sooke, space junk.
But as for what's keeping people glued to their windows on Mount
Washington at all hours of the night, astronomers in Saanich can't say
without some visual evidence.
But for her part, Candice Kowalchuk is a believer. "From a young age
I've always known the galaxy, the universe is massive, there must be
something out there" she says.
And next time she sees whatever it is, we'll make a house call, with our
Sun, 11 Jul 2010 22:50 EDT
Russian astronomers have developed an innovative satellite network
that would alert people when any space objects are on a collision course
with the Earth. Some argue the system isn't effective and is too
expensive. A large asteroid hitting the Earth could mean the worst
natural disaster in millions of years - and threaten most forms of life.
The Exoplanet with a Comet-Like Tail
Thu, 15 Jul 2010 11:56 EDT
An extrasolar planet nearly as big as
Jupiter is circling so close to its parent star -- a year passes in
just 3.5 days -- that its atmosphere is being baked off into space,
creating a comet-like tail.
The planet, known as HD 209458b, is located about 153 light-years away.
Scientists had suspected since 2003 that stellar winds would be strong
enough to sweep the planet's atmosphere into space and had even modeled
what it would look like, says Jeffrey Linsky, with the University of
Colorado in Boulder, who led a team that used Hubble Space Telescope's
Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to make observations.
"We have measured gas coming off the planet at specific speeds, some
coming toward Earth. The most likely interpretation is that we have
measured the velocity of material in a tail," Linsky said in a press
HD 209458b was the first extrasolar planet to be discovered
transiting its parent star, a blessing of geometry -- from Earth's
perspective -- that allows astronomers to study the structure and
chemical makeup of its atmosphere by sampling starlight passing through
When the planet passes in front of the star it blocks about 1.5 percent
of its light, not including the planet's atmosphere. When scientists add
in the atmosphere, the dip jumps to 8 percent, indicating a substantial
Chemical analysis turned up carbon and silicon, indicating that parent
star is heating the entire atmosphere and allowing heavy elements to
escape. Not everything is moving at the same speed, however.
"We found gas escaping at high velocities, with a large amount of this
gas flowing toward us at 22,000 miles per hour," Linsky said. "This
large gas flow is likely gas swept up by the stellar wind to form the
comet-like tail trailing the planet."
The research is published in the July 10 issue of The Astrophysical
Pickle: The Problems of Building High-Tech From a Meteoroid Wreck
Tue, 16 Jul 1991 10:44 EDT
Though a nickel will not buy much today the element nickel is invaluable
to our contemporary way of life. Without access to this nonferrous
metal, much of what we take for granted would not be practical or in
many cases possible. Automobiles would be fragile - hitting a pothole
would, as in very early cars, often break an axle. Internal combustion
engines could not be depended upon and would also weigh a great deal
more per unit of horse-power than the motors we are accustomed to.
Airplanes, if they could be made to fly (the Wright brothers used a
motor that took advantage of nickel steel's superior strength to weight
ratio), would be terribly unsafe. Jet powered flight would be impossible
- the strength that nickel gives to steel at high temperatures made
this type engine feasible. No buildings could scrape the sky without
nickel's contribution; steel bridges would be massive, ugly and corrode
rapidly as well. In essence, our world would appear and function much as
it did one hundred years ago, for it was in the late 1880′s when
nickel-steel became a product.
The discovery of this nickel-steel key to our century is quite
fascinating. John Gamgee, an eccentric inventor, had succeeded in
convincing U.S. government officials that victims of a yellow fever
epidemic, then sweeping the south, could be brought back to health by
living in a cold environment. Gamgee's plan was to develop a
refrigerated hospital ship which could travel from port to port, pick up
victims, and freeze the fever out of them. Aiding Gamgee in this
enterprise was Samuel J. Ritchie, a carriage manufacturer, who had
recently met the inventor by chance (their Washington, D.C. hotel rooms
were next door to one another). With Ritchie's help, Gamgee received a
promise from the Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases for an
appropriation of a quarter million dollars if the inventor could prove
that a workable refrigeration system was possible. A machine shop at a
local Navy shipyard was made available to Gamgee so that he could
construct and demonstrate his cooling apparatus to the committee.
In 1876 (when this took place) refrigeration was a very new
capability and Gamgee soon encountered a problem with his proposed
device - he could find no material that would hold up to the pressure
his machine generated. Normal cast iron, being porous, allowed his
cooling agent (ammonia) to escape. Undeterred, Gamgee began mixing other
metals with iron. After several weeks of disappointing results the
inventor turned to his new found friend and asked: "Ritchie, did you
ever notice the meteorites at the Smithsonian Institution?" The carriage
maker said that he had, and Gamgee went on: "Well, we have no metallic
iron on earth produced by nature in that form, and those meteors have
all fallen from the skies, or have come from some other world. They
nearly all contain nickel. Tomorrow we will send over to Philadelphia
and get some, and try it. . . . try this metal as an alloy with iron,
and see if we can imitate nature in duplicating the meteorite, as we are
trying to imitate nature in the production of artificial cold for the
yellow fever patients."
Seventy-two samples of nickel-iron were produced, each blend with a
half-percent higher nickel content. The batch that was eight percent
nickel proved so hard that neither file nor chisel could alter it.
Recalling this event later, Ritchie relates that Gamgee threw up his
hands and shouted: "Eureka! I have found at last an alloy strong enough
and hard enough to resist anything and close enough in texture to resist
the escape of any form of gas!"
The two men, excited by this find, invited the Senate committee to come
take a look for themselves. Duly impressed, it seemed certain that the
committee would give the go ahead on Gamgee's project. Unfortunately,
the inventor chose this occasion to differ with the committee chairman
over the cost and management of the proposed ship. The arguing
continued. The weather cooled. The mosquitoes died and so brought the
yellow fever epidemic to an end. Public attention turned elsewhere
leaving Gamgee with no funds to continue his project. Ritchie returned
to his Akron, Ohio carriage business undoubtedly thinking . . . "well,
that's that." He could not have known what a profound effect his
experience with Gamgee was to have on his future.
In 1881, Ritchie had need of second growth hickory to sustain his
carriage business. Land was cheap in Ontario, so he went there to find
his trees. While there, he also found iron ore, so he purchased fifteen
thousand acres inclusive of mineral rights. To get his lumber out, as
well as the iron ore, Ritchie needed a railroad. Through an impressive
bit of wheeling and dealing, this entrepreneur had, in 1885, a major
interest in the Central Ontario Railway and a working iron mine. Things
did not pan out as Ritchie expected. His ore had such a high sulfur
content it was almost worthless. About ready to give up mining and sell
his interest in the railroad, Ritchie happened across some ore samples
taken from Sudbury - a region that was near the operation he had
underway. Analysis of these samples indicated a seven percent copper
content. Ritchie immediately sent a deputy to Sudbury, then went
himself. Ritchie returned owning some properties and holding options on
almost one hundred thousand acres in the area. Again Ritchie was to face
disappointment, though this time short lived. His new ore would yield
no pure copper; another element refused to separate from the metal he
sought. Further testing of the ore revealed the reason for its
unexpected behavior. In Ritchie's words:
The discovery of this nickel in these ores . . . was unexpected news . .
. . We had no suspicion that they were anything but copper ores. This
discovery changed the whole situation . . . . As the world's annual
consumption of nickel was then only about 1,000 tons, the question was
what was to be done with all the nickel which these deposits could
produce. I at once recalled . . . John Gamgee in the Navy Yard at
Washington . . . and it occurred to me that nickel could be used with
success in the manufacture of guns and for many other purposes as an
alloy with iron and steel.
This occurred late in 1886. Ritchie fired off a letter to the famous
gun-maker, Krupp, in Essen, Germany, telling him of the experiments
Gamgee had performed a decade earlier. Krupp replied that there was not
enough nickel in the world to warrant experiments which pointed to
greater use of the element. Ritchie knew better. By 1890 things had
changed considerably; a nickel pickle was on the world's platter and
little would remain the same.
The "arms race" as we know it began at this time. So
impressive was the strength of this material for military purposes that
in Glasgow (1890) the October 27, the Herald ran this prophetic
. . . . "When the irresistible nickel plated breech-loader confronts the
impenetrable nickel plated ironclad then indeed . . . war as a fine art
will come to an end."
The Herald article was based on then recent tests of nickel
steel armor plate at Annapolis.
On April 24, 1898, Spain declared war on the U.S. The war ended December
10 of the same year. Two major encounters occurred in this war - the
Battle of Manila Bay and the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. Almost the
entire Spanish fleet went to the bottom in these altercations. The
United States lost one sailor. Nickel steel armor made the difference.
The U.S. Navy had proven its metal. Naturally, other nations wanted the
same protection for their own ships. The demand for nickel steel rose
sharply and continued to rise as more and more applications were found
for it. As mentioned earlier, the automobile industry was facilitated by
this material. In the words of an early auto builder, Elwood Haynes:
Since the first attempt to build automobiles, early in the 90′s,
experimenters have had difficulty in getting materials suitable for the
purpose. Steel of high tensile strength was employed but the results
were not satisfactory. Lower carbon steels were tried, but they lasted
only a few weeks, or months, and then broke off short. Swedish iron did
not break, but when the first hard bump was encountered it took a set
and the wobbling rear wheels indicated what had happened. Finally a
steel of moderately low carbon was introduced which gave only fair
results, and if the car was driven for any length of time over rough
roads, this also crystallized and broke off. Nickel changed all this.
Nickel would alter conditions far more than it had in 1907 when Haynes
addressed his audience of mechanical engineers at Indianapolis, Indiana.
