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The destruction actually caused by thunder and lightning is wholly disproportioned to the apprehensions which are felt concerning them. But fear of evil is itself a real evil, and whatever inspires confidence is the occasion of as much happiness as if it really protected and saved.
According to the calculation of chances, and in a general view of the subject, the danger that any particular individual, building, or ship will be struck by lightning within a specified time is certainly very small. But small as this liability is, it has sometimes been said that a man bad three chances of being killed by lightning to every single chance which he could expect of drawing a prize in a lottery; so that whoever purchases a ticket may feel assured that he is likely to be killed three times by a thunderbolt while he is drawing one prize!
Some spots of the earth's surface, from geographical and geological peculiarities, as well as meteorological exposure, are in much less danger of being struck than elsewhere. In Lira, there is little thunder, and the sky is almost always clear. Those natives who have not travelled do not know what thunder and lightning are. Four cases only of thunder are on record since 1652, and these were considered so extraordinary that the epochs are preserved. In L. Islande there is supposed to be no thunder, and in fact, during two years, from 1833 to 1835, thunder was heard there only once. Erman states, that at Meta there are no thunder-storms in winter, and rarely in summer; while at Udskiz they are frequent and violent. He also alludes to the thunder in winter at Yerbinsk. Scoresby says there is no lightning seen at Spitzbergen. Gisecke heard thunder but once in Greenland during a residence of six years. Many navigators, among whom may be mentioned Phipps, Scoresby, Parry, and Ross, are of opinion that less thunder is heard as you approach the poles. In 1827, Parry did not hear it once. It never thunders above the parallel of 750, and rarely between those of 70° and 750. Scoresby says that lightning is seldom witnessed north of the arctic circle, and its occasional flashes are not accoinpanied with thunder. Thence, as you approach the tropics, the thunder-storms become more frequent. Ross and Scoresby observed that the electrometer was rarely affected in the arctic regions; and, in 1819, Parry noticed that the electrometer chain on the mast did not affect the pithballs of the instrument. In England, France, and Germany, it thunders twenty days in a year ; 'in Rio Janeiro and l'Inde, it thunders fifty days annually. Pliny relates that it never thunders in Egypt. Plutarch makes the same statement in regard to Ethiopia. But at the present day thunder is not uncommon in Cairo and Alexandria ; and as thunder occurs in the countries adjacent to Ethiopia, it may be supposed that it occurs there also. The scanty data which exist indicate that thunder is more common on land than on water. Arago thinks that at a certain distance from land it never thunders; but he allows that more facts are wanting.
Thunder-storms are more frequent in summer than in winter, though, according to Schubler, the electrical charge of the air is less intense at that season in clear and even in cloudy weather. Pliny remarks, that lightning is more common in autumn and spring than in summer or winter. But Arago infers that thunder-storms, if less frequent, are more dangerous in winter than in summer, from the following facts, compiled from Harris's papers. Out of all the ships struck by lightning between the Mediterranean and the coast of England, from 1681 to 1832, twenty-three cases belong to the first four months of the year; sixteen occurred in the last four months of the year, and only four in the other months.
It has been conjectured, that, in countries where there are mines, there are fewer thunder-storms.* But, on the contrary, no one willingly inhabits El Sitio de Tumba barreto, on account of the frequency of the lightning
strokes. This place is near gold mines, and many miners are killed there. Boussingault found that a thunder-storm was felt there almost every day. In the month of May he counted twenty days so distinguished. His own guide was struck to the ground. The Loma de Pitago, near Popayan, enjoys the same melancholy celebrity. A Swedish botanist, persisting, contrary to advice, in crossing it during a storm, met his death in the attempt. It has been conceded to the Popayannais' “ to have the best thunder in the republic.” In Europe, the “Infames Scopulos,” as Horace calls them, of the Acroceraunian mountains, which Cassius Dio calls the Citadels of Thunder, have a terrible reputation.
Pliny mentions a tower so often struck that its renewal was finally abandoned. A school house in Lammer Muier was struck on three different occasions. In 1826, the same house, in Wethersfield, Conn., was struck twice in an interval of only two or three days. Hutchinson says, that at Jamaica the clouds at noon cover the mountains of Port Royal; it then thunders so loudly that the sound is heard at Kingston. At balf.past two, P. M., the sky is clear again. These changes of weather are rung every day for five months, from November to April. In Boston, the same steeple has been struck repeatedly. In 1763, the steeple of Antrasme was struck twice during the same storm. On the 25th of April, 1760, the lightning fell three times in twenty minutes on the buildings of Notre Dame de Ham. On the night of the 14th of April, 1718, twenty-four steeples were struck along the coast of Brittany ; and on the 11th of January, 1815, twelve steeples suffered a similar fate in the Rhenish Provinces. In 1783, a German antiquarian in this province of meteorology found that, within the period of thirty-three years, 386 steeples had been struck and 121 ringers killed.
