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THE aurora is not, as supposed by many, an accumulation of electricity, or magnetic force, around the poles; it is nothing more nor less than the reflection upon the clouds, ice, and snow of a burning volcano, prairie-or forest-fire in the interior of the earth. This fancy coloring, seen in many cases, may be caused in different ways. First, the burning material--of kinds too numerous to mention--might produce any and all colors. Then the light shining through smoke, dust, or colored material in the air --the same that produces colored snow--would reflect different colors. As the flames shoot up, and are sucked, whirled, or blown in all directions, they may produce the fanciful movement in the sky, and be re-reflected by the peculiar atmospheric conditions in the polar regions. The slightest motion of a magic lantern will send the light quivering and shimmering in
many directions, or a searchlight, moved a few inches, will throw the reflection of the light many miles. All the changes in a great fire, then, roving and burning first one place, then another, shooting up anew, as fresh material is reached, now dying down, now exploding anew, must produce a wonderful effect, as all agree that the aurora does. Many have pictured the aurora as representing fire seen in the sky, and one would think that the theory that it is electricity would be rejected by all, as it was by many as soon as it was discovered that in many cases when the aurora was brightest the needle was not affected in the least. For thousands of years the aurora has been one of the most conspicuous mysteries to be solved. For that reason, considerable space will be given to the subject, mainly to show how it appeared to those nearest to it.
They surely will not be accused of drawing on the imagination, or of coloring their statements in the least. When read in connection with the claim that the earth is hollow, and the aurora is produced by a
burning volcano, an extensive prairie- or forest-fire,--in the interior of the earth,--a wholly different view of the aurora will be entertained; especially when taken in connection with what has been known for hundreds of years: that the surface of the earth or ocean can be, and is, reflected in the sky so correctly that whalers have long depended upon the reflection to tell them when open water, ice, or land lies ahead. Men who embark upon dangerous pursuits, such as hunting the seal, walrus, whale, and bear, never attempt to advance unless the conditions be favorable: that is always determined by what they see in the skies. If the sky acts as a mirror wherein can be noted the conditions of the ice, water, etc., would not a great fire, like the aurora, be reflected equally as clear? To call the fire an aurora, mock sun, or any other name, does not change the fact in the least.
Suppose a hunter, accustomed for years to locating musk ox by the reflection in the skies, should see a herd of reindeer some morning in the same way. What would
he do if he wanted a shot at them? Would he take his gun and start out to stalk them, or would he say: "What a strange. phenomenon! I wonder what it is!" then wind up by calling the reflection by some other name? No; he would know what it meant. The strangest thing of all is that the explorers and writers on this subject did not know what the aurora was when they saw it.
Let us now take up the question of the Aurora Borealis, or the Aurora Polaris, as it is sometimes called. I contend that the aurora is nothing more nor less than the reflection of a burning volcano, prairie- or forest-fire, or fire of some kind, and that such is the fact will be proved by quoting from observations made by those who have spent considerable time on the verge of the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
The northern whalers, or those that seek game in that frozen country, look into the sky in order to tell whether the ice is frozen solid or whether there are openings. If the sky be a whitish gray, the surface reflected is covered with ice; if there
be patches of blue, they indicate openings in the ice. Thus, they are able to tell the condition of the earth many miles away. If that can be done, and it has been proved it can, why cannot we, when we see what appears to be a fire burning in the sky, know that there must be a fire beneath? No reasonable person can doubt that the same reflection is as true in one case as it is in another. In Bernacchi's story of his Antarctic exploration, one reads: "Owing to the great reflection in those latitudes, flames appeared to dart across the horizon, and resembled a mighty conflagration. Higher and higher they rose, changing the color from dark red to every variety of shade."
You note that he describes them as "flames that appeared to dart across the horizon, and resembled a mighty conflagration." That was just what it was. People visiting the location nearest the pole have experienced no great change compared with any other part of the world; the told, heat, wet, the dry, and the air are the same. Then why should
electricity or falling stars be more prevalent there than elsewhere? There is but one answer: the exploding volcano produces both.