The following year (1908) Model T's started rolling off the line. From
here on, the pace of social change got quicker, and, as a consequence of
building and operating the equipment that drove this change, our
planet's air became thicker.
There is great irony in civilization's meteoric path to the present
state of affairs. Recall that Gamgee was inspired by the physical
properties of meteorites to try nickel as an alloy with iron. Gamgee's
results caused Ritchie to recognize the potential of this then scarce
metal when he later stumbled upon a huge quantity of it. What no one was
to realize for quite some time was that the nickel, copper, iron,
platinum, iridium, gold, silver, and other metals extracted from the
ores of Sudbury had arrived there very suddenly about 1.7 billion years
ago. In a very real sense, we have built high-tech from a
meteoroid wreck. The large quantity of nickel available from
this debris (that once constituted an asteroid estimated to have been
two and one-half miles across) allowed Canada to dominate world
production of this metal for better than half a century. There is,
though, a very large price being paid for salvaging this mega-meteorite
scrap - acid rain.
The dangerous drop in the pH value of rain water can not, of course, be
blamed on this one metal refinery. Sudbury is, however, an excellent
example of why our showers are turning sour. A nickel/copper smelting
plant, owned by International Nickel (Inco), in this region has the
unwanted distinction of being world champ in sulphur dioxide (SO2)
emission. This one operation spews over six hundred thousand tons of SO2
into our air annually - about two times the yearly output of Sweden, a
nation that now has around twenty thousand acidified lakes, one fifth of
which no longer contain fish. Combined SO2 emissions from eastern
Canada's non-ferrous metal industry amounted to over two million tons in
1980, forty-five percent of Canada's total SO2 contribution, east of
Saskatchewan. Mining landed asteroids is definitely not a practice that
will improve our present environment. There is, though, a way to get
ourselves out of the "picklish" situation an abundant supply of nickel
allowed us to get into.
The demonstrated fact is that many industrial processes do not blend
well with the workings of a biological system. Solution? Expel those
industries known to be harmful to our environment. This is not really a
drastic remedy. Mining and processing materials in space are desirable
from a long-term environmental, economic, or political outlook. Why,
then, is there not a major project underway to rapidly relocate these
industries which harm our environment? Part of the answer is found in
the newness of such an option, but the principal reason a high priority
has not been placed on this type of space development is the arms race.
This dangerous contest saps the talent and resources needed to develop
an infrastructure which would support space based industry.
The arms race, however, is very much a product of discordant global
attitudes. Unless we soon learn to work in concert toward a harmonious
relation between ourselves and the rest of nature, this meteoric rise in
capability we have recently experienced will end with a catastrophic
crash of civilization. A downfall that, if caused by continued
industrial malpractice or a nuclear confrontation over controls of
limited resources, will have a tremendously devastating impact upon all
of Life on Earth.To survive, we must do better.
There is though,
another agent which could destroy civilization and do great harm to the
environment, a large consignment of elements from space. Such deliveries
are not as uncommon as was previously thought, particularly during the past
twelve thousand years. Much evidence
suggests that humanity witnessed, and was affected by, the break-up
of a very large comet over this time period. Astronomers,
using data gathered on meteor showers, have established that this
debris had about the same orbital characteristics five thousand years
ago as it has today. The stuff orbits the Sun in roughly three and a
third years and while doing so crosses our planet's orbital path twice.
Clearly the potential for collision is real and has been realized a
number of times in the past - most recently in the eighth year of this
Study of the "Tunguska event" has shed considerable light on the
subject of impact phenomena. Interestingly this illumination would
probably be much weaker were it not for the value of nickel and other
metals that often comprise a meteorite. The newly established Soviet
government was strapped for funds in 1921; warfare had ravaged their
homeland over the previous six years and it was now time to rebuild. Any
plan that held promise of producing a lot of rubles quickly must have
seemed attractive to Soviet officials. American geologist/mine engineer
Daniel Barringer's quest to extract the five to fifteen million tons of
meteorite metal that, he believed, was buried beneath "meteor Crater" in
Arizona had attracted considerable attention about the world. The
prospect of finding over a billion dollars worth of metal in the bottom
of a hole was quite intriguing - a natural "pot of gold" story. Also,
much scientific debate had been sparked by Barringer's activity. Most
geologists favored a more down to earth explanation of this crater - the
planet had simply blown off a bit of steam there.
Barringer had finished his first boring episode in July of 1908, totally
oblivious (as was most of the world) to the fearful
excitement that still gripped those who had witnessed a terrifying
arrival of space debris only weeks earlier. Though the outside world
would remain ignorant of the Tunguska fall for two decades, there were
reports, printed in several Russian newspapers, of some unusual
phenomena which occurred in remote Siberia on the last morning of June
(1908). One of these stories must have later seemed extremely attractive
to the cash poor Soviets. This particular report stated that all the
commotion had been caused by the landing of a large meteoroid which fell
very close to a railway. The story indicated that the meteorite was
only partially buried and might be as much as six cubic sagines in size.
Six cubit sagines translates into a twelve foot, nine inch cube of
meteorite material - a hunk of potentially valuable stuff that could be
hoisted onto a railcar and pulled to wherever. Barringer was drilling
away again in 1921 and largely due to the publicity this activity
received, it was now widely known that meteorites often contained, in
addition to nickel, diamonds, platinum, gold and other materials of high
monetary value. These baubles from space could also fetch a good price
from museum collectors who would pay dearly to keep such valuable pieces
of information out of a furnace. In light of the circumstances, it is
easy to see why the Soviets chose to fund, as one of their first
scientific expeditions, a search for meteorites.
As it turned out the only people in North America or the Soviet Union
that made a lot of money from a meteorite in the twenties were those who
had no idea they were digging up space debris - the Canadians mining at
The real value of these searches proved to be in the wealth of
information uncovered. Much to Barringer's disappointment it was learned
that a relatively small object would excavate a lot of earth and rock
as it slammed into the planet. This prospector saw his five to fifteen
million ton jackpot shrink at least ten fold. Furthermore, he was
informed that most of the one-and-a-half, to half-million ton mass which
created his crater had been liquefied in the process. This meant that
what celestial material had not splashed out of the feature was widely
distributed within it, making a profitable mining operation very
doubtful. Barringer did not accept astronomer Forest Ray Moulton's
conclusions, however, he could not disprove them. Financial backers of
the mining project, who had commissioned Moulton's study, withdrew their
support. Barringer, whose tenacious spirit helped prove that large
craters could result from meteoroid impact, died of a stroke after three
months of heated debate over Moulton's 1929 papers. This
researcher/prospector contributed much to science over his sixty-nine
Soviet scientist Leonid Kulik was not so much frustrated by what his
research was revealing as he was perplexed. Though the news clip which
justified Kulik's 1921 expedition to remote Siberia had proven to be
almost totally inaccurate, the trip had been intriguing. Descriptions
given by actual witnesses of the 1908 event piqued Kulik's curiosity to
the point where he had to find out what really happened in this sparsely
populated region of the world. This researcher dug in, and after six
years of fact gathering he finally persuaded the Soviet Academy of
Science that it was time for another expedition.
Much of the information Kulik had been compiling came from fellow
researchers doing work in that part of Siberia. Most intriguing were
stories relayed back from scientists working among the native Tungus
people. This had posed somewhat of a problem for Kulik, as few
scientists in the academy gave credence to tales told by those they
considered to be primitive, backward people. What finally tipped the
scales in Kulik's favor was a report prepared by a former head of the
Inkutch Observatory, A.V. Vognesensky. Vognesensky combined the data
Kulik had gathered with 1908 seismic data recorded at Irkutsk and
. . . it is highly probable that the future investigator of the spot
where the Khatanga [Stony Tunguska] meteorite fell will find something
very similar to the meteorite crater of Arizona; i.e., from 2 to 3
kilometers around he will find a mass of fragments that were separated
from the main nucleus before it fell and during its fall. The Indians of
Arizona still preserve the legend that their ancestors saw a fiery
chariot fall from the sky and penetrate the ground at the spot where the
crater is; the present-day Tungusi people have a similar legend about a
new fiery stone. This stone they stubbornly refused to show to the
interested Russians who were investigating the matter in 1908. However
that may be, the search for and investigation of the Khatanga meteorite
could prove a very profitable subject of study, particularly if this
meteorite turned out to belong to the iron class.
This is why Kulik was a bit dumfounded when, in 1927, he actually found
the spot he had sought. The devastation was quite obvious; over seven
hundred square miles of dense Siberian forest had been scorched and
flattened. There was, however, no crater.
Kulik's find revealed that colliding space debris could do a
great deal of damage yet leave little long-term detectable evidence to
indicate that an impact had occurred. Some implications of this
fact were recognized by a few investigators almost immediately.
Astronomer C.P. Olivier, writing of Kulik's discovery for Scientific
American, stated in the July 1928 issue:
In looking over this account, one has to admit that many accounts of
events in old chronicles that have been laughed at as fabrications are
far less miraculous than this one, of which we seem to have undoubted
confirmation. Fortunately for humanity, this meteoric fall happened in a
region where there were no inhabitants precisely in the affected area,
but if such a thing could happen in Siberia there is no known reason why
the same could not happen in the United States.