There is a great difference of exposure observable in various departments of France. And the fatality of single years is not the same even at the same place. In 1805, only one individual is known to have been killed in France by lightning. In 1797, twenty-four were struck, and seventeen killed. In 1819, twenty-two were killed. In other places, nine individuals have been killed at once, and eighty-two wounded. On the 18th of February, 1770, all the inhabitants of Keverne, in Cornwall, who were in church, were thrown to the ground. In 1797, between June and August, eighty-four accidents and seventeen deaths occurred in the United States, from thunder and lightning, as Volney found from the newspapers of this country. I have preserved accounts of three persons killed in 1850, in this country, fourteen in 1851 (and five churches struck), six in 1852, thirteen in 1853, and twenty-two in 1854, besides many injured. At Göttingen, in a century, only three persons have been killed by lightning; in Halle, only two. In 1838, 1839, and 1840, forty deaths by lightning occurred in England, and forty-six in Wales. In 1815, twenty-four persons were struck by lightning in the Low Countries.
If the statements of the ancient historians and poets are to be credited, thunder-storms have degenerated, and accidents from lightning are less common and less disastrous now than formerly. In Virgil, Ovid, and Propertius, more remarkable men are said to have met their fate in this way than can be counted up during the last two thousand years, notwithstanding the casualties which have befallen the ancient records. Arago thinks that facts render some support to the theory of degeneracy, and at least that thunder does not now so frequently as formerly officiate as Minister of War. Herodotus relates that the army of Xerxes was struck by lightning near Troy, and many men were killed. Pausanias records the same accident of the Lacedemonian army near Argos.
In estimating the destruction by lightning, property as well as life must be taken into the account. In 1417, the steeple of St. Mark, in Venice, was struck by lightning, and burned. It was rebuilt, and again reduced to ashes
on the 12th of August, 1489. It was afterwards built of stone, and was struck again on the 23d of April, 1745. The repairs this time cost eight thousand ducats. On the 27th of July, 1759, lightning burnt all the woodwork of the roof of the cathedral of Strasburg. It was proposed to place conductors upon it, but there was some objection on account of the expense. On the 14th of August, 1833, it was struck three times within one quarter of an hour, and so much damaged that the repairs cost six millions of dollars. There was still some hesitation in regard to lightning-rods, when it was struck once more on the 19th of July, 1834. Rods were placed upon it in 1835, at an expense of only $3,000. On the 10th of July, 1843, it was struck twice, but the rods saved it.* On the 18th of August, 1769, the tower of St. Nazaire, at Brescia, was struck, and the subterranean powdermagazine, containing 2,076,000 pounds of powder, belonging to the republic of Venice, was exploded. One sixth of the whole town was laid in ruins, and the rest was very much injured. Three thousand persons perished. The properly destroyed amounted to two million of ducats. The magazines of Malaga and Tangier have been fired by lightning. On the 26th of June, 1807, the powder-magazine of Luxembourg, containing 28,000 pounds, was struck, and, besides thirty persons killed and two hundred wounded, the town was ruined. Stones were thrown a league. Sir W. Snow Harris quotes from Fuller's Church History the following : “Scarcely a great abbey in England exists which, once at the least, was not burned down with lightning from heaven.”
Arago had compiled, in 1838, a catalogue of seventy-two vessels which had been struck by lightning. Mr. Harris has published an account of 235 ships of the British navy struck by lightning between 1793 and 1€39. During fifteen months of the years 1829–30, in the Mediterranean alone, five ships of the British navy were struck. In a pecuniary view alone, the loss is very great. The lower mast of a frigate costs $1,000, and of a ship of the line $2,000. When the Logan, of New York, was consumed by lightning, the loss exceeded $ 100,000. "The sacrifice of property was equally great when a similar fate beféll the Hannibal, of Boston, in 1824. Sir W. Snow Harris says: “It appears, from the records of the navy, that the destructive effects of lightning on his Majesty's ships involved in former years an expenditure of not less than from £6,000 to £10,000 annually ; in 200 cases only, 300 seamen were either killed or hurt; and above 100 large masts, valued at the time at from £1,000 to £1,200 each, entirely ruined. Between the years 1810 and 1815, no less than thirty-five sail of the line, and thirty-five frigates and smaller vessels, were completely disabled.” In the autumn of 1846, the ship Thomas P. Cope, bound from Philadelphia to Liverpool, was struck by lightning and fired. It was forsaken, and left to its fate. It had no conductors. The same calamity happened, in 1853, to the Golden Light, of Boston.
I may also add to Arago's catalogue, besides many of which I have kept no account, the schooner Forest, of Boston, which was struck, and one seaman killed; the schooner E. S. Powell, of Washington, which lost one seaman; the ship Audubon, at New York; the bark Emily Miner, in Mobile Bay, which was scutiled and sunk; the schooner Eglantine; the Young, Tell, in the Penobscot; and the ship Shirley, of Boston; and, in 1853, three ships at New Orleans, viz. the Josiah Bradlee, of Boston, Raritan, of Kingston, and the Desdemona; also, Gem of the Seas, saved from much damage by the burning sacrifice of her conductor. In 1854, pilot. boat New York, the schooner Emma Hotchkiss, of New Haven, and ship Southport, at Savannah, were struck. Besides these, Mr. Harris mentions ten vessels destroyed by lightning since 1838, and thirteen injured,
* Rive. Arch. de l'Elec. III, 436.
none of which are in my catalogue. When the barque Matagorda was struck, the captain and his wife were killed.