On page 92, Bernacchi writes: "At nine o'clock in the evening of the 15th of March we witnessed our first Aurora Polaris during clear, calm weather, the temperature at the time being sixteen degrees Fahr. The light first emanated in a waving curtain from the southeast and went round to the southwest. The motion of the arrow-like beams, constituting the curtain, was rapid and at times would run along with an undulating motion, then suddenly shoot downward toward the earth. Seen for the first time, it was a wondrous sight, and to me appeared like some great searchlight directed towards the earth from the depths of infinite" (the italics the one who quotes). What could more convince one that there is a volcano burning in the interior of the earth? He adds: "This further display was very poor compared with some subsequently witnessed."
Here we have another great proof that
the aurora is not electricity; for it occurs in terrible storms, storms not so terrible, and in clear, calm weather.
On page 129 Bernacchi again refers to the aurora:
"At Cape Adare (latitude 71 deg. 185) the aurora was generally observed in the north, very rarely in the south, and it always manifested itself in exactly the same manner." If it were an electric display, as has been claimed heretofore, it would be as apt to occur at one place as at another, but it always comes in the same direction and in the same form.
The author asserts, again, on page 130:
"But what was of greatest interest in the observation of the aurora was the connection which appeared to exist between it and approaching atmospheric disturbances. A strong gale from E. S. E. and S. E. was almost invariably preceded by a most brilliant and rapid auroral display. This was not a mere coincidence, but a fact repeatedly observed." What would be the natural result if a tremendous volcano had exploded? Would it not force out strong
wind?--just what he says did occur; if it had not, there would have been great cause for wonder.
"At 10 o'clock in the evening of June 3d an exceedingly grand aurora was visible," continues Bernacchi; "it was a dazzling and incomparable spectacle, and first manifested itself in the usual manner by a luminous display in the north. This, however, was only a transient phase, for the flow of streamers gradually faded away, and the whole display lost its brilliancy and rapidity of motion in about an hour, leaving a glow in the sky like the dying embers of a great fire."
The italics in this quotation, like in the one on a preceding page, are mine, but the matter therein is but one more instance of the general comparison of the aurora with fire. Yet, in almost the same breath, Bernacchi adds: "How little we understand the nature of its origin!" In this description he has recognized the fact that the aurora comes usually from the same direction, and he simply says, "in its usual manner by luminous
display in the north." If he were looking south at a fire, it naturally would throw its reflections past him to the north. He speaks of it "leaving a glow in the sky like the dying embers of a great fire."
It will be observed that this aurora manifests itself in the usual manner. If caused by electricity, is it not remarkable that it should always come from the same direction, and in the same form? One would surmise that there was a mammoth electric battery located at that place, and in a deep well, as he describes it, "like some great searchlight directed towards the earth from the depths of infinity." The description is right, but the conception is wrong. What he describes was an exploding volcano in the interior of the earth near the Antarctic entrance, and, as Poe says, "only that, and nothing more."
We will now go to the North Pole for other descriptions of the aurora, and see what has been found there.
Nansen states that the aurora was brightest in the south; just the reverse of what Bernacchi said when he looked toward
the South Pole. If it was a fire, would it not have been exactly as those two men described it? To the one looking south, the reflection would have been in the north; to the one looking north, the reflection would have been in the south, which was exactly the case.
I quote Hansen from another page, 394: "To-day another noteworthy thing happened, which was that about midday we saw the sun, or, to be more correct, an image of the sun, for it was only a mirage. A peculiar impression was produced by the sight of that glowing fire lit just above the outermost edge of the ice. According to the enthusiastic descriptions given by many Arctic travelers of the first appearance of this God of Life after the long winter night, the impression ought to be one of jubilant excitement; but it was not so in my case. We had not expected to see it for some days yet, so that my feeling was rather one of pain, of disappointment, that we must have drifted farther south than we thought. So it was with pleasure I soon discovered that it could not be the
sun itself. The mirage was at first a flattened-out glowing red streak of fire on the horizon; later there were two streaks, the one above the other, with a dark space between; and from the maintop I could see four, or even five, such horizontal lines directly over one another, and all of equal length, as if one could only imagine a square dull red sun with horizontal dark streaks across it." Nansen imagined that he saw the sun, but afterward claimed that it was a mirage. What he saw was neither. I think it was the volcano itself; and, as he states, he saw it three days in succession, or the two following days. This proves that it could not have been a mirage, inasmuch as a mirage does not last three days. His ship had simply drifted far enough into the interior to get a glimpse of this volcano. You note that he describes it as being "just at the edge of the ice"--that is, looking toward the north. The sun, if visible at all, would have been in the opposite direction; it is never square, but always round. He describes what he saw as a square fire, and
afterward says he could almost see it assume a round form. "Both to-day and yesterday we have seen the mirage of the sun again; to-day it was high above the horizon, and almost seemed to assume a round disk-like form." (Page 398.) I cannot imagine in what condition the fire was or how his eyes were.