Olivier's statement would have certainly invoked a nod from any reader
who had perused an essay published the year before by Franz Xavier
Kugler. Kugler was a Jesuit priest who had devoted much of his life to
the study of ancient cuneiform astronomical tablets. Like other
philologists, Kugler had earlier in his career decided that some of the
unearthed tablets he deciphered were purely fictional. This scholar's
1927 essay, "Sybillinischer Sternkampf und Phaethon in
naturgeschichtlicher Beitrage" (The Sybilline Battle of the Stars
and Phaethon Seen as Natural History), was published two years before
his death. Apparently the emerging realization of how destructive a
meteoroid impact could be, combined with his life-long study of ancient
astronomical texts, prompted Kugler to re-evaluate his earlier
interpretation of some of the clay tablets deciphered by him. The
importance of Kugler's work stems from the fact that he was reading
unearthed documents, not handed down tales. Researchers are,
understandably, reluctant to put much faith in stories that have been
passed along over many generations. Both the Sybylline Oracles and the
story of Phaethon fall into this category. Though other sources
establish these traditions as ancient, no really early written version
of these works has been found. By pointing out features that such
stories had in common with unearthed cuneiform texts, Kugler was able to
shed some light on the original core of these tales. In
Kugler's opinion, the destructive impact, around thirty-five hundred
years ago, of a sun-like meteor, which he found chronicled on clay
tablets, provided the inspiration for the Sibylline Battle of the Stars
and the Phaethon legend.
Actually, as we learn more of the phenomena an impact event is capable
of producing, many ancient accounts are appearing less incredible. For
instance, several cultures about the world have retained legends which
associate cold weather with fire coming down from the sky. Only a decade
ago if any credence was given to such a tale, the assumption would have
been that the story was inspired by vulcanism. While it is certainly
possible that some legends do stem from volcanic activity it is no
longer "scientific" to make such an assumption. Researchers now know
that an impact event could produce a darkening of the sky and so cause a
steep drop in temperature.
The Sibylline Oracles employ less metaphor than many ancient accounts
and so provide some rather succinct lines for the reader to ponder:
And then in his anger the immortal God who dwells on high shall hurl
from the sky a fiery bolt on the head of the unholy: and summer shall
change to winter in that day. And then great woe shall befall mortal
men: for He that thunders from on high shall destroy all the shameless,
with thunderings and lightnings and burning thunderbolts upon his
enemies, and shall make an end of them for their ungodliness, so that
the corpses shall lie on the earth more countless than the sand.
The above is from a 1918 translation by H.N. Bate. Reverend Bate, as did
most scholars of that time, perceived these lines as nothing more than
eschatological embellishment of the apocalyptic theme. The phrase, "and
summer shall change to winter in that day," did not need to make sense
from his point of view; Bate simply noted that in another version (Book
VIII) of these oracles, a parallel passage has God changing winter to
summer. The interesting factor here is that to someone with no knowledge
of impact phenomena, the notion that it should become cold as a result
of God throwing fire from heaven is absurd. From a "logical" perspective
it would be easy to assume that a scribal error produced this nonsense
and a simple swap of word position would correct it. In a translation by
Milton S. Terry, published in 1899, a reader can thumb to Book V and
find essentially the same lines as those quoted above from Bates'
translation. The only real difference in Terry's version has: "And in
the place of winter there shall be in that day summer." This
"correction" was probably not made by Professor Terry but by a Venetian
scholar, Aloisius Rzach. Terry based his English translation on Rzach's
Greek version, published in 1891, because it was in his words, "The
latest and most improved edition of the Greek text of the twelve books
now extant . . . ." However, Terry does caution his readers that Rzach's
". . . work has not escaped criticism, especially on account of its
numerous conjectural emendations, . . ."
The assumption or premise that our ancestors were only referring
to phenomena which we, also, are familiar with has produced
considerable distortion in our view of
the past. Consider the term thunder-bolt. A large stony
meteoroid will often break up violently in the atmosphere. If the object
is large enough to reach into the lower atmosphere, an observer will
see a blinding flash of light followed by a loud crash of thunder. Often
a large dark cloud composed of oxides of nitrogen and debris from the
object will appear. This cloud can be highly charged and so cause
conventional lightning to ensue. Scientists call such an arrival a
bolide. Technically the Tunguska object falls into this classification
because its energy was released several miles above our planet's
surface. A problem is that most people who have translated ancient texts
had never witnessed a large bolide and until fairly recently, few, if
any, would be aware that such a phenomenon could occur. A term like thunder-bolt,
to people unfamiliar with impact phenomena, easily equates with
lightning bolt. As a result, many ancient accounts of impact
phenomena have been read as descriptions of jolly good storms.
At present the academic community is in the process of a major
alteration of world view. The picture of a placid, slowly changing
environment is being replaced by the image of a biosphere periodically
thrown into chaos by major impact events. Though debate
continues on the degree of influence, it is now widely accepted that
past collisions with extraterrestrial objects have played a role (likely
a major one) in biological evolution. What has yet to be adequately
investigated is the part past impacts have played in human social
assertion that cosmic collisions have affected society is not new. Plato,
in his Timeaus, makes it plain that he believed
impacts to be responsible for losses of history. By way of
dialogue Plato has an aged Egyptian priest inform his Greek visitor,
Solon, that the story of Phaethon, known to the Greeks as a fable, is in
reality, true, as " . . . it expresses the mutation of the bodies
revolving in the heavens about the earth; and indicates that, after long
periods of time, a destruction of terrestrial natures ensues from the
devastations of fire." The priest next points out that the Gods
(heavenly bodies) also cause great floods which take the lives of many
people. He then explains to Solon that, due to the Nile, Egypt has fared
better than most nations and so has retained its ancient history,
"[w]hile, on the contrary, you and other nations commit only recent
transactions to writing, and to other inventions which society has
employed for transmitting information to posterity; and so again, at
stated periods of time, a certain celestial defluxion rushes
on them like a disease; from whence those among you who survive are both
destitute of literary acquisitions and the inspiration of the Muses. Hence
it happens that you become juvenile again, and ignorant of the events
which happened in ancient times, as well among us as in the regions
which you inhabit."
Until very recently, there was little evidence to support Plato's
contention, particularly his assertion that these events occurred "at
stated periods of time." What has now moved the words of this old Greek
philosopher from the improbable to plausible realm is a contemporary
awareness of the numerous large objects that cross our planet's path -
especially the debris mentioned earlier that is associated with
British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier present, in The
Cosmic Serpent (1982), a strong astronomical based argument which
contends that, due to its orbital characteristics, the progenitor of
comet Encke quite likely caused humanity a great deal of grief in the
past. How large this comet was when it first fell into an
Earth-orbit-crossing path is not known. It is possible that this object
had more in common with a beast like Chiron than it did with the
normally small, long-period comets. Chiron's size is about one-hundred
miles across. It presently has an unstable fifty-one year orbit which
keeps it between the paths of Saturn and Uranus. The object has
exhibited comet-like activity to astronomers and because Chiron's orbit
is not stable it could be pulled into our region of the solar system a
few thousand years from now.
It is difficult to truly appreciate the visual phenomena that such a
large object could produce as it neared the furnace of our solar system.
Gases from such an object might produce a coma as large as the Sun and a
tail which would span the orbits of the inner planets. In close
proximity to Earth, the size of such an apparition would make the Sun
and Moon appear as dwarfs. Combined evidence suggests that our ancestors
witnessed such mega-comet activity and were influenced psychologically,
as well as physically, by the ensuing phenomena such a large interloper
could, and apparently did, produce.
One way the reader can realize the collective ignorance, and yet
appreciate how fast things are changing in this area of research, is by
comparing the number of objects Clube and Napier associated with comet
Encke in 1982 to the number known presently. In The Cosmic Serpent,
the authors list only one object, Hephaistos, as having once been part
of the still active comet Encke. Hephaistos was discovered in 1978 and
is one of the largest Earth-orbit-crossing objects found so far. Its six
mile diameter (about the same as the hypothetical dinosaur slayer) is
actually larger than comet Encke's estimated girth. As of now (late
1988), five objects in addition to Encke are identified with this group,
with two more orbiting bodies seen as likely members.
The rapid population rise of recognized objects in the Encke group is a
result of a stepped up effort to locate Earth-orbit-crossing objects in
general. Prior to the 1979 discovery of hard evidence which indicated a
link between mass extinction and impact generated phenomena, few
researchers were working in this area. Most astronomers were studying
features far removed from our solar system such as black holes and other
galaxies, while geologists and paleontologists, in the main, were
comfortable with the long held idea of an Earth that changed very
slowly. What is presently taking place constitutes a change of view as
radical as the altered picture which came from proving the Sun does not
orbit about the Earth.Naturally, not all researchers are happy with what
is transpiring - abandoning long-held assumptions is not pleasant,
particularly when these beliefs served as corner stones to your
research. This is though, where the true value of the scientific method
comes into play. Once enough evidence is found to show a prior
assumption false, that earlier belief will become passé, no matter how
familiar and comfortable it had been. Understandably, a bit of verbal
battling takes place before there is a general acceptance of a new world
view and this process of hashing it out can appear quite confusing to a
casual observer. One article might convey to the reader that, though
impacts can cause mass extinction, our time period falls safely between
such periodically recurring events so there is no reason for us to
worry. Another paper might state: Yes major impacts occur, but they do
not cause extinction because . . . Actually, a consensus has emerged
among scientists who are in the forefront of this research. These
investigators agree that mass extinction has been caused by impact
phenomena, and that major impact events increase in frequency at thirty
to thirty-three million year intervals. They also concur with evidence
which indicates that the last bombardment episode spanned a few million
years, around a date which occurred thirty-four million years ago. A
recent (over the past two million years) rise in the rate of crater
formation combined with the evidence for periodicity leads these
scientists to conclude that we are presently within such a bombardment
episode. Their contention is further strengthened by the contemporary
presence of a larger than normal population of Earth-orbit-crossing
objects. Stated simply, these researchers agree that the chance
of a major impact happening in the near future is much, much greater
than it was thought to be only a decade ago. This also means, of course,
the probability that there have been fairly recent past impacts is also
greater. In fact, the orbital characteristics of debris associated with
comet Encke basically guarantees that significant collisions have taken
place within the last fifteen thousand years.
