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Island Aviator Lost
Last week, a photo surfaced purporting to show Amelia Earhart after her 1930 disappearance. In the photo, Earhart is sitting on a dock looking out to sea while her navigator Fred Noonan faces the camera. In the background of the photograph, Earhart's plane is being towed by a ship. According to a history channel documentary, the photo is one piece of evidence that Earhart survived aninitial crash, before being held as a prisoner of war in Japan (although there is also skepticism about the photograph's significance).
Nearly twenty years earlier, Long Islanders had experienced their own airtime disappearance.
The geography of Long Island is filled with landmarks of early aviation history.
During the early days, individual pilots worked in hangers on small private planes. Individual experiments and adventures often leading to real progress in the field. Aeronautic experiments and innovations, continued into the twentieth century, with great aviation corporations springing up in the area. Today home to the Cradle of Aviation museum, the Hempstead Plains once served as America’s first airfield. On October 13 of 1913, this is where Albert Jewell took off, flying over Peconic Bay into the fog.
Jewell had been on route to Staten Island to take part in the New York Times American Aerial Derby, a contest planned to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the Wright brother’s first flight. The derby would feature one the longest aerial races staged until that point; Jewell was a skilled but beginner pilot who had yet to fly such long distances.
Bystanders in Laurel later reported having seen Jewell’s plane crossing Peconic Bay. Rewards were offered. A search was conducted but no definitive remnants of Jewell or his plane were ever found.
Islip Firefighter Museum
Last Saturday, the Islip Firefighter Museum had its grand opening. Ed Tully, president of the museum and a member of the Brentwood Historical Society, has labored for years to help establish the museum. Islip Town has granted the museum a 49 year lease, charging only $1 a year.
A host of interesting memorabilia from local collectors, fire stations, and firemen will be housed in the large brick building. Visitors will be able to see, in tours of the museum, the history and evolution of Long Island firefighting vehicles and tools. According to the Islip Bulletin, the museum houses several chemical engine firetrucks, a hand-drawn ladder truck, a two-wheel hose cart from the mid-1800s, along with vintage equipment and photographs.
The museum will open to the public later this summer on weekends from 10 a.m. – 3p.m, and will be staffed by volunteers from local fire stations.
A paper in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters recently appeared reporting findings on the cause of the phenomena of bright nights – nights so light, one can actually read a book without a candle, lamp, or other artificial illumination. The findings were widely reported in both popular scientific and general news periodicals. The researchers, using satellite data, found interactions of waves of “airglow” to be a likely cause. Yet, even more interesting than the physical explanation of the phenomenon, were the few sentences on its history. The discovery that such strange nights were a regular phenomenon, and regularly reported in historical texts, is likely a large part of the reason for the article catching the public’s attention.
Pliny the Elder is said to have mentioned the bright nights. The authors of the paper quote from his Natural History:
“The phenomenon commonly called “nocturnal sun”, i.e., a light emanating from the sky during the night, has been seen during the consulate of C. Caecilius and Cn. Papirius.”
Other examples are given from more modern periods, including notes from a Copenhagen observatory. Most of the paper’s historical references are drawn from a paper by one M. Herse who begins his own essay by noting that:
“The phenomenon of bright nights is no longer mentioned in modern books of astronomy and geophysics. However this phenomenon is of real interest.In french it is called “nuits claires” and in German “helle Nachte.”
However, the French term is ambiguous, perhaps signifying “a night where the atmosphere [is] transparent.”
A wider variety of terms have been used to indicate brighter than usual nights, some of them synonyms:
Aurora, a more well known phenomenon, are similar, but are disembodied lights rather than an emission of the sky itself. Airglow is the more commonly used, more scientific term for the bright night as described by the authors; though the terms nightglow, and earthglow have been used as well for similar purposes. The light of the night sky also encompasses, along with all sorts of gradation in evening darkness; it is also the title of an earlier, book-length exploration of the subject. The bright night has also been classified with the phenomenon of zodiacal light. Generally, though, when first encountered by explorers, zodiacal light was understood as an arctic, or equatorial phenomenon, and, more exactly described, is usually said to be a triangle of light on the horizon at evening. Even the phenomenon of “the sun drawing water” in which beams of light seem ascend to the sun through clouds has been included as a type of bright night. Among those phenomenon falsely classified as “bright nights” are included abnormal twilight, auroral rays, and bright stripes.