If this light was not the sun, what was it? A fire in the interior of the earth, possibly not very far in, but, nevertheless, in the interior. There is no reason why it should not have been half-way or one-third of the way in. Just when one is on earth or in the interior is difficult to determine, as the curve is so gradual; some may call one point the interior, while others call a point much farther in still on earth. It reminds one of the farmer who was asked how old a heifer is when she becomes a cow. He stopped to think for a moment, then said: "I don't believe I know, as one of my neighbors has a three-year-old cow, and another has a four-year-old heifer." The exact location of the dividing line will always be a question. When the needle
points straight up it will be as near the dividing line as can be determined--near enough for all practical purposes, unless one nation should claim the earth, and another the interior. In that case, if it should appear that valuable mines are located at that point, some trouble might arise between the claimants.
In Vol. I, page 280, Hall describes "an aurora with but slight coloring. Nearly all day on the 6th, beautiful auroral displays were seen. During the morning, luminous though faint clouds were observed in different parts of the heavens. At 3 p. m., the sky being clear and the breeze light from the south, these clouds, in the form of an arch, extended from northeast to southwest, enlarging toward the northeast and accumulating above the mountains. In half an hour they resumed their original shape, and appeared in the form of light-yellow and white bands. These phenomena were present during the whole evening, being seen in every direction. Fantastic forms of light came and went
rapidly, and a .frequent appearance was that of a cirro-stratus cloud. On the morning of the 7th, a perfect arch extending from the north to south was observed. It consisted of uniform bands of yellow and white."
Siemens says in his journal, Hall, Vol. I, page 281, that on January To, 1872, at five in the morning, "a bright arc was seen in the sky passing from the western horizon through the zenith to the east, parallel with the Milky Way, and distant from it about 12 degs. It disappeared about 6 a. m., leaving three clouds of similar brightness. This phenomenon, if electric, did not show itself in the needle."
This, then, is another instance where the aurora does not affect the needle.
Corroborative of this, Siemens adds, "This phenomenon, if electric, did not show itself in the needle." Take either horn of the dilemma: if it was not electric, what was it? If it was electric, why did it not affect the needle?
Here follows a description, by Hall, page 297, of an aurora produced by a
There is nothing about this aurora, as described by Hall, that a great fire in the interior of the earth would not furnish a solution.
great volcanic eruption, very different from the account just cited. "It may be said, in general, that the greatest disturbances occurred several hours before an aurora was visible. The following short description of the display is condensed from Mauch's journal: 'At 7 p. m., as I was returning to the ship from the observatory, I noticed the slaty appearance of the sky to the northwest and the occasional shooting up of luminous streamers. At 7:15 the horizon to the northwest was a blood-red color, while faint, white streamers sprang up in rapid succession, increasing in numbers, and rising from the west, north, and northeast points. They were all directed toward the zenith, and the exterior ones bending inwards gave to the whole configuration a dome-like shape. They then all vanished, and new ones began to rise slowly from a wider extent of horizon. At 8:30 new and very bright streamers advanced toward the zenith from all directions. At 8:45 they all gathered about the zenith and formed a perfect corona. They then all seemed to
move toward the north, as new ones arose from the south.' Mauch watched the progress of these streamers while passing over some stars, and assigned to them a motion of between six and seven seconds to a degree. They moved from west to east. As the corona opened and moved toward the north, a beautiful curtain was formed, its colors being very intense and bright, between yellow and white."