The contemporary picture of pre-history has been pieced together with
total disregard for the effects impact phenomena had on our ancestors.
Obviously the image of our past will be much different when this newly
discovered influence is factored in. As already mentioned, it is
becoming clear that much ancient lore which has been labeled as pure
fiction is actually rooted in fact. It should therefore, not be
surprising to find that one of the most ubiquitous topics of folklore, "the
fall of mankind," stems from the most damaging of recent impact
The notion that humanity at one time lived in a pleasant bountiful
environment, where people enjoyed long lives free from warfare and
arduous labor, has been shown by contemporary archaeological studies to
be a pretty accurate description of late Pleistocene life-style. In his
book How to Deep-Freeze a Mammoth (1986 English ed.), Swedish
researcher Bjorn Kurten concludes a chapter on Pleistocene cave art by
. . . One thing is evident, no matter how paradoxical it sounds: it is a
materially as well as spiritually rich culture that is reflected in the
painted caves; it is also a culture without wars and without heroes
apart from the ordinary man and woman. And it was the tremendous
productivity of the mammoth steppe that enabled it to flourish. No Stone
Age people of the present day has so rich a material base. Then came
the end of the Ice Age, and the great crisis. The spreading forests and
the increasing warmth spelled death to many animals and thinned the
ranks of others. And so man had to work in the sweat of his brow, his
life span was shortened, cannibalism, slavery, and war became prevalent .
. .Oh well, I am exaggerating. But it is true nonetheless.
Actually, the only truth
stretching Kurten employed here is his assertion that the spreading
forest and increased warmth can explain the loss of so many animals.
This is merely one theory among many that have been put forth in an
attempt to pin down the cause of what is generally called the mega-fauna
The Swedish edition of Kurten's book was published in 1981; at this time
the most popular hypothesis was Paul S. Martain's over-kill scenario.
Simply put, this explanation attributes the demise of the large
herbivores to our ancestors' hunting zeal. What gave this idea credence
was a five thousand or so year gap between the youngest dated mammoth
finds on the Euro-Asian continent and the most recent date for animals
uncovered in North America. This hiatus seemed to rule out climate
change as the culprit, and since there was little well-dated evidence of
humans being in North America prior to fourteen thousand years ago, it
appeared as if our forebears could have been guilty. Martain's scenario
also squared well with a prevalent negative view of human nature. As
ruthless hunters, we first eliminated the long-nosed plant eaters from
the Old World, and when a path became available across the Bering
Strait, we invaded a New World where it was especially easy to bop the
animals, the poor beasts being naive and not knowing to fear humans. The
New World animals' ignorance of "true" human nature seemed to explain
why their decline appeared to have been more rapid than the supposed
earlier disappearance of their more wily cousins in the Old World.
Kurten obviously did not favor this over-kill hypothesis when he wrote
his book, and, as more evidence comes to light, it now appears that
humanity will be exonerated from this rap.
Presently, attention is again focusing on climate change as the
phenomenon responsible for the mega-fauna extinction. The evidence,
however, indicates that it was not a slow shift to warmer weather which
did the large animals in, but a sudden shift to cold.
Over the past decade, significantly improved techniques for determining
when some past event occurred have become available to researchers. The
ability to obtain dates with less material and cross check them via
other methods is rapidly dissipating the "fog" that formerly shrouded
prehistory. For instance, there has been for quite some time now,
evidence for very early human occupation of the Americas. The problem
was, and to a lesser degree still is, the small number of early dating
sites. Since such evidence was in conflict with the widely accepted
notion of a late human arrival, these early dates were generally held to
be suspect and probably due to natural contamination or sloppy
procedures. Improved dating techniques, combined with a growing number
of sites which date well before fourteen thousand years ago, have made
it much more difficult to deny an early presence of humanity in the
Americas. Similarly, a number of mammoths have been uncovered in the Old
World which date much later than those previously found. Even though
the quantity of such finds is low, the quality of dating is quite high,
and they have been accepted as strong evidence that the large animals
did not disappear from that part of the world significantly earlier than
their cousins in the New World.
As mentioned earlier, an abrupt onset of frigid weather, known as the
Younger Dryas cold event, is fast becoming the prime suspect in the
mega-fauna extinction case. Suddenly, around eleven thousand years ago,
glaciers which had been receding for several millennia were
reestablished up to a thousand miles south of where they had been
earlier. Modern dating techniques have, over the past few years, allowed
scientists to determine that these glaciers formed and then dissipated
in less than four hundred years - possibly within a century. The cause
of this severely rapid flip-flop in climate is not yet known. There is,
though, a very, very good possibility that the agent which formed the Carolina
Bays produced this environmental crisis.
In 1930 an aerial survey covering around five hundred square miles of
South Carolina coastal plain was undertaken. This mosaic
of photographs revealed some quite unusual features - the area looked
as if some outraged giant had blasted it with a colossal shotgun. Newly
discovered impact craters were big news in the early thirties: some
large structures had been discovered in Australia (Henbury Craters), and
British explorer James Philby was, in 1932, led to find some impressive
and actually fairly recent
craters in the Arabian desert (Wabar
Craters), by a guide who sang:
From Qariya strikes the sun upon the town;
Blame not the guide that vainly seeks it now,
Since the Destroying Power laid it low,
Sparing nor cotton smock nor silken gown.
That same year geologist Frank A Melton and physicist William Schriever,
both of the University of Oklahoma, had finished a lengthy study of the
unusual features revealed by the flying camera two years earlier. They
reported their findings at a 1932 meeting of the Geological Society of
America, and these were published the following year in the Journal of
Geology, under the title "The Carolina Bays - Are They Meteorite Scars?"
Later that year (1933), Edna Muldrow captured the attention of Harper's
Monthly readers with this opening paragraph:
What would happen if a comet should strike the earth? We do not like to
dwell o that possibility, it is true; yet such evasion arises mainly
because we are human and it is human to shun the unpleasant. So we
bolster our sense of security by the assumption that what has not
happened will not happen. This assumption is false. The truth is that
the earth in the past has collided with heavenly bodies, and the more
serious truth is that it may collide again.
After informing readers of Melton and Schriever's work, Muldrow
concludes her six and a half page article, "The Comet That Struck The
Carolinas," with a rather graphic "if" scenario:
If the disaster of the Carolinas should repeat itself in the vicinity of
New York City, all man's handiwork extending over a great oval
spreading from Long Island to Ohio, Virginia, and Lake Ontario would be
completely annihilated. One-half of the people, one-third of the wealth
of the United States would be completely rubbed out. The world's
greatest metropolis would lie a smoking ruin, . . . . Only a few broken
struts set awry and throwing lengthened shadows across sullen lagoons
would survive as reminders of the solid masonry of the city . . . .
Outside this devastated area would be a larger ellipse, one thousand
miles across, where compressed air had worked its will. Its force would
level every city, every building; its fiery breath would kill every
living thing as far west as Minneapolis and Kansas City, and as far
south as Jackson, Mississippi, and Montgomery, Alabama.
Even Europe would not escape, for every Atlantic coastal plain would be
ravaged by an enormous tidal wave put in motion when the compressed air
forced the Atlantic back beyond the continental shelf.
Many readers of the present article are no doubt wondering why they have
never heard of this comet that struck the Carolinas. The answer is
scientific controversy - the issue is still "up in the air" so to speak.
Melton and Schriever's theory enjoyed about two years of broad
acceptance before more "down to earth" explanations started coming
forth. None of the terrestrial theories were, until recently, any more
testable than the comet strike idea; they were, however, more in line
with the picture of a slowly changing Earth, and so were more acceptable
to those who favored that view.
The controversy over the origin of the Carolina Bays is a
bit too involved to go into here. Interested readers should pick up a
copy of Henry Savage's The Mysterious Carolina Bays (1982) for a full
historic account. For the purpose of this article it is enough to say
that William Prouty, who spent the most time (sixteen years) actually
studying these 'bays,' believed them to be impact structures which were
formed at the end of the Pleistocene and prior to at least one rise in
sea level. This researcher, who was head of the University of North
Carolina geology department, died in 1949 and so had no access to
radioactive carbon dating. What is notable is that Prouty's
stratigraphically derived date places the formation of these features
just prior to the younger dryas cold event which is now well dated. Very
little research on the origin of the Carolina Bays has been done since
Prouty's death. This should soon change.
The in-process shift of research paradigm away from gradualism has
renewed interest in features like the Carolina Bays (the number of
identified impact structures has risen by several hundred percent over
the past decade). Researchers, though, face quite a project in
establishing conclusive evidence of the Carolina Bays being impact
structures. There are about half a million of these elliptical
formations, and they are found along the Atlantic coast from Maryland
down into northern Florida. Their number and wide geographic
distribution was often used as an argument against an impact origin. To
establish them unequivocally as caused by an impact event, a significant
number (at least twenty) of 'bays,' located in disparate regions of
their occurrence will need to be excavated. This translates into a
fairly hefty grant proposal, particularly when the cost of performing
definitive tests on materials recovered during excavations is included.
Federally provided research money, with the exception of what goes
toward new weapon systems, has not been plentiful of late. This makes it
difficult for scientists to take on a project like the Carolina Bays.
