Excerpt from “Green Mountains” by Bernard O’Reilly ~~Ball lightning~~

The storm came up black and nasty looking, but no worse in appearance than dozens of others into which we had ridden; there was, however, something uncanny about the thunder; instead of the usual desultory boom of a coming storm there was a continuous sound like an endless procession of great, steel balls rolling down a long, stone corridor. At the cliff top I had a close view of the coming horror and that was enough to send me racing back to Luke’s empty humpy for shelter; the clouds were higher than the usual storm and tinged with reddish brown, and as they advanced a constant rain of violet chain lightning fell on the undulating country below.

Swiftly the horses were unpacked and put in the yard, but before I could get into the humpy a dead tallowwood fifty yards away was struck. I was scarcely inside when there was a sharp crack, my knees doubled up and I went in a heap; the roof had been struck. Very shaky and sick and frightened I got up, pushed out the shutter and looked out; the horses had been knocked down but showed signs of getting up – horses are more sensitive to lightning than are men. It was while looking out that I saw something else; two balls of fire were drifting slowly past the humpy about fifteen feet from the ground; they were about the size and shape of a “soccer” football and were a deep glowing red like the coals of a burning ironbark log; they drifted idly this way and that and it was the very uncertainty of their purpose which made them so terrifying. A flash of chain lightning occupies but the merest fraction of a second and if you see it, you know that it has missed you, but there is something indescribably horrible about ball lightning; it can hover about you for a minute, drifting lightly as thistle down yet being potent as a ton of dynamite.

This was but the beginning of a bombardment; for nearly an hour incessant waves of red and violet lightning danced through the cracks of the old humpy to the accompaniment of high-pitched, whining crashes which often overlapped each other like machine-gun fire ; sometimes my spine would contract and numbness go through me from induction of some close flash. At times I looked out; the horses were weathering it all right; always there were fireballs drifting; at times they exploded and the red light which flooded the humpy brought with it a wave of heat. Like all good things or bad, the storm passed.

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Green Mountains” by Bernard O’Reilly ~~Ball lightning~~

  1. Bernard O’Reilly was born in Hartley, New South Wales on 3 September 1903, and died in Beaudesert, Queensland on 20 January 1975, aged 71 years.

    Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. It is a slow-moving lightning that can move through walls. It is usually in the shape of a sphere, and ranges in size from 15 centimetres to over two metres in diameter.
    Ball lightning often happens just after a lightning stroke. It can just float silently around the landscape at walking speeds, or it can nose around slowly into all the corners of a room. It can last for up to five minutes and may vanish silently, or with an explosion.

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