Sam WHITBY #232

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #232

@. . . .   Thank you for your messages, including the fine aurora images. When I wrote to you in May, I had intended to mention that we did receive another Mars video from Mr. Higa. The images were excellent, and the music was a fine addition. Higa's good example has motivated me to work toward getting some good video equipment. Maybe that will be one result of all the over-time at work.

  Last time I mentioned seeing aurorae and so-called UFOs back in the early '60s. I saw other strange lights at about that time, much nearer home. One day a bulldozer uncovered some stumps that had been buried for years. That night people who lived nearby were frightened when they noticed that the stumps were glowing with an eery green glow. Someone came to tell me about the weird glow and to ask me my opinion. I went to see it for myself - and did see it, clearly, without any doubt. Closer examination revealed that the ground at the site was littered with tiny glowing specks of wood. Neighbors feared that the ground had been made radioactive. My grandfather calmed everyone by saying that we had seen a very natural phenomenon called foxfire, due to the decay of the wood. For the next couple of weeks the glow gradually faded until it could no longer be seen. I took a piece of the glowing wood home with me in a jar, and I could see it glowing after the lights were put out. M. Minnaert's The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air describes the phenomenon and gives the name of the organism that causes it.
  More unusual lights must wait for another message. My family is calling, so I must go. Tyler is well, with no more signs of asthma.

(4 June 2000 email)

@. . . .   A P.S. to the previous message: The episode of the foxfire caused some old neighbors to talk about seeing other weird lights, which they named jack o' lanterns. I checked Minnaert to see what he had to say about such and found that he had a section on will of the wisps. These are lights caused by what one might call burning swamp gas. When I read that the great astronomer Bessel had reported seeing the phenomenon, I hoped to see it for myself. More than one trip out into the swampy darkness did not fulfill my wish. I still believe in the possibility of the swamp lights, but I have yet to see them with my own eyes.

(4 June 2000 email)

@. . . .   While thinking about strange sights in the wild, I thought I would forward to you a message that I sent to some family and friends in April. Perhaps you will find the attached image (of albino deer) interesting.

  A photo of an albino deer taken by Robert WELLS.
  The deer has lived in the Brodnax area for the last three years.
  The deer has not been seen in several weeks, and so Sam is afraid that it may have met the fate that usually overtakes blind animals in the wild.

(4 June 2000 email)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :