1780: A Day of Darkness

whitewave

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May 19, 1780, a day of terror and confusion for the people of New England (and parts of Canada). In Rupert, New York, what should have been sunrise began with an obscurity of darkness. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Professor Samuel Williams observed, "This extraordinary darkness came on between the hours of 10 and 11 a.m. and continued till the middle of the next night. Objects could not be distinguished but at a very little distance; flowers folded their petals and everything bore the appearance of gloom of night.” The darkness was seen at least as far north as Portland, Maine and extended southwards to New Jersey. The darkness was not witnessed in Pennsylvania. It was reported witnessed as far west as Arkansas and Missouri. (**Strange that it would skip Pennsylvania). Reverend Ebenezer Parkham of Westborough, Massachusetts reported peak obscurity to occur "by 12" but didn't record when it began.

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Roosters crowed, woodcocks whistled, and frogs peeped as if night had fallen at 2:00 p.m. in Ipswitch, Massachusetts. A witness reported that a strong sooty smell prevailed in the atmosphere, and that rain water had a light film over it that was made up of particles of burnt leaves and ash.[5] Contemporaneous reports also indicated that ash and cinders fell on parts of New Hampshire to a depth of six inches. (wiki)

Such an unusual, thick darkness ignited religious fears and people huddled with lit candles in churches fearing the day of judgment was upon them. Nature, too, shared the fear and confusion and animals responded accordingly. "The occurrence brought intense alarm and distress to multitudes of minds, as well as dismay to the whole brute creation, the fowls fleeing bewildered to their roosts, and the birds to their nests, and the cattle returning to their stalls. " Frogs and night hawks began their notes. The cocks crew as at daybreak. Farmers were forced to leave their work in the fields. Business was generally suspended, and candles were lighted in the dwellings. "The Legislature of Connecticut was in session at Hartford, but being unable to transact business adjourned. Everything bore the appearance and gloom of night." The Final Events

Several days prior to this terrifying event there had been signs in the sky which the people did not know how to interpret. From New England the sun was red and the sky yellow. On the Day of Darkness a blood-colored moon rose but gave no light.

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Over 50 years later the impression that day made on the hearts and minds of men was still felt. In the Connecticut Historical Collections, (compiled by John Barber, 2nd ed.; New Haven, 1836,p. 403) is recorded of that event that "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come." Joel 2:31. Twenty-five years after the Great Earthquake (**the Lisbon earthquake of 1755) appeared the next sign mentioned in Revelation 6:12,--the darkening of the sun and moon. What rendered this more striking was the fact that the time of its fulfillment had been definitely pointed out. In the Savior's conversation with his disciples upon Olivet, after describing the long period of trial for the church---the 1260 years of papal persecution, concerning which he had promised that the tribulation should be shortened--he thus mentioned certain events to precede his coming, and fixed the time when the first of these should be witnessed: 'In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light'. Mark 13:24. The 1260 days, or years, terminated in 1798. A quarter of a century earlier, persecution had almost wholly ceased. Between these two dates, according to the words of Christ, the sun was to be darkened. On the 19th of May, 1780, this prophecy was fulfilled."

The astronomer, Herschel, also spoke of the event in baffled tones. "Almost if not altogether alone as the most mysterious and as yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind,...stands the dark day of May 19, 1780,--a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England. That the darkness was not due to an eclipse is evident from the fact that the moon was then nearly full. It was not caused by clouds , or the thickness of the atmosphere (**accounts from different locations differ on this point), or the thickness of the atmosphere, for in some localities where darkness extended, the sky was so clear that the stars could be seen. Concerning the inability of science to assign a satisfactory cause for this manifestation, the dark day in North America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which philosophy is at a loss to explain. The extent of the darkness was also very remarkable. It was observed at the most easterly regions of New England; westward, to the farthest part of Connecticut, and at Albany, N.Y.; to the southward, it was observed all along the sea coast; and to the north, as far as the American settlements extended. It probably far exceeded those boundaries, but the exact limits were never positively known. With regard to its duration, it continued in the neighborhood of Boston for at least fourteen or fifteen hours."