Perhaps this article will help hasten funding for such an undertaking.
The money does not have to come from federally endowed sources. In the
opinion of this author it will be money well spent; for, if the Carolina
Bays are proven to be impact
features which were formed a little over eleven thousand years ago,
we will have found "Lucifer's" footprints.
The widespread association of an evil serpent with the loss of a happier
time for humanity is not due to coincidence, and if certain aspects of
this common myth are due to cultural diffusion, these could have just as
easily come from the New World to the Old - possibly by way of the red
paint people, a recently discovered coastal culture that flourished
around seven thousand years ago. This culture left similar artifacts on
both sides of the north Atlantic and so probably told basically the same
stories on either shore. The idea that our early ancestors were
strictly pedestrian is fast fading. It is now established that humans
have been in Australia for over forty thousand years - they did not wade
there. This aside, one can see even in the familiar Hebrew version of
the expulsion from Eden metaphorical signs of explicable
extraterrestrial influence. The "fallen angel," Lucifer, in the guise of
a "serpent," causes the "immortal old man in the sky" to become angry
with his children (creations in "his" likeness) and punish them by
expulsion from their sustaining garden, which "he" then guards with "his
flaming sword." Much more telling, however, are the stories which were
retained by the people in the New World. These bring forth details not
found elsewhere. For example, the Walam Olum, a traditional history of
the Leni Lenape (Delaware Indians), provides both pictographic and
linguistic features which suggest that the "good ole days" were brought
to a close by a celestial, "serpentine," intruder.
and accompanying text, shown, are from The Lenape and Their
Legends, first published in 1884. Noted ethnologist, Daniel G.
Brinton, authored this work which concludes with his new translation of
the Walam Olum. Prior to presenting the actual text and symbols, Brinton
offers his readers a general synopsis of this valuable native American
The myths embodied in the earlier portion of the Walam Olum are
perfectly familiar to one acquainted with Algonkin mythology. They are
not of foreign origin, but are wholly within the cycle of the most
ancient legends of that stock. Although they are not found elsewhere in
the precise form here presented, all the figures and all the leading
incidents recur in the native tales picked up by the Jesuit missionaries
in the seventeenth century, and by Schoolcraft, McKinney, Tanner and
others in later days.
The cosmogony describes the formation of the world by the Great
Manito, and its subsequent despoliation by the spirit of the waters,
under the form of a serpent. The happy days are depicted, when men lived
without wars or sickness, and food was at all times abundant. Evil
beings, of mysterious power, introduced cold and war and sickness and
premature death. Then began strife and long wanderings.
However similar this general outline may be to European and Oriental
myths, it is neither derived originally from them, nor was it acquired
later by missionary influence.
like pictograph, representing the "Mighty Snake," is drawn much as other
cultures around the world rendered celestial serpents. This is no
accident; a similar situation exists with the rolling cross symbol.
Frequently associated with a deity or the sky, the swastika (a
Sanskrit term) has been found on artifacts of cultures throughout the
world. Until recently, the widespread use of this symbol was quite a
puzzle for researchers. What solved the problem was the find, in the
late seventies, of a twenty-four hundred year old silk
comet atlas. This unearthed treasure, from the Han dynasty period,
depicts twenty-nine comets with captions for each. As the reader can
see, the last drawing is in the form of a swastika. The Chinese call
this the "Long Tailed Pheasant Star" (it perhaps looked much like a walking bird when the comet's main tail, longer and
less bright than the radial jets, is taken into account). The caption
also indicates that this object could appear in the spring, summer,
fall, or winter. As explained beneath the illustration, this and other
factors make it likely that the comet we now call Encke was this
"Pheasant Star." More to the point, however, is that people all over the
world could see such flamboyant celestial objects; this makes it
unnecessary to posit cultural diffusion theories to explain why similar
motifs occur in regions which are geographically very remote from one
Anyone who has witnessed a water snake in pursuit of minnows can not
fail to see how metaphorically apt a serpent is to describe a large
comet. This author can remember vividly, as a child, chasing such a
creature about in a creek with a friend. The snake, totally submerged,
looked to us like the granddaddy of tadpoles. Fortunately the serpent
caught its fish and surfaced before we could catch the snake. Needless
to say, we were somewhat alarmed at having chased this creature for
several minutes, for we did more than once, almost catch it.
This ignorance of potential peril we, as children reared in an
early fifties suburban environment, almost fell victim to, has much in
common with humanity's present slowness in realizing the actual danger
Earth-orbit-crossing objects pose. To us, the creek was an extension of
our well-manicured yards - a safe place. Similarly, scientists of the
mid-nineteenth century managed to convince themselves that the Earth was
safe from cosmic serpents. This is well illustrated in a note
which appeared in the February 15, 1872 issue of Nature (Vol.
5, p. 310):
We have reason to know that many weak people have been alarmed, and many
still weaker people made positively ill, by an announcement which has
appeared in almost all the newspapers, to the effect that Prof.
Plantamour, of Geneva, has discovered a comet of immense size, which is
to "collide," as our American friends would say, with our planet on the
12th of August next. We fear that there is no foundation whatever for
the rumour. In the present state of science nothing could be more
acceptable than the appearance of a good large comet, and the nearer it
comes to us the better, for the spectroscope has a long account to
settle with the whole genus, which up to this present time has fairly
eluded our grasp. But it is not too much to suppose that the laymen in
these matters might imagine that discovery would be too dearly bought by
the ruin of our planet. Doubtless, if such ruin were possible, or
indeed probable - but let us discuss this point. Kepler, who was wont to
say that there are as many comets in the sky as fishes in the ocean,
has had his opinion endorsed in later times by Arago, who has estimated
the number of these bodies which traverse the solar system as
17,500,000. But what follows from this? Surely that comets are very
harmless bodies or the planetary system, the earth included, would have
suffered from them long before this, even if we do not admit that the
earth is as old as geologists would make it. But this is not all. It is
well known that some among their number which have withal put on a very
portentious appearance are merely the celestial equivalents of our
It is important for the reader to understand that the view expressed
above did not vanish due to the work of Barringer and others who found
evidence of past impact events. Until recently, only the Carolina Bays
presented any serious challenge to the notion of a world that changed
very slowly. Small impacts were merely incorporated into this dominant
view of our planet's past, their effect on Earth being seen as local and
somewhat like a violent volcanic eruption. Confidence that our world's
geologic and biologic history could be explained within the confines of
presently observed phenomena did not really weaken seriously until the
mid-nineteen-sixties. Most damning to this view which had dominated the
Earth sciences for over a century was the growing number of asteroidal
objects that were found where they should not be. One of these
Earth-orbit-crossing objects - Icarus - had researchers quite concerned.
In July of 1966, United Press International (UPI) fed
to newspapers around the world this short report:
Sydney, Australia - An Australian scientist says if an asteroid now
speeding toward the earth veered just slightly, it would crash into the
planet with the impact of 1,000 hydrogen bombs.
Prof. S.T. Butler, professor of theoretical physics as Sydney
University, made the statement in an interview with the Sydney
He said the asteroid known as Icarus was speeding toward the earth at
70,000 miles per hour and was expected to pass four million miles away
"If Icarus hit the earth, it would be like the explosive power of 1,000
hydrogen bombs," Butler said. He added that four million miles away from
the earth was "only a stone's throw for outer space.
Butler said scientists in the United States, Britain and the
Soviet Union were closely studying the elliptical orbit of the asteroid.
He said it could possibly be destroyed with a high-altitude rocket
armed with a nuclear head if it neared the earth.
"It sounds fantastic," Butler said, "but we could land a rocket with
pinpoint accuracy 50 million miles away and destroy it. This is where
billions spent on space research pays off."
He said the scientists were keeping close tabs on the asteroid.
Butler said scientists feared that if the asteroid altered its
course a fraction of a foot, it would come within the earth's
Butler's suggestion that nuclear tipped rockets could be used to prevent
such a collision inspired M.I.T. professor Paul Sandorff to assign, as a
hypothetical problem for his systems engineering class, a detailed
study of just how to go about this. "Project Icarus," as the study come
to be called, drew quite a bit of attention itself. Time
magazine ran an article on the endeavor in June of 1967 and the
following year the class study was published as a book - Project
Icarus - which is unusual for a student project. In this book the
reader can find these revealing lines:
"The consequences of a collision with Icarus are unimaginable; the
repercussions would be felt the world over. In dissipating the energy
equivalent of half a trillion tons of T.N.T., 100 million tons of the
Earth's crust would be thrust into the atmosphere and would pollute the
Earth's environment for years to come. A crater 15 miles in diameter and
perhaps 3 to 5 miles deep would mark the impact point, while shock
waves, pressure changes, and thermal disturbances would cause
earthquakes, hurricanes, and heat waves of incalculable magnitude.
Should Icarus plunge into the ocean a thousand miles east of Bermuda for
example, the resulting tidal wave, propagating at 400 to 500 miles per
hour, would wash away the resort islands, swamp most of Florida, and
lash Boston - 1500 miles away - with a 200-foot wall of water".
"In light of the consequences of a collision with an asteroid
the size of Icarus, the possibility of such a collision, no matter how
remote, cannot go unrecognized. The world must be prepared, at least
with a plan of action, in case it should suddenly find itself threatened
by what had so recently been considered a folly".
