A lot more things in heaven and earth, recently

15 August 2007

Anybody on this island looking for inspiration for literature from the natural world will not lack material for the latter half of August.

Beginning with the Perseid meteor showers starting sometime around 8 August and peaking on 12 August, there have been several routine (in the geologic or astronomical sense) yet remarkable (in the participant or observer’s sense).

The 21 July fissure eruption on Kilauea has continued high activity, and has formed a several-mile long flow along the ridge sloping down to the northeast (scroll down to the second map for a clearer picture).

Hurricane Flossie is now tropical storm Flossie, and never quite caused the excitement that everyone feared it might. But the season isn’t over, by a long shot.

On Monday night, a m5.4 earthquake with a 2.2 aftershock made itself known. The larger quake marked the first time I have ever felt the distinct kinds of seismic waves during a quake. I didn’t wake up for it, but another earthquake, this one m4.4, slipped out at about 2.30a this morning.

If I were to write a denial that any of this has anything to do with the approaching lunar eclipse on 27 August, in the context of the interweb it’d just sound like I was obfuscating or conspiring. So I won’t write that denial, but we all know it exists, ‘kay? The total lunar eclipse will be visible from pretty much all of the Pacific, a good bit of Southeast Asia, and most of the Pacific Time Zone in the contiguous 48 states, as well as a lot of Alaska and all of Hawai`i in the discontiguous 2 states.

Again, though, I’d like to stress the normalcy of all of these events, even taken together, in the context of our very active solar system. Whatever you want them to portend, remember that each class of events happens fairly frequently: meteor showers at dozens per year worldwide, Pacific hurricanes several per season, earthquakes at a hundred per day (in just one state), and eclipses several per year (‘Data Services,’ then ‘Eclipses of the Sun and Moon,’) worldwide.

And in terms of events inspiring literature, I’ve just finished rereading The Wine Dark Sea by Patrick O’Brian. Chapter 2 deals with the frigate Surprise sailing into the path of the violent eruption of a volcanic island above the surface of the ocean and subsequent subsidence back under the waves, all in the South Pacific.

You’d think that Patrick O’Brian invented the story for dramatic effect, except that he was a pretty scrupulous researcher. And while I haven’t been able to figure out which historical account he based his on (passing mention by Stephen Maturin to “Dr. Falconer of the Daisy,”–???), it sounds a lot like the description (and numerous pictures) by Fredrik Fransson of an island sprouting up near Tonga last year. All of which sounds a lot like the discussion of the sort-of-nonexistent Friesland detailed by Raymond Ramsay in No Longer on the Map.

How’s that for life imitating art?

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One Response to “A lot more things in heaven and earth, recently”


  1. […] of wholly remarkable things that happen regularly that people don’t hear about until they happen (meteor showers, eclipses, undersea mass sponge migrations), I hardly think we can revile those people for thinking […]


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