In contrast to Herschel, an eyewitness reported that the "morning was clear and pleasant, but about eight o'clock there was observed an uncommon appearance in the sun. There were no clouds but the air was thick, having a smoky appearance, and the sun shone with a pale, yellowish hue, but kept growing darker and darker, until it was hid from sight. There was midnight darkness at noonday."

Another described it in this way: "The intense darkness of the day was succeeded, an hour or two before evening, by a partially clear sky, and the sun appeared, though it was still obscured by the black, heavy mist. But this interval was followed by a return of the obscuration with greater density, that rendered the first half of the night hideously dark beyond all former experience of the probable million of people who saw it. From soon after sunset until midnight, no ray of light from moon or star penetrated the vault above. It was pronounced 'the blackness of darkness!' I could not help conceiving, at the time, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable darkness, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete. Though the moon that night rose to the full, it had not the least effect to dispel the death-like shadows. After midnight the darkness disappeared, the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood."

Whittier, in 1866, was even impressed to write a poem (as were many others) about the memorable Day of Darkness.

Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,
Over the fresh earth, and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky.

Milo Bostick, writing in Stone's History of Massachusetts said,"May 19, 1780, stands in history as "The Dark Day." Since the time of Moses, no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration has ever been recorded."

Echoing those sentiments and recalling his experience at Exeter, New Hampshire 5 years after the event, Dr. Samuel Tenney, says of the obscurity: "The night that followed was remembered as one of the darkest on record. The darkness of the following evening was probably “as gross as ever has been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light... It wanted only palpability to render it as extraordinary as that which overspread the land of Egypt in the days of Moses. A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes was equally invisible with the blackest velvet. People slept fitfully, many of them worried they would never see light again. Much to their relief, the pall had lifted by the following morning."

In New Jersey where George Washington and his Continental Army were encamped, the General made a diary entry commenting on the strange weather. “Heavy and uncommon kind of clouds,” he wrote, “dark and at the same time a bright and reddish kind of light intermixed with them…”

A Harvard student at the time, Nathan Read, recorded what he saw in Boston that day. "About 10: 30 A. M. An uncommon degree of darkness commenced, which increased pretty rapidly. Vegetables (especially grass) appeared of a deep green, which INCREASED with the darkness. Other things were tinged with yellow. At 12:21 —A small candle visible through a window at the distance of a mile—The several appearances of candles are as single lights, and do not illuminate the whole window."

In Wells and Kennebunk, Maine, the phenomenon was reported in this statement: "The night was one of hideous darkness." It was not fog or smoke that made the night so dark that the lights burned very brilliantly. "It was the night of the full moon, but it was intensely dark, while all lights burned with great brilliancy. With sunrise the darkness passed away?"

Dr. Jeremy Belknap says of the darkness of that night: "The evening was as total a darkness as can be conceived."
(All above accounts are from Remembering New England’s “Dark Day”)

Having recently emerged from one of the most bitterly cold winters on record, the now warmer air of New England was thick and heavy. In the twilight hours of dusk and dawn, the sun exhibited a reddish hue and the moon a pink one. In defiance of these unsettling signs, the morning of May 19, 1780 began like any other typical morning. The cloudy skies showered a cool rain over parts of New England and residents greeted the gloom by going about their usual chores.
Despite these unsettling signs, May 19, 1780 started out as a typical, if not gloomy, morning. The skies were cloudy and cool and a light rain was falling over some areas. By 8 or 9 a.m. rust-tinted clouds came in from the west blocking out the sun as it was still rising. The skies grew dark, hazy and turned the color of copper.

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Shadow and fog followed the day. In Connecticut, outdoor workers had to abandon their labors as they could no longer see what they were doing. By noon, the light of the sun was completely obscured. People at lunch by candlelight while others were too awe-struck to do more than star in amazed silence. “The birds of the night were abroad,” Savage wrote, “and by their melancholy notes added to the solemnity of the scene.” For much of the god-fearing population of New England, the sudden blackout seemed positively biblical. “It was not an eclipse. The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day.

People rushed to the nearest church to confess their sins and say a prayer. Some even hunted down their local parson and demanded an impromptu sermon. When asked for a spiritual explanation for what was happening, one sardonic reverend supposedly quipped that he “was in the dark about the matter just as you are.” While the pious took solace in prayer, others made a beeline for the nearest tavern and a much needed drink. In Salem, Massachusetts, lawyer William Pynchon noted that a group of booze-soaked sailors “went hallooing and frolicking through the streets” and encouraged the town’s ladies to strip off their clothes and join them in morbid celebration. “Now you may take off your rolls and high caps,” they said, “and be damned.” (**panic sex seems to be a common last request for those who believe it to be their last day)

A particularly famous scene unfolded in the Connecticut Governor’s Council. Shaken by the preternatural darkness, some of the politicians suggested ending their meeting early. Councilman Abraham Davenport, a Connecticut militia colonel, would have none of it. “I am against adjournment,” he said. “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.” Stirred by these words, the council agreed to continue the session by candlelight. (**Some writers say the meeting was adjourned).

In the safety of the following days return of light, fierce debates and much speculation abounded regarding the event. Scholars posited that the transit of Venus or Mercury or a solar eclipse, or a meteor strike, or the commingling of airborne vapors were to blame. (Translation: We have no idea wth happened). The more religiously inclined believed it to be God's way of saying he was against the Revolutionary war being fought at the time. Despite scientists of the day eventually concluding that the likely cause to be a combination of factors: smoke from a forest fire, fog, and cloud cover, the people weren't buying it. "No forest fire or burning prairie would produce a smoke so dense," says one writer. A deep blue color spread over everything at first, and then darkness increased so that a man would not be known at a small distance. The fact that the full moon was not seen till midnight and the stars were completely blotted out certainly proves that the "Dark Day" of May 19, 1780, was the day that prophecy was talking about."

Harvard professor Samuel Williams studied weather data and collected personal accounts of the Dark Day. Along with discovering that it was limited to New England, he also ran across reports of massive forest fires tearing their way through parts of the Northeast. Witnesses in some locales had noted that the Dark Day was accompanied by “thick, dark and sooty” rain and the smell of burnt leaves. Could the shadow have been a cloud of ash and smoke from distant wildfires? Williams and a few others suggested it was possible, but their thesis was dismissed as “simple and absurd” in the papers.

It would take several decades—and several more smoke-induced “dark days”—before the forest fire theory won wide acceptance. It was finally confirmed in 2007, (**long after the eye-witnesses are dead) after researchers from the University of Missouri discovered signs of a massive, centuries-old wildfire in the Algonquin Highlands of southern Ontario. “Fire scars” in the rings of the affected trees allowed the team to date the blaze to the spring of 1780. After studying weather reports from the period, they concluded that low barometric pressure and heavy winds had most likely carried smoke into the upper atmosphere and over the Northeast, blotting out the sun. While the darkness was present, soot was observed to have collected in rivers and in rain water, suggesting the presence of smoke. Also, when the night really came in, observers saw the Moon colored red. For portions of New England, the morning of May 19, 1780 was characterized by rain, indicating that cloud cover was present.[3][4][7] Evidence shows that a similar phenomenon also occurred in 1881, when the haze from fires in Ontario and Michigan reduced sunlight in New England by as much as 90 percent. This would no doubt have been welcome news in 1780, but without the evidence to convince them otherwise, many continued to regard the Dark Day with a mixture of terror and astonishment. The following year, a day of prayer and fasting was observed as a memorial by the people of New England.
New England's Dark Day - Wikipedia

For decades, blackout lore became popular in art and poetry as well as being fodder for warnings from the pulpit. The Quaker offshoot of Shakers especially, not beings ones to let a good crisis go to waste, recruited many converts to their newly formed religion.