The words ". . . threatened by what had so recently been considered a
folly" are most indicative of the alteration in world view taking place
in this decade of change. Gradualism was doomed - the writing was on the
wall. A little over a decade later hard evidence extracted from clay
covering the dinosaurs would be on the table. Interestingly the 1979
discovery of the now famous iridium anomaly by the Alvarez team
coincides with the Hollywood release of the movie Meteor, in
which Earth is saved from a five-mile-across meteoroid by the combined
strength of U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces. The film was inspired by
Quite a few long standing misconceptions fell by the wayside as humanity
entered the "space age." New information led to new ideas. This cascade
of novel input tended to liberalize academia. Students felt free to
"grill" their professors on why certain views were accepted. As a
result, conclusions arrived at by earlier researchers fell under closer
From the standpoint of this article one of the most important notions to
go by the wayside was the idea that primitive people were less
intelligent than we moderns. This view of "uncivilized" people was given
scientific credence by Charles Darwin who predicted that, upon
acceptance of his theory of evolution through natural selection,
"Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary
acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation." The idea
that our distant ancestors as well as contemporary "primitive" people
were less mentally evolved influenced anthropological thought beyond the
middle of this century. This notion of gradual mental evolution was
finally put to test by the extensive field work of French social
anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss who contended:
A primitive people is not a backward or retarded people; indeed it may
possess a genius for invention or action that leaves the achievements of
civilized peoples far behind.
Many of the books this researcher had penned were made available to
English speaking people in the sixties. His works were very influential
during this intense period of social change.
With this egalitarian view of our prehistoric ancestors, anthropologists
are now much less apt to make hasty, condescending judgments about why
certain handed down traditions came about. Legends of great
floods are no longer simply dismissed as watered up versions of an
unusually bad conventional flood. However, the realization that many
such stories were not just exaggerations is not based exclusively on a
greater appreciation of our early ancestors' ability to discriminate
between a bad flood and a DELUGE.
Uniformitarianism succeeded in displacing catastrophism as the
acceptable approach to unraveling Earth's past, largely because slow
moving glaciers better explained the presence of displaced boulders.
Catastrophists had surmised that these large rocks were washed to where
they were found during a great flood which, they believed, was brought
about by the close approach or impact of a comet. Though this is a vast
over simplification of the contest which took place between these two
schools of thought, it serves to show why true blue uniformists have had
trouble accepting evidence of catastrophic floods or impacts. A
pertinent example of what happens when scientists reject a hypothesis on
the basis of prior assumption rather than evidence is provided by the
Spokane flood controversy--a debate which closely parallels the controversy
over the origin of the Carolina Bays.
Geologist J. Harlen Bretz began his study of the peculiar geomorphic
features found on the Columbia Plateau of eastern Washington in the
summer of 1922. By 1932 he had become a "heretic" in the minds of many
fellow geologists, for Bretz contended that the features which he
called, collectively, the Channeled Scabland, were created by catastrophic
floods. Judging his research completed, Bretz simply stepped out of the
controversy his decade of work engendered and went on to other problems,
advising his colleagues that only field evidence could, or should,
decide the issue.
Bretz was more fortunate than most researchers who have posited an
unpopular hypothesis; he lived long enough to see his view accepted. One
can imagine the smile that came to Bretz's face, when, in 1965, this
wise octogenarian received a lengthy telegram from an international team
of geologists which began with "greetings and salutations" and ended
with: "We are now all catastrophists."
Victor R. Baker provides an excellent overview of this long, drawn-out
debate in his article, "The Spokane Flood Controversy and the Martian
Outflow Channels," published in Science (Vol. 202, 22 Dec.
1978). Baker points out the similarity of features revealed on Mars by
space-faring cameras and the Channeled Scabland, however, most of his
paper focuses on the Spokane flood controversy. He ends the article with
The Spokane flood controversy is both a story of ironies and a
marvelous exposition of the scientific method. One cannot but be amazed
at the efforts made to give a uniformitarian explanation for the
Channeled Scabland and to uphold the framework of geology as it had been
established in the writings of Hutton, Lyell, and Agassiz. The final
irony may be that Bretz's critics did not appreciate the scientific
implications of Agassiz's famous dictum, "study nature, not books."
Perhaps no geologist has understood and lived the spirit of those words
more enthusiastically than J. Harlen Bretz.
It is difficult to
envision the great flood, or floods Bretz's research revealed. In some
areas evidence indicates the surface of the water was over six hundred
feet above ground level! One aqueous mountain was so vast that it
manifested a surface gradient steep enough to push water, in surrounding
river valleys, upstream more than seventy miles. Abrupt breaks in the
icy confines of glacial Lake Missoula apparently caused this flooding.
Exactly why this lake so suddenly lost its integrity is still open to
debate. It is also yet unclear how many catastrophic floods occurred.
The last major deluge in this area took place over eleven thousand years
ago; volcanic tephra from a dated eruption of Glacier Peak establishes
this. Given the proven antiquity of this flooding episode, one can but
marvel at the lucid, and if anything, understated account passed along
to us by Chief Lot, a respected leader in the Spokane Indian community:
A long time ago the country around where Spokane Falls are now, and
for many days' journey east of it, was a large and beautiful lake. In
the lake were many islands, and on its shores were many villages with
many people. The Indians were well fed and happy, for there were plenty
of fish in the lake and plenty of deer and elk in the country around it.
But one summer morning the people were startled by a rumbling and a
shaking of the earth. The waters of the lake rose. Soon the waves became
mountains of water that broke with fury against the shore.
Then the sun was blotted out, and darkness covered the land and the
water. Terrified, the people ran to the hills to get away from the
pounding water. For two days the earth rumbled and quaked. Than a rain
of ashes began to fall. It fell for several weeks.
At last the ashes stopped falling, the waters of the lake became
quiet, and the Indians came down from the hills. But soon the lake began
to disappear. Dry land rose where the water had been. Many people died,
for there was nothing to eat. The game animals had run away when the
people fled to the hills, and no one dared go out on the lake to fish.
Some of the water was flowing westward from the lake that remained.
The people followed it until they came to a waterfall. Soon they saw
salmon coming up the new river from the big river west of them. So they
built a village beside the waterfall in the new river and made it their
This legend was read by Major R.D. Gwydin at a meeting of the Spokane
Historical Society, which was held toward the end of the last
century--long before Bretz began his investigation. The full value of
this account could not have been apparent then. Only results of recent
geologic field work can provide the story with a time frame and so gauge
The fact that the legend tells of a great lake in the Spokane area which
was badly drained via a new river created by the action of a
catastrophic flood that occurred in conjunction with violent tectonic
activity, including vulcanism, makes it difficult to misplace in time.
This is almost certainly an eleven thousand year old eyewitness account
of a, or the, Spokane flooding episode. Not only does this succinct
report tell of a feature which required years of geologic field work to
establish--the presence of a vast lake in the Spokane area--but it also
reveals a detail which could not be easily proven by a contemporary
geologic investigation. The assertion in the legend, that volcanic ash
fell during this flood should be considered a valuable piece of
collateral evidence which could shed further light on events of this
time period. To date, geologists have only used the tephra deposited on
these flood features as a means of limiting the time interval in which
the flooding could have occurred. Accepting this Native American legend
as a likely eyewitness account, rather than an ex-post-facto construct,
might allow geologists to affix a fairly firm date to at least one major
Folklore, like any large collection of literature (including scientific
works) accumulated over time, contains valid observations along with
suppositions. Generally, it is not difficult to recognize hypothesis in
handed down tales, for early expositors' rationalizations were often
quite fanciful. The remains of giant herbivores inspired a variety of
tales which sought to explain their presence. These stories varied from
culture to culture, however, almost all have one thing in common; the
given explanation is totally implausible and obviously an ex-post-facto
J.P. MacLean provides an overview of notions engendered by finds of
giant bones in his Mastodon, Mammoth and Man published in 1878:
The fossil bones of the elephant family when first discovered were
ascribed either to human beings or else the demi-gods. The patella of a
fossil elephant found in Greece was taken for the knee-bone of Ajax; the
remains, thirteen feet in length, discovered by the Spartans at Tegea,
were assigned to the body of Orestes; those, eighteen feet in length,
discovered in the Isle of Ladea, were assigned to Asterious, son of
Ajax; the bones discovered in the fourth century at Trapani, in Sicily,
were ascribed to the pretended body of Polyphemus. So numerous were the
discoveries, and so universally regarded to be those of human beings,
that the literature of the middle ages, on this subject, is quite
voluminous, and has been entitled "Gigantology."
In 1456, in France, bones of pretended giants were noticed in the
bed of the Rhone. Soon after other discoveries were made near
Saint-Peirat, opposite Valence, which were cared for by the Dauphin,
afterwards Louis XI, and sent to Bourges, where they long remained
objects of curiosity in the interior of the Saint-Chapelle. In the same
neighborhood, in 1564, two peasants noticed, on the banks of the Rhone,
some great bones sticking out of the ground. Cassanion pronounced them
giants' bones, and this discovery doubtless caused him to write his
treatise entitled "De Gigantibus."
In the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland, in the year 1577, a storm
uprooted an oak near the cloisters of Reyden, exposing some large bones.
These bones were examined by Felix Platen, then a celebrated physician
and professor at Basle, who declared them to be the remains of a giant
nineteen feet in height. On account of the conclusions of Platen the
inhabitants of Lucerne adopted the image of the fabulous giant as the
supporter of the city arms.
Otto de Guericke, a celebrated physicist and inventor of the air
pump, in 1663, witnessed the discovery of the bones of the elephant,
along with its enormous tusks, buried in the shelly-limestone, Germany.
The tusks were taken for horns, and out of the remains Leibnitz
constructed a strange animal, carrying a horn in the middle of its
forehead, and in each jaw a dozen molar-teeth a foot long, and calling
the creature the fossil unicorn. In his "Protogaea" he gave a
description and a drawing of the imaginary animal. For more than thirty
years the unicorn of Leibnitz was universally accepted throughout
Germany, . . .
