Remembering the year without a summer
May 14, 2020
With these morning being a little cooler than what most of us expect for this time of the year it reminds me of what I heard my great-grandmother (1858-1964) talk about many years ago. She had mentioned on more than one occasion about hearing her grandmother talk about a year with no summer. Being a fifth or sixth grader at this time I really wasn't interested in it, but it was just one of those things that I always remembered for some reason.
As I got older I begin to think about the year without a summer and come to learn that such a event actually did happen in 1816. Which would have been the time my 3rd great-grandmother lived. From what I have read at some point during all twelve months of 1816 there was frost as far south as states like Virginia and Pennsylvania causing crops to fail in those parts of the country. Today we know that two natural things happen contributing to the year without a summer, one was what astronomers know as the Dalton Minimum, a period of low solar activity.
The other was the two week eruption of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa Indonesia, which is what some scientists call the greatest volcanic eruption in recorded history. This was not the only volcanic eruption in that area, there were five more large eruptions in the few years before this one.
I don't remember if my great-grandmother every mentioned frost in this area during this time, but I do remember her saying she remembered her grandmother saying the summer was one of the coolest they remembered.
One thing that I remember my grandmother talking about several times was the night the stars fell, she had only been married for a few years when this happen. Today we know these events as meteor showers that happen several times a year.
The way she talked about this one time was like these things were actually hitting the ground. I've always thought they were most likely just disappearing behind the trees making them look like they were hitting the ground. One thing that I've also thought that may have caused this was Halley's Comet, since it happen just a few years after she was married in 1905, this would be about right, because Halley's Comet had returned in 1910.
I have seen a few good meteor showers while duck hunting in the morning, getting on my stand before daylight and unlike most other types of hunting I would be more in the open to see as much of the sky as possible.
One very rare natural event that I personally saw and remember as I'm sure a lot you do was the northern lights or aurora borealis that appeared here in this area and much further south in March of 1989. At the time I worked with several older men and when I came in to work the next morning some of them ask me if I saw the fire in the elements that night, and were wondering if it meant the end of the world was coming soon.
I tried to explain to them that being a ham radio operator that we paid attention to what was causing those lights because it had a big effect on how our radios worked. That it was caused by very active sunspot activity and was completely natural and nothing to worry about unless you were a satellite in orbit, then you might have a problem.
I wish I could tell everyone when the Alger Sullivan Historical Society will start back having it's monthly meetings but I haven't had any word on that yet. But I can tell you this, since we weren't able to have our Sawmill Day and Car Show this year which would have happen just over a week ago, that many of us are looking forward to next years Sawmill Day and Car Show already. When we are able to meet once again, remember everyone is welcome to come join the ASHS and enjoy some great guest speakers and other activities.