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New England Weather

1719 Aurora Borealis

Overview1635 Great Storm1638 EarthquakeThe Earthquake of 1663
The Comet of 16641682 Strange AppearanceDark Day of 17161716-1717 Winter
1717 Snowstorm1718 Wreck of the Whidah1719 Aurora BorealisStorm of 1722-23
1727 Earthquake1740-1 Winter1747-48 Winter1748 Hurricane
1749 Drought1755 Great Earthquake1759 Hurricane1762 Drought
1768 Lightning1768 Gale1769 Summer1770 Great Freshet
1770 Summer1773 HurricaneThe Dark Day of 17801786 Tornado
1786 Snow Storms1794 Whirlwind1801 Freshet1802 Great Snow Storm
1806 Solar Eclipse1826 Avalanche1827 Gale and Freshet1827 Wreck of the Almira
1830 March Storm   

The northern lights, as they are called, first attracted the attention of the people of New England in March, 1718, and there was a general fear that dire calamities would result therefrom. May15, 1719, the more beautiful and brilliant aurora borealis was first observed here as far as any record or tradition of that period informs us, and it is said that in England it was first noticed only three years before this date. In December of the same year the aurora again appeared, and the people became greatly alarmed, not dreading it so much as a means of destruction but as a precursor of the fires of the last great day and a sign of coming dangers. Just before eight o'clock in the evening of Saturday, the eleventh of the month, the moon being within one or two days of the full, the aurora flamed up in the northern heavens with remarkable brilliancy, until that entire section of the firmament seemed to be on fire. Stephen Jaques of Newbury, Mass., wrote in his journal at the time that a white rainbow appeared in the northern sky, reaching from the northwest to the northeast, and nearly straight in the middle, the curve being imperfect. It was apparently about eight feet wide, Jaques continues, and resembled a cloud. Then there appeared in the north very red clouds, which seemed to fly up almost to the zenith, as if driven by a, swift wind. They then parted toward the east and vanished. The bow remained an hour or two, the people distinctly hearing the coruscation, which, in the language of a writer of that time, "rustled like silken banner." Later, in the same evening, between ten and eleven o'clock, from the northwest came a cloud resembling a mist, through which the stars could be seen, its color being deep crimson. The next year other luminous appearances in the evening sky occurred.

Though at first the people were fearful for the consequences of such sights, the feeling wore off as they became more frequent and it was found that they were without any apparent effect upon the world.

They have now become sights of curiosity merely to most people, who, while they cannot fully explain them, know that they portend no evil though many have ever since those early times been more or less concerned when any strange cloud appears.

Dr. Edward A. Holyoke of Salem, Mass., wrote the following in his diary under date of December 29, 1736: "The first aurora borealis I ever saw. The northern sky appeared suffused with a dark blood-red colored vapor, without any variety of different colored rays. I have never seen the like." The appearance of which he wrote was that which was supposed to have reference to the terrible throat distemper which carried off so many hundreds of children throughout New England at that period. Just before our war with Mexico occurred, the red aurora appeared in its deepest color, and many that looked upon it still believe that it was a forerunner of the bloody conflict.

Source: Historic Storms of New England by Sidney Perley, 1891

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