Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meteor and Earthquake

Did anyone see the Perseid meteor shower last night?  I missed it.  Chambers’ “Book of Days” reports that an earthquake, rare for the British Isles, struck on August 13th, 1816.  The trembler was apparently felt through much of Scotland.  In fact, there were several incidences over several days, beginning August 11th,.  A meteor is also mentioned, a story which The London Times of August 21, 1816 picked up.

From the Times (as published at ‘…it is said that, at the time of the quake of August 13, a luminous object, or a "small meteor," had been seen at Dunkeld, near Comrie; and, according to David Milne (Edin. New Phil. Jour., 31-110), a resident of Comrie had reported "a large luminous body, bent like a crescent, which stretched itself over the heavens."

From the Edinburgh Annual Register (vol 9), which Walter Scott edited:

Dunkeld, Aug. 13th.—Extract of a letter.—This night, about eleven o'clock, the shock of an earthquake was felt here. My house felt as if moved from its base; my family were much alarmed; and my son, in stepping into bed, was nearly thrown on the floor. I have felt several, but none more sensibly than this night. Stepping into a neighbour's house soon after, I found his family in great terror, the shock having had the effect of nearly spilling the liquor on the table, as they were sitting together after supper. About this time, a small meteor was seen to pass from east to west, though the shock seemed to come from the west.
Earthquake.Inverness, August 11th.—This place was last night visited with a severe and distinct shock of an earthquake, about a quarter before 11 o'clock. The walls of houses could be observed to shake. The shock lasted for about five seconds, and alarmed the people very much. The streets were crowded to excess; every person hurrying to the fields. On going out, a glow of heat was very sensibly felt, resembling that on approaching a baker's oven. The appearance of the atmosphere was calm and serene. No serious accident happened here; several chimney stalks have been thrown down, but fortunately no lives were lost.
Montrose, Aug. 14th.—Last night, about eleven o'clock, three distinct shocks of an earthquake were felt; the bells in our house rang, and the plates rattled against one another; many people left their houses and went to the streets.
On Tuesday night, about eleven o'clock, a shock of an earthquake was distinctly felt in this city. It took place at four minutes before eleven o'clock, and continued, as nearly as we could estimate, about six seconds. The undulation appeared to come from S.S.E. and was simultaneously felt to the distance of some miles, in the direction N.N.W. Where we sat, the house was shaken to its foundation, the heaviest articles of furniture were moved, and a rumbling noise was heard, as if some heavy body was rolling along the roof. In many houses the bells were set a ringing, and the agitation of the wires continued visible for some time after the cessation of the shock. It has been described to us by one who was in Lisbon at that period, as exactly resembling the commencement of the earthquake in that city, on the 6th of June 1807. A second, but more partial shock, was felt at half-past eleven; since which time (blessed be God), we have had no return of this awful, and, in our happy country, unusual visitation of his providence. The air, during the night, was mild and calm, with clear moonlight; and the only appearance after the shocks, was that of a thin whitish vapour settling on the surrounding hills
---Aberdeen, Aug. 14th
Perth, Aug. 15th.—On Tuesday night, about a quarter before 11 o'clock, two smart shocks of an earthquake, the second of which succeeded the first at the interval of half a minute, were felt in this city, and over the greater part of the neighbourhood, particularly in the low grounds. The effects of the shocks were perceptible for several seconds, and in some places were so violent, as to shake the windows, and cause a rattling noise among the slates. Persons in bed felt a sensible agitation, or rather concussion, in an upward direction; and if the bed happened to be in contact with the wall, a lateral shock was also felt. In some houses the chairs and tables were moved backwards and forwards, and even the bells began a ringing. Birds in cages were thrown down from the sticks on which they were perched, and exhibited evident signs of fear. A hollow rumbling noise was heard by different individuals, which seemed to die away in the west. The air at the time was clear and serene. Similar effects were perceived, about the same time, at Dunkeld, in the Carse of Cowrie, and Strathearn.’

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