****So is the official explanation a satisfactory one? Science does not explain all the reported phenomena to my satisfaction. Going in order:
1) event not witnessed in Pennsylvania. (See above map of the U.S.) How could the smoke be witnessed all along the East coast and as far west as Arkansas and Missouri but not in Pennsylvania?
2) ash and cinders fell to a depth of 6 inches is a helluva lot of ash and cinders. Was the whole of Canada on fire? Officially, the fire was limited to Algonquin Provencial Park in Ontario, Canada. So, it wasn't the whole of Canada, just Provencial Park. The distance from Provencial Park to New England is 508 miles. How strong was the wind to carry a sun-blackening cloud of smoke that doesn't choke people over 500 miles away?
3) sun red, sky yellow, blood moon. All 3 on the same day? "Blood moons" are not the result of "large fires" and clouds were not uniformly reported-some specifically say there were no clouds and stars could be seen.
4) There have been plenty of fires that darken the skies somewhat since (and before) 1780 but 50 years later people are not still commemorating the event with songs, poems, epics, and fasting. Nor are they described as "hideously dark beyond all former experience", 'the blackness of darkness!", "horror of great darkness", "a darkness as gross as ever has been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light", "An uncommon degree of darkness", "one of hideous darkness", "as total a darkness as can be conceived". That's not fog and cloud cover darkness; that's "holy crap, we're about to die" darkness.
5) Vegetables, especially grass, appeared dark green and that effect only increased with the darkness. Neither smoke, fog, or cloud cover are known to make green living things appear neon, or to glow in the dark.
6) Scientists themselves have ruled out an eclipse.
7) NO ONE at the time of the event bought the official story (which really wasn't adequately explained anyway) and it took DECADES before the next generation, not having been witness themselves, would accept a natural explanation. And it was over 200 years later (there's that time frame again) that we even HAVE an official excuse for the event.
Others half-heartedly questioning the official story are as follows:

"Based on observation of wind direction and barometric readings on 19 May 1780, it seems most likely that a low pressure weather system carried dense smoke from the west or north to the New England region," the paper says. (Not one of the reports mentions people choking or coughing from "dense smoke"-just freaked out by darkness). The sun reportedly appeared dim and red before fast-moving red, yellow, and brown clouds rolled in. Rain falling from these clouds was dark and sooty, according to reports, corroborating the researchers' theory that there was dense smoke in the atmosphere from wildfires. study published in 2007 in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. (2007 seems to be the year all of academia agreed that the Day of Darkness was just a routine event)

The Met Office points out that thick cloud can drop low enough to turn on automatic street lights and require cars to use their lights. But it's unlikely this alone would be enough to cause a Dark Day. A solar eclipse can be ruled out as there is a record of when these occur - and they only last for a matter of minutes. The eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 caused enough ash to enter the atmosphere to ground flights across northern Europe. And yet there is no record of volcanic activity in May of 1780 ***, he says, making a huge ash cloud an unlikely explanation. A meteorite is equally unlikely, although "you can't rule it out completely", Prof Choularton says. It is also known that there was a drought there in 1780 making fire more likely, says Dr Will Blake, associate professor of geography at Plymouth University. But could a forest fire cause such a change in light? "I've witnessed minor fires in Australia where you get a very eerie light. The bigger the fire, the darker it's going to get." Fog is common on the east coast. The mix of fog and soot from the forest fire would combine to make darkness descend, Dr Blake argues. William Corliss, the physicist and chronicler of unexplained events, found 46 accounts of dark days around the world between 1091 and 1971. What caused the mystery of the Dark Day?

***There was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake (estimated) at Tabriz in the early morning hours of January 8, 1780 with a IX rating on the Mercalli intensity scale. Tabriz was nearly a complete loss with an estimated 50k killed (wiki) but could all that smoke and darkness in New England be caused by an earthquake that happened 4 months earlier?