" 'At 3:30 p. m. I observed,' says Mauch in his journal, 'on the northeast, east, and southeast horizon, beams of luminous clouds. They soon accumulated and formed an irregular arch clue east which slowly moved, as if driven, in a southerly direction. At 4 p. m. a new arch extended from nearly due east to nearly due south. At 4:I0 p. m. three distinct arches, one above the other, were formed slowly in the southwest and south, exhibiting a very brilliant display, though fading very soon away. Those to the south were an intense straw-color, and formed a brilliant spectacle.' "
Can any better refutation of the theory
that the aurora is electricity be offered for the consideration of the man who thinks? Does electricity ever move through the heavens as if driven slowly along by some unseen agency? Who ever heard of electricity moving slowly, or being driven in the air?
The eruption which caused this great agitation did not ignite at once to any extent, but threw out so much dust, dirt, and smoke, that it obscured the light for several hours. As the needle was most disturbed several hours before this aurora appeared, that is evidence that the eruption of the volcano which liberated the minerals and gases, and produced the shock, was what agitated the needle, and not electricity, as hitherto supposed; for there was no aurora when the needle was most affected. When the strong coloring, shown in the aurora, did appear, it was another proof that the coloring arises from the burning of minerals, gas, oils, etc. Taken in connection with the wonderful display, the beautiful coloring and the heavy clouds, everything points to one
cause--a great explosion. If this was electricity, would it have risen slowly? No; electricity is anything but slow. This acted as a fire, dying down, then starting up over a wider extent. It is characteristic of a fire to spread if it can find anything to consume. This aurora lasted all night, and all the next day.
Hall further asserts, on page 300: "At 5:30 p. m., on the 8th, I observed a very bright luminous arch of streamers some-what extending from the northeastern horizon to the southwestern. When I first saw it, it was a little to the northwest of the zenith, but the whole arch seemed to move, and at 6:30, it just passed the zenith, and then had a position southeast of it, where it gradually broke up. Its southwestern extremity just touched the twilight curve, where it vanished. At 6:30 the usual haziness of the sky after the occurrence of these, was noticed."
I wish here to emphasize this point--one corroborative of my claim: "At 6:30 the usual haziness of the sky after the occurrence of these was noticed." Does
electricity generally leave the sky hazy? Hall uses the words "usual haziness" as descriptive of the normal condition of the skies after those auroral displays.
"When above my head, it seemed less than a pistol-shot distant. Indeed, it was near by. When I moved quickly, running up to the top of the hill by the igloo, making a distance of less than 50 fathoms, the arch of the aurora, that seemed stationary while I was by the igloo and in-transitive, was now several degrees to the southwest of me. I returned as quickly to the igloo, and the auroral belt was directly overhead. So small a base, with so palpable a change in bearing of the aurora, proved that it must have been quite close to the earth. A ball of fire fell during the display, and burst just before it reached the earth, throwing out prismatic scintillations in every direction." (P. 83.)
Note what he says about the wind: "A smart breeze from the north was blowing nearly the whole night. This seemed to add to the briskness of the merry dancers as they crossed the heavens to and fro." Now
if this reflection was caused by electricity, would the wind have added to its briskness? I think not; but if a fire caused the reflection, then a wind would produce the effect he describes: "When over my head, it seemed less than a pistol-shot distant," he says. So small a base, with such a palpable change in the bearing of the aurora, proved that it must have been quite close to the earth.
Hall found himself unable to decide whether any noise actually came from the aurora. On asking the Innuits whether they were accustomed to hear noises during its displays, they answered, "Yes," one of them endeavoring to imitate the sound by a puffing noise from his mouth; this noise, says Hall, accorded remarkably with what he thought he had heard during the time of the most active display.
I have quoted extensively from Captain Hall, as he has written a very fine description of the aurora. His description will enable anyone to form an opinion as to what the aurora is--electricity or the reflection of fire.
Lieutenant Hooper, R. N., second in command of Lieutenant Pullen's boat expedition from Icy Cape to Mackenzie River, spent the winter of 1849-50 near Fort Franklin, on Bear Lake. "I have heard the aurora," wrote he in his journal, "not once, but many times; not faintly and indistinctly, but loudly and unmistakably; now from this quarter, now from that, now from one point on high, and at another time from one low down. At first it seemed to resemble the sound of field-ice, then it was like the sound of a water-mill, and at last, like the whirring of a cannon-shot heard from a short distance." Hooper admits that he heard the aurora many times, loudly and unmistakably. There can be little doubt that many people have heard the explosion, and the noise caused by the force of the fire. The light reflected in the skies could not make a noise, but its occurrence at the time of the explosion would, and as noise moves more slowly than light, it might have arrived, perhaps, when the latter was most brilliant.