To the layman, bright night is interesting in so far as it is a night as light as day. The recent paper restricts its definition of bright night to airglow. Yet, in the meager history of the phenomena, it is likely that there have really been several causes of the phenomena .Moreover, while the physical causes of airglow may have been determined, just which historical bright nights were actually caused by airglow remains uncertain.
Questions even remain about the certainty of Pliny’s reference. In the Natural History, the Roman writer includes mentions creatures and phenomena now considered likely, at least partly legendary. Astronomers and historians have, over the centuries, put forth countless attempts at naturalistic explanations for Pliny’s accounts of multiple suns, triple moons, halos surrounding celestial bodies, and strangely moving lights. Chapter 35 describes a phenomena similar to the bright night.
“We have an account a spark falling from a star, and increasing as it approached the earth, until it became the size of the moon… it afterwards returned into the heavens.”
The description, with a spark bringing light to the night sky (rather than the sky itself generating luminanceof some sort) would suggest a cause other than airglow. Indeed, in 1987, R.B. Stothers identified the “Roman fireball of 76 B.C” as a Meteoric fireball. Yet, interestingly, the footnote to a 1847-48 edition of Pliny printed by the Wernerian Club seems to parallel Herse’s later account of the bright night phenomenon.
“This remarkable phenomenon is rarely noticed in modern times, and is in itself rare; but one or two instances have been related by living witnesses. On one occasion, in a very dark night, two or three individuals, scarcely able to grope their way, were surprised at finding themselves able to see every object as clearly as in a moderate daylight.”
With advances in modern science, and the progress of historical investigation, the modern skeptic can now answer the question of “Is the night dark?” with a resounding “most of the time.” Yet, today, as the authors of the original article note, with the development of artificial illumination and resulting light pollution, it may be soon that there are no bright nights at all - they will all be bright; more or less
Flat Earth Johnson
There was once a man named Flat Earth Johnson. One day Gilbert Johnson, a resident of Oregon County, Missouri, centuries after Copernicus, Galileo, and Columbus had lived, brought the force of his reason to bear against reality. He came to his conclusions. Knowing full well modern humanity's general consensus, Johnson decided to disagree. Flat Earth became an educator. He published a map and a pamphlet explaining his ideas, and how so many had been misled, and he began to teach across the state.
Johnson’s evangelism was shortly noted by newspapers across the country:
"Flat Earth is a man who is not lacking in education, but so persistently has he hammered and hammered on his ideas about the topography of the earth that the people of Oregon county call him Flat Earth Johnson. Mr. Johnson’s pamphlet has not passed the muster of scientific criteria as yet, and perhaps he cares as little for their opinion as they do for his views. He has reasoned the matter out for himself and has been good enough to give his theories publication so that the world may read and understand."
When Flat Earth Johnson died in 1934, another Flat Earth was only ten years old and just beginning his studies in geodesy. The march of progress and conformity had little effect on the appeal of the idea of a flat earth for this select minority. Charles K. Johnson - Flat Earth Johnson II - would, in his time, be elected president of the Flat Earth Society, declare Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin among his illustrious co-thinkers, who, in forming the U.N., had taken the Flat Earth as a symbol, and become the most notable proponent of the theory of his day. According to Flat Earth Johnson the Second, Jesus himself had also believed in a Flat Earth. Christ had, after all, ascended to heaven while, if the earth was round, there would have been "no up nor down."
Long Island Aviator Disappears
The County Review. October 24, 1913, Page 7
“New York Chicago Flight.” The Corrector., June 18, 1910, Page 3.
Pliny the Elder. Complete Works of Pliny the Elder. Csorna : Delphi Classics, 2016.
Hersé, M. “Bright nights.” Past, Present, and Future Trends in Geophysical Research, edited by W. Schröder, pp. 41–64, Interdivisional Commission on History of IAGA, Potsdam, Germany, 1988.
Shepherd, G. G., and Y.-M. Cho (2017), “WINDII airglow observations of wave superposition and the possible association with historical ‘bright nights’” Geophysical Research Letters., 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL074014
Flat Earth Johnson
Johnson, Gilbert. The Book of Light, a Brief Description of the Earth, with a Map Showing its Shape. The Earth Being Flat Instead of Round, the Sun is Not Stationary but Moves. Greer, Mo., 1923. 48 p. fold. Map.
Oliver, M. “Obituaries; Charles Johnson; Longtime Leader of Flat Earth Society.” Los Angeles Times. Mar 25, 2001. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/421748047?accountid=35174