What they were witnessing was St. Elmo’s fire, a strange electrical phenomenon. Blue or violet flames seem to shoot from the tips of pointed structures, such as masts, steeples or even the horns of cattle. It is caused by the difference between the electrical charge of the air between a thunderstorm and the ground. The air becomes ionized and sparks, emitting a constant blue glow. It is same effect that occurs in a neon tube, although the tube produces an orange glow, while the while the elements of the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, glow blue.
It has been witnessed by many great explorers, including Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus. Charles Darwin saw it when on board the Beagle. Julius Caesar noted it in one of his journals, and it was noted in ‘Two Years Before the Mast’ by Richard Henry Dana In his words,
“Everything is in flames. The sky with lightening, the water with luminous particles, and even the very masts are pointed with a blue flame.” It was named after St. Elmo, the patron saint of the Mediterranean sailors.
I’ve used this phenomenon in my soon-to-be published book, Redemptive Pursuit. And naturally I’ll give you an excerpt which includes the St. Elmo’s fire.
“Even through his concentration Gervais could see the lightning flashes through the porthole windows. A mighty storm was brewing somewhere, that was certain. Another set of flashes convinced him the rampaging squall was moving closer.A new flash lit up Cibanoux’s vindictive face, a grimace of delight twisting his features. Gervais knew nothing he could do would stop the maniac. He was beyond reason. Gervais felt an overwhelming sense of despair. Cibanoux was no longer human. He would fight the monster to his last breath, but with Slats and the rest of his crew standing by, he would need more than superhuman strength to win this battle. Still he had to try. Before he could move there was another flash, and then another, as the darkness glowed with unnatural brightness. The cabin door flew up, and several terrified crewmen rushed down the stairs, grouping behind Jake’s inert body and pushing his dangling body to one side so they could enter. One in front spoke respectfully to Cibanoux.“It’s raining fire on the deck, sir. We won’t stay topside any longer.”
Cibanoux screeched like a violated girl and raised his whip. “You’ll get a taste of this if you don’t get back to your jobs.”
“I think not, sir, you’d have nobody left to sail your yacht if you touch any one of us. We support each other, sir.”
Cibanoux flexed the whip. His already red face flushed even more.
“You insolent dogs. I’ll have you all whipped.”“By whom, sir? Not meaning to be disrespectful. We’re together on this, sir.”
Cibanoux slammed the whip against the desk near him and then raised it as if to strike again. “You’re cowardly dogs, all of you. Get out of here before I lash every one of you.
”His men stood in a solid block against him. Unmoving, and determined.
The cabin lit up with another even stronger flash
“Go on deck, sir. See what’s happening up there.”Slats did not move, but eyed the others furtively. Not sure which side would win, he said nothing, ready to join whichever came out ahead.
Another brilliant flash of bluish light lit the sky, and someone left on the deck screamed. Probably the pilot, or so Gervais gessed.
Shouting curses at his men, Cibanoux ordered Slats to unmanacle Jake and get him out of the way, and when the body fell on the floor one of the crew dragged him inside the cabin. The others thronged in, filling the cabin.
Cibanoux shouted at the men. “You fucking cowards! I’ll go up and show you how a courageous man acts. There’s nothing up there but lightning. Then I’ll take the lash to you all.”
He rushed up the stairs, cursing as he went.
His sailors let him go. It was obvious to Gervais none of them were willing to leave the sanctuary of the cabin.
Slats stood undecided for a moment. Looking around him, he could see nothing that would indicate Cibanoux would not win. His enemies were powerless. He hurried after his master.
But what the hell was happening on the main deck?
Another flash of lightning struck, almost as if were aiming for the boat.
Someone again screamed, and Gervais decided it was time to investigate. He too, went up the steps, stopping first to cast an agonized glance at the almost fainting Danielle and the still comatose Amanda.
He jumped onto the deck, unable to believe the pandemonium.”
Hope you’ll all tell me if you’ve seen St. Elmo’s fire. This is my 32nd book and the 33rd is under edit. See you next month.