"There is no satisfactory evidence," says Professor Loomis, "that the aurora ever emits an audible sound. The sound supposed to have been heard has been described as a rustling, hissing, crackling noise. But the most competent observers, who have spent several winters in the Arctic regions, where auroras are seen in their greatest brilliancy, have been convinced that this supposed rustling is a mere illusion. It is, therefore, inferred that the sounds which have been ascribed to the aurora must have been due to other causes --such as the motion of the wind, or the crackling of the snow and ice in consequence of their low temperature. If the aurora emitted any audible sound, this sound ought to follow the auroral movement after a considerable interval. Sound requires four minutes to travel a distance of fifty miles. But the observers who report noises succeeding auroral movements make no mention of any interval. It is, therefore, inferred that the sounds which have been heard during auroral exhibitions are to be ascribed to other causes
than the aurora." (Treatise on Meteorology, page 186.)
The sound supposed to have been heard has been described as a rustling, hissing, crackling noise. Isn't that a pretty good description of a terrible fire at a distance? To me, it seems one of the best descriptions. Loomis further says that if the aurora emitted any audible sound, that sound ought to follow the auroral movement after a considerable interval. That would be correct if it had its origin in, or was caused by, electricity; but not if caused by the bursting of a volcano, as that would eject such an immense amount of smoke, dust, dirt, and rock that several minutes would elapse before the light or fire could shine through it; therefore the sound might reach the ear at the same time that the light reached the eye. The northern Indians give to the aurora what seems to us a curious name, ed-thin, that is, deer--from their having seen hairy deerskin emit sparks when briskly stroked. The southern Indians believe it to be the spirit of departed friends dancing. When
it varies in color and form, they say their deceased friends are very merry.
An impressive description of the aurora is given by Nansen on page 253: "Presently the Aurora Borealis shakes over the vault of heaven its veil of glittering silver--changing now to yellow, now to green, now to red. It spreads, it contracts again, in restless change; next it breaks into waving, many-folded bands of shining silver, over which shoot billows of glittering rays, and then the glory vanishes. Presently it shimmers in tongues of flame over the very zenith, and then again it shoots a bright ray right up from the horizon, until the whole melts away in the moonlight, and it is as though one heard the sigh of a departing spirit. Here and there are left a few waving streamers of light, vague as a foreboding--they are the dust from the aurora's glittering cloak. But now it is growing again; new lightnings shoot up, and the endless game begins afresh. And all the time this utter stillness, impressive as the symphony of infinitude."
"Presently it shimmers in tongues of flame over the very zenith, and then again it shoots a bright ray right up from the horizon." He speaks of the dust: "They are the dust from the aurora's glittering cloak." When one reads that description, quoted twice from one who spent two years watching the sky for the reflection of open water, ice, or land, it passes comprehension that it did not occur to him that the aurora was nothing but the reflection of a great fire. One is reminded of Miranda in Shakespeare's "Tempest." "More to know did never meddle with my thoughts."
On another occasion, Nansen saw a remarkable display of aurora about three o'clock in the afternoon. In a lengthy description, of which I cite briefly: "On the southwestern horizon lay the glow of the sun; in front of it light clouds were swept together--like a cloud of dust rising above a distant troop of riders. Then dark streamers of gauze seemed to stretch from the dust-cloud up over the sky, as if it cane from the sun, or perhaps rather as if the sun were sucking it in to itself from the
whole sky." Here we have other mention of that ever-present and annoying dust.