The gigantic bones discovered in 1705, thirty miles south of Albany,
New York, were regarded as additional proof of the ancient stories
relative to the past existence of a race of giants. One of the teeth was
shown to Governor Dudley, of Massachusetts, who was "perfectly of
opinion that the tooth will agree only to a human body, for whom the
flood only could prepare a funeral; and without doubt he waded as long
as he could keep his head above the clouds, but must, at length, be
confounded with all other creatures." The bones of the mastodon found
near Santa Fe de Bogota, in the "Field of Giants," were formerly taken
for human remains. And, in like manner, the great quantity of bones of
this animal found in the Cordilleras originated the Spanish tradition
that Peru was formerly inhabited by men of colossal stature.
An interesting correlation on the Spanish belief, just mentioned comes
from the "Terminal Essay" of Richard F. Burton's famous Book of the
Thousand Nights and a Night, published in 1886:
. . . Speaking of the arrival of the Giants at Point Santa Elena,
[Peru] Cieza says, they were detested by the natives, because in using
their women they killed them, and their men also in another way. All the
natives declare that God brought upon them a punishment proportioned to
the enormity of their offence. When they were engaged together in their
accursed intercourse, a fearful and terrible fire came down from Heaven
with a great noise, out of the midst of which there issued a shining
Angel with a glittering sword, wherewith at one blow they were all
killed and the fire consumed them. There remained a few bones and skulls
which God allowed to bide unconsumed by the fire, as a memorial of this
Burton recognized this as a likely " . . . Europeo-American version of
the Sodom legend." As the reader will soon see the American component of
this tale could be much more ancient than the legend of Sodom and
Gomorrah. In the above story, two disparate legends, each likely
inspired by an actual impact event, though probably not the same one,
have been merged to form a totally erroneous tale.
Thomas Jefferson was also intrigued by these commonly found large bones.
By his time most well-informed people knew these to be the remains of
large elephants; the question in Jefferson's mind was: Were some still
lurking about? In his Notes on Virginia, first published in
1787, Jefferson reports:
Our quadrupeds have been mostly described by Linnaeus and Mons. de
Buffon. Of these the mammoth, or big buffalo, as called by the Indians,
must certainly have been the largest. Their tradition is, that he was
carnivorous, and still exists in the northern parts of America. A
delegation of warriors from the Delaware tribe having visited the
Governor of Virginia, during the revolution, on matters of business,
after these had been discussed and settled in council, the Governor
asked them some questions relative to their country, and among others,
what they knew or had heard of the animal whose bones were found at the
Saltlicks on the Ohio. Their chief speaker immediately put himself into
an attitude of oratory, and with a pomp suited to what he conceived the
elevation of his subject, informed him that it was a tradition handed
down from their fathers, "That in ancient times a herd of these
tremendous animals came to the Big-bone licks, and began a universal
destruction of the bear, deer, elks, buffaloes, and other animals which
had been created for the use of the Indians; that the Great Man above,
looking down and seeing this, was so enraged that he seized his
lightning, descended on the earth, seated himself on a neighboring
mountain, on a rock of which his seat and the print of his feet are
still to be seen, and hurled his bolts among them till the whole were
slaughtered, except the big bull, who presenting his forehead to the
shafts, shook them off as they fell; but missing one at length, it
wounded him in the side; whereon, springing round, he bounded over the
Ohio, over the Wabash, the Illinois, and finally over the great lakes,
where he is living at this day."
Jefferson included this native narrative because it lent support to the
idea that these large animals were still extant; he did not accept the
notion of total extinction. This is made plain later in the same work,
where, referring to his list of quadrupeds common to Europe and America,
. . . It may be asked, why I insert the mammoth, as if it still
existed? I ask in return, why I should omit it, as if it did not exist?
Such is the economy of nature, that no instance can be produced, of her
having permitted any one race of her animals to become extinct; of her
having formed any link in her great work so weak as to be broken. To add
to this, the traditionary testimony of the Indians, that this animal
still exists in the northern and western parts of America, would be
adding the light of a taper to that of the meridian sun. Those parts
still remain in their aboriginal state, unexplored and undisturbed by
us, or by others for us. He may as well exist there now, as he did
formerly where we find his bones.
Jefferson supposed that these large animals, probably carnivorous, had
recently abandoned eastern American due to a general depletion of wild
game, which, in turn, he felt, was caused by the enhanced hunting
capability of natives armed with European weapons.
Obviously, this early champion of freedom saw the 'stormy' part of this
native legend as nothing more than flamboyant free verse, added to spice
up the story. Recall that, when Jefferson wrote his Notes on
Virginia, well-informed individuals 'knew' that rocks could not
fall from the sky. The mention of a "Great Man above" hurling 'bolts' at
the long-nosed beasts from a mountain top probably caused a chuckle to
issue from the great statesman as he first took this legend in - "How
Jovian!" - he likely thought. Jefferson would have never
imagined that this part of the story could have any historic value,
however, it most probably does.
The reader can most clearly appreciate a likely connection between this
legend and the formation of the Carolina
Bays by comparing the geographic location given in the fullest
version of this story with a map showing the probable 'footprint' of the
suspected impact event. This particular rendering of the tale was
provided, sans translator, by an English speaking member of the Delaware
tribe around the turn of the century:
Long ago, in time almost forgotten, when the Indians and the Great
Spirit knew each other better, when the Great Spirit would appear and
talk with the wise men of the Nation, and they would counsel with the
people; when every warrior understood the art of nature, and the Great
Spirit was pleased with his children; long before the white man came and
the Indians turned their ear to the white man's God; when every warrior
believed that bravery, truth, honesty, and charity were the virtues
necessary to take him to the happy hunting-grounds; when the Indians
were obedient and the Great Spirit was interested in their welfare there
were mighty beasts that roamed the forests and plains.
The Yah Qua Whee or mastodon that was placed here for the benefit of
the Indians was intended as a beast of burden and to make itself
generally useful to the Indians. This beast rebelled. It was fierce,
powerful and invincible, its skin being so strong and hard that the
sharpest spears and arrows could scarcely penetrate it. It made war
against all other animals that dwelt in the woods and on the plains
which the Great Spirit had created to be used as meat for his
A final battle was fought and all the beasts of the plains and
forests arrayed themselves against the mastodon. The Indians were also
to take part in this decisive battle if necessary, as the Great Spirit
had told them they must annihilate the mastodon.
The great bear was there and was wounded in the battle.
The battle took place in the Ohio Valley, west of the Alleghanies.
The Great Spirit descended and sat on a rock on the top of the
Alleghanies to watch the tide of battle. Great numbers of mastodons
came, and still greater numbers of the other animals.
The slaughter was terrific. The mastodons were being victorious
until at last the valleys ran in blood. The battlefield became a great
mire, and many of the mastodons, by their weight, sank in the mire and
The Great Spirit became angry at the mastodon and from the top of
the mountain hurled bolts of lightning at their sides until he killed
them all except one large bull, who cast aside the bolts of lightning
with his tusks and defied everything, killing many of the other animals
in his rage until at last he was wounded. Then he bounded across the
Ohio river over the Mississippi, swam the Great Lakes, and went to the
far north where he lives to this day.
Traces of that battle may yet be seen. The marshes and mires are
still there, and in them the bones of the mastodon still are found as
well as the bones of many other animals.
There was a terrible loss of the animals that were made for food for
the Indians in that battle, and the Indians grieved much to see it so
the Great Spirit caused in remembrance of that day, the cranberry to
come and grow in the marshes to be used as food, its coat always bathed
in blood, in remembrance of that awful battle.
Though the geographic correlation suggests that this legend is rooted in
fact, it would not be possible to rule out a coincidentally fortuitous
ex-post-facto origin for this story without additional evidence.
Amazingly there is a rock hard exhibit which may rule this possibility
Short of a full contemporary investigation of the Carolina Bays, the
strongest physical evidence that seems to link the mega-fauna extinction
with an extraterrestrial event is in the form of an artifact known as
the Lenape Stone.
largest piece of this gorget was discovered in 1872 by Barnard Hansell
while plowing on his father's farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. After
carrying the stone in his pocket for a few days, young Hansell put it in
a tobacco box with other Indian relics he had found and there it stayed
until the spring of 1881 when he sold it along with about 200
arrowheads and other artifacts for the sum of two dollars and fifty
cents to Henry D. Paxon, the son of the local justice of the peace,
Albert Paxon. The nineteen-year-old collector (Paxon) asked Hansell
about the missing piece of stone and indicated that he would like to
have it should it turn up. This prompted Hansell to be on the look-out
for the other piece which he found while harvesting corn in the fall of
the same year. Hansell gave the smaller piece of the Lenape Stone to
young Paxon free of charge on the ninth day of November, 1881, while
visiting the Paxon's home for the purpose of paying his (Hansell's)
This carved gorget soon attracted academic interest and became the
subject of a small book published in 1885. The author of The
Lenape Stone, H.C. Mercer, was very much aware of fraudulent
Indian relics that were becoming all too common during this time period
and so spent a great deal of time and effort to establish the
authenticity of this find. During the course of his investigation, which
included an excavation on the Hansell property, three other carved
gorgets were found on this farm. Mercer felt very sure that this stone
was a real artifact of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians known to have
lived in this region. To date, nothing has been found to
contra-indicate Mercer's assessment of this gorget.