Still, after we have made as complete an inventory as possible of the loss of life and property on land and sea, through the agency of lightning, we must admit that danger from the thunderbolt is one of the smallest liabilities to which a man is exposed in this world. Arago thinks the danger no greater than that of being killed by the falling of a fower-pot or chimney-top: Why, then, he asks, this exaggerated apprehension? Let Arago give the answer. If a loud detonation informed a whole city whenever a flower-pot or chimney-top fell, everybody would fear for his own head when he heard the noise. Besides, the noise itself affects the nerves as well as signalizes the danger. Moreover, if the lightning strikes any. where but rarely, its inoffensive flashes are innumerable. Augustus, it is said, was so timid in this respect, that he sought refuge from lightning in a
So much for the courage of a great Roman Emperor. The ancients believed that lightning did not penetrate into the solid earth more than five feet. But the vitreous tubes hereafter to be mentioned prove that it penetrates sometimes to the depth of one hundred feet.
(To be continued.)
II. METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION.
I. METEOROLOGICAL TABLES FOR CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Summary of the Meteorological Observations made at the Observatory of
Harvard College during the Year commencing January 1st, 1853, and ending December 30th, 1853. By Wm. Cranch Bond.
Lat. 42° 22' 48".6 N., Long. 71° 7' 30" W. 1. MEAN BAROMETRIC PRESSURE AND EXTERNAL TEMPERATURE.
1853, Inch. Inch. In. Inch. Inch. Inch. January,
29.944 29,983 .056 29.932 29.979 29.961 22.1 24 2 32.2 25.6 25 77 February, 29.951 29.960.071 29.889 29.909 29.927 24 9 29.1 63 7 29.2 29.22 March, 29.810 29.817 .059 29.758 29.803 29.797 30 7 36.6 41.6 34.3 35.80 April, 29.902 29.901 .055 29.846 29.883 29.853 38.5 47.2 51.9 42.8 45.10 May,
29,912 29.917 .045 29.872 29.940 29.910 50.4 56.6 64.4 54.0 56.35 June,
29.995 29.988 .045 29.43 29.961 29.972 56.9 71.9 75.8 62.5 66.77 July,
29.941 29.956 .014 29.912 29.939 29.937 61.3 73.8 78.9 68.2 70.55 August, 29.926 29.944.046 29.899 29.916 29.92161.6 71.7 70.9 65.8 67.50 September, 29.966 29.960.042 29.918 29.940 29.948 | 55.9 63.4 70.0 55.6 61.22 October, 29.942 29.946.040 29 906 29.931 29.931 42.5 50.4 50.6 47.5 47.75 November, 30.174 30.193.059 30.134 30.192 30.173 37.2 40.5 42.2 38.3 39.55 December, 29.851 29.861.031 29.833 29.856 29.851 23.3 24.6 31.9 26.0 26.45 Ann. Mean, 29.943 29.953 019 29.903 29.937 29.934 42 11 49 1753 59 75.82 47.67
The barometer has been corrected for capillary attraction and reduced to the temperature of 320 Fahrenheit, but not for sea level. The height of the cistern of the barometer is 71 feet above the mean level of the sea at Charlestown navy yard. Barometer highest, Jan. 29, 9 A. M., 30.692. | Thermometer highest, June 21, 3 P. M., +970. lowest, Dec. 29, sunrise, 29.089.
lowest, Jan. 27, sunrise,+ 20. Range,
2. Rain, Winds, and Clouds, Monthly Means of Observations.
1.23 1.58 2.00 1.12 5.33 4.8 4.2 4.7 5.5 19.2 3.876 1.04 1.62 2.17 1.46 6.29 5.3 6.3 6.0 5.4 23.0 5.700 1.48 2.00 2.00 1.15 6.63 5.2 5.7 5.0 5.6 21.5
3.306 1.47 1.89 2.12 1.14 6.62 5.3 5.2 4.2 4.5 19.2 3.695 1.29 1.97 2.12 1.19 6.57 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.5 22.5 6.455 1.10 1.69 2.31 1.19 6.29 5.2 4.9 4.4 5.3 19.81
0.555 0.91 1.62 208 1.15 5.79 4.7 4.9 5.0 4.8 19.4 3.021 1.20 1.25 1.50 1.08 5.03 4.9 5.4 5.7 5.7 21.7 8 588 1.30 1.81 1.96 1.00 6.07 5.8 6 2 15.4 5.7
5.947 1.36 1.62 1.97 1.15 6.10 4.1 4.3 5.4 3.5 17.3 3.486 1.27 1.12 1.92 1.42 5.73 6.4 6.8 5.4 5.6 24.2 4.911
1.36 1.37| 1.33 1.15 5.21 5.4 16.5 5.7 4.7 22.3 4.294 Quantity of rain during the year 53.834 inches.