In an account by Greely of a remarkable aurora (page 183) there is further evidence of the correctness of my opinions. "The aurora of January 21st was wonderful beyond description," he writes, "and I have no words in which to convey any adequate idea of the beauty and splendor of the scene. It was a continuous change from arch to streamers, from streamers to patches and ribbons, and back again to arches, which covered the entire heavens for part of the time. It lasted for about twenty-two hours, during which at no moment were the phenomena other than vivid and remarkable. At one time there were three perfect arches, which spanned the southwestern sky from horizon to horizon. The most striking and exact simile, perhaps, would be to liken it to a conflagration of surrounding forests as seen at night from a cleared or open space to their centre. During the display Sergeant Rice exposed a sensitive dry photographic plate toward the aurora without any effect.
but the experiment was a doubtful one from the shifting of the light. In general, the aurora was quite colorless, though occasionally red tints were reported. Despite the remarkable duration and extent of the aurora, the magnet was but slightly disturbed. During the display the new moon appeared, a narrow crescent which, strange to say, was exactly the color of blood."
The reader will note that, despite the remarkable duration and extent of the aurora, the magnet was but slightly disturbed. This aurora was undoubtedly just what it seemed to be--a forest-fire in the interior of the earth. He does not speak of any storms or clouds such as would ordinarily accompany an exploding volcano, and, in addition, its length--twenty-two hours--makes it different from the ordinary aurora. The reader should remember this description of the aurora--a brilliant one, but almost color-less. Reddish tints were occasionally reported, but Greely saw none. This shows that the auroras that have so much color
come from a burning volcano; and that the coloring is caused by the material being burned This was a prairie- or forest-fire --the same as we have on earth--and was reflected in the sky as truly as water, ice, and land. Does it not seem more reasonable that such was the case than that it was a different kind of electricity? This aurora was a plain white one, with the merest trifle of coloring, while the regular aurora has all the coloring of the rainbow. The difference is that one burned a vegetable matter, the other vegetable, mineral, oil, and everything else. Greely states that the needle was but little disturbed: a great explosion, in which large quantities of minerals, gases, and other matter are thrown into the air, might disturb the needle, but I am not sure. That would depend upon what was liberated by the explosion, and how near was the needle.
Sir George Nares remarks that, "contrary to the popular belief, the aurora gives us no appreciable light." In Greely's experience, the light was considerable on several occasions, and during the aurora,
the description of which is printed above, Greely saw his shadow, at a time when a brilliant display was in one quarter of the heavens only. Tromholt says that "the very greatest amount of light which the Aurora Borealis emitted, or which, in my case, I was able to ascertain during my entire sojourn in Lapland, may be compared to that of the moon two and a half days after full, when 25 degs. above the horizon and the sky is clear."
It has been claimed that the aurora gives no light. If fire produces the aurora, it must give light.
Greely also remarks that on January 23d, print, such as is used for leading articles (termed long primer by printers), could be read with some difficulty at noon. This test, however, was not satisfactory, owing partly to the presence of the moon, but more to the remarkably varying capacity of eyes for this work. A brilliant meteor was observed in the north about 7:35 a. m., which burst into fragments, all colorless except one, which was a brilliant red. No detonation was heard.
"The Northern Lights were wonderful," says Nansen in Vol. II, pages 446, 447. "However often we see this weird play of light, we never tire of gazing at it; it seems to cast a spell over both sight and sense till it is impossible to tear one's self away. It begins to dawn with a pale, yellow, spectral light behind the mountain in the east, like the. reflection of a fire far away. It broadens, and soon the whole of the eastern sky is one glowing mass of fire. Now it fades again, and gathers in a brightly luminous belt of mist stretching towards the southwest, with only a few patches of luminous haze visible here and there. After a while scattered rays suddenly shoot up from the fiery mist, almost reaching to the zenith; then more; they play over the belt in a wild chase from east to west. They seem always darting nearer from a long, long way off. But suddenly a perfect veil of rays showers from the zenith out over the northern sky; they are so fine and bright, like the finest of glittering silver threads. Is it the fire giant, Surt himself, striking his mighty silver
harp, so that the strings tremble and sparkle in the glow of the flames of Muspellsheim? Yes, it is harp-music, wild storming in the darkness; it is the riotous war-dance of Surt's sons. Again at times it is like softly playing, gently rocking, silvery waves, on which dreams travel into unknown worlds."
Authorities too numerous to mention,--but some of them I cite--unconsciously confirm, by their vivid descriptions, that the aurora is not caused by electricity; that when it assumes any form that can be described it is likened unto a great conflagration, an exploding volcano, or the dying embers of an extensive fire, none of which in any form resembles electricity. When it cannot be described, it is more likely to be caused by the reflection and the re-reflection of the sun shining upon the ice, snow, and frost from the opposite pole.