Most impressive to Mercer was the correlation between the images on the
stone and the legend Jefferson had recorded. After quoting this story
from Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Mercer conveys to his
Making due allowance for translation, and a reasonable amount of
garbling, the points of similarity between the carving and the
tradition--the great man above (the sun) looking down, the lightning,
and the big bull presenting his forehead to the shafts, and at length
wounded in the side--are very striking; and if we compare the curious
circle enclosing a dot, on the inclined foreground to the right, with
the "neighboring mountain," and the footprint on the rock of the
tradition, the correspondence seems again too unusual for mere
coincidence. On the other hand, the tradition says nothing of warriors
or wigwams, or of planets, moon, and stars, yet these differences may
naturally be accounted for if we suppose the stone older than the
tradition, and that in the latter the local and matter- of-fact elements
of time, place, and human agency would have been the first to fade away
as time went on. But this is not the only Indian tradition of a great
monster --presumably the mammoth--which has been preserved to us.
The element of divine wrath, common to monster myths among barbarous
peoples, again occurs in a Wyandot version of the same tradition, taken
down from a band of Iroquois and Wyandots by Colonel G. Croghan, at the
Salt Licks in Kentucky in 1748, and given in Winterbotham's "History of
the United States," vol. iii., page 139. The head chief, says the
writer, having been flattered with presents of tobacco, paint,
ammunition, etc., on being asked about the large bones, related the
ancient tradition of his people as follows: "That the red man, placed on
this island by the Great Spirit, had been exceedingly happy for ages,
but foolish young people forgetting his rules became ill-tempered and
wicked, in consequence of which the Great Spirit created the Great
Buffalo, the bones of which we now see before us. These made war upon
the human species alone, and destroyed all but a few, who repented and
promised the Great Spirit to live according to his laws if he would
restrain the devouring enemy; whereupon he sent lightning and thunder,
and destroyed the whole race in this spot, two excepted, a male and
female, whom he shut up in yonder mountain, ready to let loose again
should occasion require."
Clearly, as Mercer asserted in his book, this gorget served as a
mnemonic devise. Whether this particular artifact was carved in final
days of the large herbivores or produced later from images on a prior
story telling aide, the likeness of a large elephant is very strong
evidence that the legend of Yah Qua Whee was born over ten thousand
The lines rendered on this stone convey much more today than they could
have in Mercer's time. No scholar of the late eighteen hundreds knew of
impact craters and the academic appraisal of comets was, as revealed
earlier, far from accurate. Mercer, thus, had no conceptual basis for
viewing the "curious circle enclosing a dot, on the inclined foreground"
as anything other than the legendary "footprint on the rock." Ignorance
of impact phenomena also blinded Mercer to lines that, given the
overall context of the drawing, were likely meant to depict broken
trees. One could, of course, argue that these two triangular scratches
were, indeed, wigwams as Mercer thought and that there is nothing
curious about the circular feature for it was intended to represent a
pond. Such a contention would, however, be at odds with the rest of the
picture--particularly Mercer's 'sun.' Actually this radiating
bullet-like image, with face, combined with the crater-like feature,
goes further in demonstrating the authenticity of this carved gorget
than does the rendered proboscidean. Skillfully scribed images of the
mammoth had been uncovered in France prior to the discovery of the
Lenape stone, making it conceivable, though all circumstances of the
Pennsylvania find argue against it, that the first carved image of an
elephant found in North America was engraved upon a genuine native
artifact by a palefaced prankster. However, if a mischievous
anthropological savant of this era had planned to fool some people by
producing a pictorial version of a known legend, would this late
nineteenth century joker not make the 'footprint' look more like a
footprint? And what would prompt a forger to render anything like the
image actually carved on the Lenape Stone, if this was to represent "the
great man above," whether the perpetrator took the term literally or as
a metaphor for the Sun? Obviously, the projectile-shaped 'head'
engraved on this stone has more in common with an image of a comet or
meteor than any other celestial object. In the opinion of this author,
the 'flying face' represents a very large comet in close proximity to
Earth. As mentioned earlier, only fragments of this object have
struck our planet. The main berg continued on, likely retaining its
visually dominant status for thousands of years. Little imagination is
required to posit that our ancestors regarded this chief comet as the
head, or great, spirit which had the ability to influence events on
Earth. An apparent lack of extensive tail in this rendering
does not argue against the image's cometary inspiration. The length of a
comet's tail is a function of its proximity to the Sun; when the head
of such an object is near Earth its trail is shorter than it will be
when the comet is at perihelion. Also, a comet falling toward the Sun on
a path which brings it close to our planet will provide observers on
Earth with an almost head-on view of the object, making full
appreciation of tail length impossible.
There is, however, little reason to view the scene depicted on this rock
as a realistic portrait of what took place. It is most probable that
the legend of Yah Qua Whee and its pictorial record were composed
several decades (perhaps a century or more) after the actual
catastrophe. One of the problems Kulik encountered on his quest was
finding native Tungus people willing
to enter the devastated area; most believed the destruction was due
to the wrath of Ogdy, their god of fire. To them the territory was
cursed--visiting it might bring injury to the intruder, or worse,
re-anger the god. Quite likely survivors of the Carolina Bays event held
It would be an error to infer that the Leni Lenape were the originators
of this story. Assuming genuine native work, the only information
gleaned from the engraving on the stone is that who ever first composed
this scene knew what a living Mammoth looked like and had ventured into
the devastated area soon enough to observe small impact craters and
downed trees. The composition also suggests that the originator was
aware of what caused the destruction. Quite likely the Lenape inherited
this legend and its pictorial representation. Their own traditional
history, the Walam Olum, suggests that they were located in the Pacific
Northwest area when the 'mighty snake' attacked; this would square well
with the vast flooding they record. It is quite possible that subsequent
geologic field work will show that the major episode of flooding which
created the channeled scabland was triggered by an impact
event--probably the one that produced the Carolina Bays. An object
entering Earth's atmosphere can quickly acquire an external temperature
hotter than the Sun's surface. Glacial ice would readily absorb some of
this heat in the form of infrared radiation and, so, melt very rapidly.
Obviously, this would quickly over burden normal melt-water channels and
soon produce a swell of cascading water which no pre-established
glacial lake could contain. A Chippewa legend provides a bit of support
for such a supposition. It reads:
. . . In the beginning of time, in the month of September, there was
a great snow. A little mouse nibbled a hole in the leather bag which
contained the sun's heat, and the heat poured out over the earth and
melted all the snow in an instant. The meltwater rose to the tops of the
highest pines and kept on rising until even the highest mountains were
submerged . . .
Enough though, of legends--no story from the past can, in isolation,
provide proof that certain phenomena occurred; only objective field work
will do that. Legends have been employed here primarily to show
that there is ample reason to view, as suspect, a picture of our past
which has been pieced together without regard to the potential influence
of impact events. Contemporary evidence indicates a need for a total
reappraisal of our journey through the last twelve thousand years.
Mon, 19 Jul 2010 13:59 EDT
Radivoke Lajic, 50, said that his house being hit by rocks from space was the result of an extraterrestrial grudge.
"I am obviously being targeted by extraterrestrials," he said.
"I don't know what I have done to annoy them but there is no other explanation that makes sense.
"The chance of being hit by a meteorite is so small that getting hit six times has to be deliberate."
Mr Lajic, who lives in the village of Gornji Lajici in northern Bosnia,
near Prijedor, said that the meteorite strikes always happen when it is
The first meteorite struck his house in November 2007.
Scientists at Belgrade University have confirmed that the rocks are all meteorites.
"I have no doubt I am being targeted by aliens," he said.
"They are playing games with me. I don't know why they are doing this.
When it rains I can't sleep for worrying about another strike."
Mr Lajic has reinforced his roof with steel for fear that a meteor may hit his house.
He paid for the steel girder by selling one of the meteorites to a university in the Netherlands.
"But these meteorites have brought happiness to our family as well, as
we've met different people from around the world that were interested in
it," he said.
"And I have had so many visitors that I plan to make a small museum in my back garden."
Mr Lajic first hit the headlines two years ago, when the fifth meteorite struck his house.
Scientists are now studying magnetic fields around the property to try and explain the frequency of the strikes.
Sat, 24 Jul 2010 13:10 EDT
cricket fan Jan Marszel looked up in amazement as he saw a small, dark
round object hurtle towards him on the boundary edge.
But it was not one of Luke Wright's mammoth pulls coming his way - it
was a meteorite that had fallen from outer space - and nearly struck
him on the head.
It's thought to be the first extra-terrestrial crash landing in the UK for nearly 20 years.
The 51-year-old had spent Wednesday afternoon in Uxbridge with friend
Richard Haynes watching Sussex battle with Middlesex in a county
championship division two clash.
The pair - both Sussex members - were sitting square of the wicket
watching England's T20 hero Wright bat with Monty Panesar when they
spotted the black, five-inch rock hurtling towards them. Mr Marszel, 51,
an IT consultant from Blackboys, near Uckfield, said: "We were sitting
at the boundary edge when all of a sudden, out of a blue sky, we saw
this small dark object hurtling towards us.
"It landed five yards inside the boundary and split into two pieces.
"One piece bounced up and hit me in the chest and the other ended up against the boundary board.
Wed, 28 Jul 2010 18:08 EDT
The University of Western Ontario meteor radar is picking up strong returns
from the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower, which peaks on July 28th
and 29th. Sky watchers (particularly in the southern hemisphere) should
be alert for meteors between about 10 pm and dawn.
"Visual rates could be as high as 20 per hour," notes Bill Cooke of
NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, "although glare from the nearly
full Moon will make the fainter meteors difficult to see."