Fiery objects rising from the ocean

" Very largely we shall concern ourselves with enormous fiery objects that have either plunged into the ocean or risen from the ocean", writes Fort in his The Book of the Damned. Among the many examples that he cites of luminous wheels, luminous bodies rising from the sea or hurthling through the skies, Fort tells of " object, described as "a large ball of fire", seen to rise from the sea, near Cape Race. We are told that it rose to a height of fifty feet, and then advanced close to the ship, then moving away, remaining visible about five minutes..."(1)

Interestingly, when scanning several 19th century Dutch newspapers for Fortean items of interest, I found that the incident that had occurred in 1887, was published beginning of the next year in the Netherlands. Sofar I located the item in two Dutch newspapers, the Texelse Courant, of March 11, 1888 and Nieuwe Amersfoortsche Courant of March 24, 1888. These clippings and my translations follow.

Texelse Courant, March 11, 1888

Texelse Courant, 1888-03-11

A rare aerial phenomenon was recently observed by captain Moore of the English steamer "Siberian" when he was in the vicinity of New-Foundland, about 10 sea miles off Cape Race. He saw then at midnight - it was November 12 - with a strong wind a big fireball rising up out of the sea to a height of approximately 15 feet, and against the direction of the wind, coursing straight towards the ship. The fireball then changed course and moved parallel to the ship for about 1,5 sea mile, when about 2 minutes later it again took on another course and disappeared. Captain Moore says, that he had observed such a phenomenon before at Cape Race what he considered as a sign of storm from the East and South-East.
The Hydrographic Bureau in Washington, having submitted the above, adds to that: the phenomenon described here is one of the rarest and hard to explain forms of lightning. A fireball floats slowly through the air without fixed course to sometimes explode with tremendous force, at other times bursting in apart without blow in the air. People have observed that these fireballs on land strike a hole in the ground of more than 30 feet diameter and reappear a short distance away. Although the phenomenon itself is not in doubt there still has not been found a sufficient explanation.

Nieuwe Amersfoortsche Courant, March 24, 1888
Nieuwe Amersfoortsche Courant, 1888-03-24

The captain of the British steamer Siberia recently observed, not far from Newfoundland, at 10 sea miles of Cape Race, a strange phenomenon. He saw, against midnight, and with heavy weather, a fireball ascending from the sea which floated for a few seconds 4 meters above the sea, and subsequently disappeared. The captain had seen such a phenomenon before in these parts and thought of it as an omen of storm.
The Hydrographic Bureau in Washington names it "one of the most rare and most difficult to explain electrical phenomena." "The fireball", it further states, "usually ascends slowly in the air and explodes with a thunderous sound. People have also seen such fireballs on the mainland, where they usually fall to the ground where they create a hole of ten meters in diameter, to surface again at another place."


(1) quote by Fort in: The Book of the Damned, Boni and Liveright, 1919, chapter 21, page 261 (top of page), The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover edition, 1974, pages 273-274 (bottom and top), hypertext edition here.

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