If in the mind of the reader a doubt still exists that the aurora is not caused by electricity, the following quotations are given him to ponder:
"It seems to be the experience here that the magnet is undisturbed during the prevalence of colorless auroras, but shows marked disturbances during the vivid displays of color and sadden, violent, changes of form."--Greely, App. 13, November 16.
" . . . an auroral display which remained continuous during the greater part of the day. It first appeared in dine patches, in the northwest about 15 deg. above the horizon, which gradually brightened and took the shape of a regular cone, which lasted for five minutes or more, while from its well-defined summit ascended luminous auroral clouds with a whorling or curling motion. These clouds emanated apparently from the summit of the cone, in the form of sharply defined, spasmodic puffs, such as are seen at times issuing from the smoke-stack of a locomotive. The clouds thus thrown out immediately diffused and disappeared without assuming any marked formation."--Greely. App. 13, November 19.
"Magnetic disturbance again occurred,
and five-minute readings were kept up from 5 p. m. Aurora appeared shortly after the disturbance of the magnet commenced."--Greely, App. 13, November 20. Extract from C. B. Henry, November 16, 1882.
"I happened yesterday, while at work outdoors, to look toward Bellot Island, and saw a small, dim, auroral light appear, from azimuth about North 260 deg. East. which gradually became brighter and shot up to an altitude of about 20 deg. The best idea that I can give of its formation or movement is about like the smoke ascending and curling up from the crater of a volcano, being discharged in puffs and floating away in a luminous mass."--Greely, App. 13, November 20. Journal of D. L. Brainard, November 16, 1882.
"The only display witnessed by me was this morning, between ten and eleven o'clock. A bright streamer sprang from the southern horizon, gradually approaching the zenith with a labored movement, closely resembling the spasmodic puffs of smoke arising from a working locomotive.
Remaining in this position a short time, it was gradually dissipated and slowly
The Aurora Borealis, as seen and described by D. L. Brainard, November 16, 1882, in Greely's Appendix. After observing the above engraving, read what an authority says about it; then determine its origin. Will you call it electricity? If not, what was it?
disappeared."--Greely, App. 13, Journal of C. B. Henry, November 17, 1882.
"The aurora of this morning was a very low one, and we are, I think, the only party that ever could say we were in the
midst of electric light. In fact, its alarming close proximity scared one of our members considerably."--Greely, App. 13, Journal of C. B. Henry, Nov. 17, 1 882.
"The light emitted during the most in-tense brightness was fully equal to that of a full moon, and entirely eclipsed all but stars of the first magnitude. Objects in the landscape were plainly visible and abundant. The height which the display maintained above the earth was at no time at a greater elevation than of cumulus clouds, and apparently almost touched the ground, but no noise of any kind was audible."--Ext. from Journal of G. W. Rice, November 17, 1882.
"Coming out of the dark quarters, all who observed it felt at first blinded; and the curtain at one time appeared so near above their heads that Gardiner and Israel speak of having unconsciously dodged to avoid it. Israel, who is a very close and intelligent observer, thinks that at times the aurora could not have been more than one hundred feet from the earth."--From Journal of D. C. Ralston, Nov. 17, 1882.
"It appeared so low down at times that I raised my hand instinctively, expecting to bathe it in the light. The sky was entirely free from clouds, and the light of second-magnitude stars was eclipsed. The magnetic needle was violently agitated, and five-minute readings of the needle continued. The aurora visible all day long. Objects during the finest display were as plainly visible as by the light of the full moon."--Extract from Journal of H. S. Gardiner, November 17, 1882.
"The whole heavens seemed one mass of colored flames, arranged and disarranged and rearranged every instant. The display was so close to the earth that we repeatedly put up our hands as though we would touch something by so doing. There was one person who was so much affected by the display at its grandest moments that he lowered his head and put up his hands as though to ward off a blow."--From Journal of D. L. Brainard, November 17, 1882.
"In the northern sky there gradually appeared an intense vermilion color,
which expanded for 10 deg. above the horizon, and remained for several minutes in this manner, its extreme brightness suggestive to the mind of a great conflagration.