Further reading: Explanations for a dark day experienced by many back in 1950 - News and information on Westfield and Mayville, NY - Westfield Republican

Bradford Landmark Society - The Day the Sun Went Out In Bradford - Bradford Pa History Historical Society

The Day the Sun Disappeared—September 24, 1950 (1950)
 

esgee1

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Sure sounds like a forest fire to me. I would suggest the winds didn't bring it to the more populated parts of southern Pennsylvania. Perhaps it was seen in the northern parts, but since the population was so sparse there in 1780 no reports were recorded.

I've lived in an area that was affected by forest fires that burned many miles away, and sure felt like a few "dark days" to me. If I were religious and not of modern times, I would have thought it was the beginning of the end of days!

It's quite possible the forest fire of 1780 was even more intense than what I experienced. Given their were no fire fighters to contain it back then, it could have been quite massive and reached higher into the atmosphere.

Those are my thoughts. Interesting post and links. Thank you.
 

KorbenDallas

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Very interesting indeed. We need to find their contemporary 1780ish pubs. So far we only have our day stuff.
  • Halfway through the morning the sky turns yellow. Animals run for cover and darkness descends, causing people to light candles and start to pray. By lunchtime night has fallen. Is it the end of the world?
  • The Dark Day, as it's become known, took place on May 19, 1780 in New England and parts of eastern Canada. For the past 232 years historians and scientists have argued over the origins of this strange event.
  • What caused the mystery of the Dark Day?
They are talking about forest fires as well in the above article. But were those the fires that nobody noticed, or mentioned elsewhere?

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We need to see what else happened in May, 1780 in the vicinity.
 

0harris0

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We need to see what else happened in May, 1780 in the vicinity.
boom!
official history said:
Following the surrender, the captured ordnance was brought to a powder magazine. A Hessian officer warned that some of the guns might still be loaded, but he was ignored. One prematurely fired, detonating 180 barrels of powder, further discharging 5,000 muskets in the magazine. The accident killed approximately 200 people and destroyed six houses "
200 people is more than the death toll of the seige itself :unsure:
 

KorbenDallas

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The biggest issue I have with natural fires causing this Day of Darkness is the lack of their knowledge of any fires at the time.

This essay is about one of the most extraordinary natural events in early American history, the great “Dark Day” of May 19, 1780. On that morning a preternatural gloom settled upon the New England landscape, and by noon the sun had been all but blotted from the sky. Using accounts drawn from contemporary diaries, journals, newspapers, broadsides, and other sources, this essay reconstructs the events of the Dark Day and explores the manifold ways - from theological speculation to amateur scientific inquiry - in which New Englanders sought to explain and rationalize the sudden darkness.
  • WITHIN DAYS OF May 19 a number of “natural philosophers” began proposing and refuting theories about the Dark Day in Boston’s Independent Chronicle and Independent Ledger, the New Hampshire Gazette, the Massachusetts Spy, and others. Nathaniel Willis, editor of the Independent Chronicle, personally solicited at least one learned opinion, from “a very worthy gentleman in a neighboring town”—identified only as “A Friend to Learning and Politeness” (who, among other things, reported that “Some in the country have given it as their opinion that this darkness was occasioned by the sins of the Boston people”). The Boston Gazette, too, issued a call to scientific arms: “The Printers,” they confessed, “acknowledge their incapacity of describing the phenomenon which appeared in this town on Friday last, and shall therefore leave it to astronomers whose more particular business it is.” So did the Providence Gazette, which welcomed “the observations of the learned and ingenious upon such remarkable phenomena,” which would “readily find a place in this GAZETTE.”
  • In Hartford the editors of the Connecticut Courant made a similar claim: “Our ingenious and philosophical customers are desired to send an account of the particular phenomena attending [the sudden darkness] ... particularly an exact description of the time of its beginning, continuance and end, the appearance and tincture of clouds, and other visible objects.” Not to be outdone, the editors of Boston’s popular Independent Ledger quickly joined in: unsatisfied themselves with Biblical explanations of the sudden darkness, they implored readers on May 22 to explain the “extraordinary Phaenomenon” of the previous week. The response was swift and enthusiastic. One writer, Samuel Sterns of Paxton, Massachusetts, wrote the Ledger to tell of the “diverse strange opinions” his neighbors had offered to explain the smothering of light on May 19. One suggested that a “blazing star” had “come betwixt us and the sun,” another that the culprit was an errant “transit of Venus, or Mercury, upon the disk of the sun.” Still other neighbors had theorized that perhaps a great mountain had somehow come to obstruct the rays of the sun. Evidently the offending peak had “taken flight, and was gone off towards that magnificent luminary.”
  • Sterns then set about explaining his own theories about the darkness, armed with “knowledge I have in Philosophy and Astronomy.” The sun’s strong rays in the days before May 19, Sterns argued, heated the atmosphere to such a degree that it caused an “ascension of numerous particles ... aqueous, sulphurous, bitimeneous, salineous, vitreous,” into the earth’s atmosphere. Just about everything seemed to head skyward—“waters of the seas, rivers, ponds”; “fumes of burning Vulcanoes” (caused by “subterraneous veins of liquid fires”); even the “juice of trees, plants, and herbs.” All these ingredients were “exhaled into the regions of the air where their positions are subject to various mutations or changes, by reasons of the motion and compulsion of the air.” Finally, the manifold particles were rammed together by “certain winds from opposite points of the compass,” and were so “condensed together” by the weight of the earth’s atmosphere that they “obstructed the appearance of the refulgent of the sun by day, and the silver rays of the moon by night.”44 Exactly why all the fumes and juices of earth would choose to congregate on this particular hot day instead of another one was left unanswered.
  • Another correspondent to the Independent Chronicle - this one going by the name “Viator,” Latin for traveler or wayfarer - offered a more lucid explanation of the darkness, based on his own observations in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and those made by several of his friends, “gentlemen of liberal education,” as he described them. Viator noted that “the hemisphere for several days had been greatly obscured with smoke and vapour, so that the sun and moon appeared unusually red.” Again on May 19 the rising sun was red in color, but before long the clouds thickened and blotted out the crimson disk. “Between 8 and 9 o’clock,” noted Viator, “the sun was quite shut in, and it began to shower.” It looked as though a powerful storm was approaching from the southwest; and while the sky churned and boiled at higher altitudes, nary a blade of grass stirred at ground level. “From the thickness of the clouds, and the confusion which attended their motions, we expected a violent gust of wind and rain; the wind, however, near the earth, continued small, and it rained but little.” Over the next several hours Viator and his companions conducted a series of experiments with candles and shadows and newsprint, and observed that even in front of a bank of windows - seventy-two panes in all - large print “could not be read by persons of good eyes.” By one o’clock in the afternoon the last “glin of light” in the eastern sky was extinguished, and the darkness became “greater then it had been for any time before.” An hour later a strange luminescence appeared in the west, becoming brighter with time. The motion of the clouds in the western sky was now “more quick, their colour higher and more brassy than at any time before.” There also appeared to be “quick flashes, or coruscations, not unlike the Aurora Borealis.” Sometime after three o’clock the gentlemen cautiously ventured outside, where they immediately “perceived a strong sooty smell”: “Some of the company were confident a chimney in the neighbourhood must be burning; others conjectured the smell was more like that of burnt leaves.” By half past four o’clock, the group (“which had past [sic] an unexpected night very chearfully together”) broke up and went their separate ways. As for himself, Viator headed to the local tavern, where he found the patrons “much agitated.” “Among other things which gave them surprise,” he wrote, was the “strange appearance and smell of the rain-water which they had saved in tubs.” The tavern crowd led him ’round back to see for himself: “Upon examining the water, I found a light scum over it, which rubing [sic] between my thumb and finger, I found to be nothing but black ashes and burnt leaves. The water gave the same strong sooty smell we had observed in the air, and confirmed me in my opinion, that the smell ... was occasioned by the smoke, or very small particles of burnt leaves, which had obscured the hemisphere for several days past, and were now brought down by the rain.” Viator now had enough evidence to float a theory: “The vast body of smoke from the woods which had been burning for many days, mixing with the common exhalations from the earth and water, and condensed by the action of winds from opposite points, may perhaps be sufficient causes to produce the surprising darkness.”
Source: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780 - MIT
 

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KorbenDallas

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The reports -and pics of a yellow sky- about the recent day of darkness in Russia are very similar.
Sky turns black in middle of DAY in Russia as locals blame weapons or aliens
From the article:
  • There were fears of a mystery wildfire sweeping the area but none were reported
21 st century, and we still do not know what causes events like that.
  • Silence from the federal government has prompted locals to create their own theories as to what happened on July 20. The most plausible explanation so far is that smoke coming from the wildfires that have been taking place in other districts could have traveled all the way to Yakutia and blocked out the sun.
  • However, some local officials question this explanation, pointing out that there was no wind that could have carried the smoke over the region on that day. Furthermore, people would be able to tell if the haze was caused by smoke from fire.
  • "If it was smog from fires, people would know," says Yuri Degterenko, deputy head of the national weather board's environmental monitoring team. "There would be smoke and a burning smell. Our meteorological stations did not trace such a thing."
  • Yevgeny Potapov, head of the Verkhoyansk settlement, says it could be something that looked like smoke but discounts that it could be a cloud because there was no rain that followed afterward.
  • Residents also suggest that it could have been a partial eclipse caused by a moving body that blocked out the sun over Yakutia. Typically, temperatures drop to 37 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit before an eclipse, and sure enough, it was particularly cold that morning. However, doubt remains since governments and media outlets inform residents about eclipses ahead of time.
Mystery gets murkier over cloud that turned day into night
 
OP
whitewave

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Apparently, days of darkness are not entirely unheard of. I don't doubt that there was a fire in 1780 but I seriously doubt that it was the cause of the sun being blotted out for 14-15 hours. On one blog I was reading someone commented that they had never heard of such a thing and wrote to the Forestry Service and the Meteorological Society to find dates of these fires. I thought that was a good starting point too but could find no records of a fire in Algonquin Provencial Park for that day. Doesn't mean someone else with better search skills wouldn't be able to find such a record but I didn't find one. How big of a blaze would it have to be to completely obliterate ALL light for 15 HOURS? That much smoke would've choked New England. I could find no records of multiple deaths or property destruction listed for Canada on that day either. A blaze capable of blocking out the sun over 500 miles away for 15 hours would surely have done more than scar a few trees.
 
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jd755

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Weather reports from the period taken from the pdf of weather events I posted on here somewhere a while ago.

On 28-31 October 1778, a hurricane struck Cuba. This storm produced the greatest loss of human life by drowning.
On 1 November 1778, a hurricane struck Cape Cod in Massachusetts in the United States causing between 50 and 70 deaths. [Loss of some crew members on Somerset in an "easterly storm (of) unusual fury." The Cape Cod storm may be related to a 28-31 October storm system over Cuba.]


On 19 January 1779, the temperature at Montreal, Canada fell to -22° F [-30° C].
The winter of 1779 was very mild in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States particularly in the month of February, when trees were in blossom.

On 26 December 1778, the brig commanded by Captain James Magee was wrecked in a terrible snowstorm off Plymouth harbor in Massachusetts in the United States. More than half his crew perished in the cold. The dead, which amounted to 72, were carried ashore on the 29 th . And interred at Plymouth.
The survivors were at the same time brought off the wreck; some of whom, after living a few days in extreme pain, expired.

On 8 August 1779, a hurricane suddenly advanced on New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. The naval squadron of Governor Galvez of Louisiana was destroyed.
On 18 August 1779, a hurricane struck Louisiana in the United States. All but one of a Fleet of Spanish warships was sunk by the hurricane. Slaves were drowned in ditches.
On 28 August 1779, a hurricane struck Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. