Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ball Lightning: The Account of Maxwell Lyte

Henry Maxwell Lyte lead an impressive career and remains well-respected for his work to this day. It may surprise some to know that Lyte gave an account of Ball Lightning he witnessed in the Pyrenees some years prior to the Science Club on August 17th, 1881.

Lyte said he was inside of a barn renovated into a church in the French mountains when a great storm arose. The congregation moved to secure the barn when Lyte saw a ball of fire he estimated at 6' in diameter "leisurely" moving at 10-12mph up the valley. Lyte threw himself to the ground, and the ball passed over the makeshift church to strike a plum tree behind it. The tree was "shattered to atoms."

While no one in the barn was killed, nine shepherds had taken refuge in a small cabin on the mountainside above. Discharge from the Ball Lightning that struck the plum tree hit the cabin, setting it ablaze. Four of the men were killed there, another three died from complications due to injuries sustained in the accident, and the remaining two were maimed for life.

© C Harris Lynn, 2011

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