"A few minutes earlier than the time which I have recorded, Gardiner witnessed a display of unusual grandeur, and of which the latter is but a slight modification. It was of unparalleled brilliancy, and its light equal to the full moon. The prismatic colors were at one time discernible. Israel and Lynn also saw it when it was at its zenith of splendor, and both speak of its near approach to the earth, and the rapidity of its movements through the heavens."
Were it not that the aurora has been the subject of thought for our greatest minds for thousands of years, so much space would not be devoted to it. Yet it is difficult to pass by without comment such descriptions of the aurora as Greely gives in his Appendix.
Electricity is never found acting like the puffings of a stationary engine, or a burning
volcano, its smoke rising and slowly drifting away.
When one attempts to give the reasons why the aurora could not be the result of electricity, they multiply so rapidly and are so convincing that it seems a waste of time to give them all.
Before concluding the chapter on the aurora, I wish to assign one more probable reason why the latter is seen more frequently in the Arctic regions in the winter, and brighter than in summer. The sun shines through the earth from the southern opening through the interior of the earth. The rays of the sun strike the ice, snow, and frost, and act as a mammoth kaleidoscope, re-reflecting the sun's rays many times, and sending forth a most dazzling effect. That reflection from the sun can appear only in winter, because summer at one pole is winter at the other. It is the only season, therefore, when the sun shines directly into the opening at the South Pole, and this condition would apply only when the interior of the earth was free from clouds, as they would shut out the sun in the same
manner as on earth. The sun's rays are the same in the interior of the earth as on the exterior. One must understand that the position of the earth is much 'of the time moving with the poles or ends to the sun. In proof of that, there is the mid-night sun at the poles, or, in other words, during the winter the sun does not set in the Antarctic, and during summer (the earth having changed ends to the sun) it does not set in the Arctic Circle. That gives the interior of the earth the rays of the sun about eight months out of the twelve. This is another proof of the great wisdom of the Creator, as it does away with that long, dark winter so much dreaded at the poles, as they have two summers, and two short winters, to one summer and one winter on earth. This does not detract in any way from the claim that the Aurora Borealis is caused by exploding volcanoes, prairie- or forest-fires, but accounts for the increased frequency of the aurora in the Arctic regions during winter.
When the reader takes into account the
wonderful variety of the aurora, and then considers the various causes which produce them, does not the above reasoning seem more reasonable than to conclude that the different kinds come from one cause--electricity?
Another reason why the aurora is brighter in the north than in the south, when produced by the sun's rays, is that the opening to the interior of the earth is much greater in the south than in the north. This is proved by the fact that the explorers have reached only within seven hundred and fifty miles of the supposed pole in the south and have passed the magnetic pole; while in the north they have been within five hundred miles of the pole, and also passed the magnetic pole, thus showing that the opening to the southern entrance to the interior of the earth is fifteen hundred miles in diameter, while it is only one thousand miles at the North Pole. That would make the sun's rays more powerful at the north than at the south. To illustrate the point, take a tin horn, and hold the big end to an electric light, then
turn the little end to the light. The difference will be observed very quickly.
It will be noticed that in almost every description of the aurora, the mind naturally reverts to fire. Writers describe it in almost every form of fire. Nansen's description of it as the reflection of a great fire, is magnificent. As that is what it was, there is no need of commenting on the subject.
In submitting the question as to what produces the aurora, I merely ask that the reader use his common sense, apart from what his opinions on the matter have been. If, after reading the extracts adduced to prove the truth of my contention and my comments thereon, he still thinks the aurora electricity, let him tell why it is of such different coloring; why it always appears at the same place; why always at the poles. Electricity is universal. An electrical battery will work in one manner over all the world. Why, then, does electricity appear in the form of the aurora at the poles only? Why is the needle not always affected? Everything tends to
prove that the aurora is not electricity. There is not a single condition, either form, color, or time, for which a fire in the interior of the earth does not furnish an intelligent solution. On the other hand, if the aurora were electricity, the coloring would be the same as the color of lightning, and as varied in location. The aurora appears by day or night, in stormy weather or in clear, wind or no wind, and sometimes it lasts ten minutes only; while at others it exists four or five days.
Does that seem like electricity, or fire?
Next: Chapter VIII. Meteors or Volcanic Disturbances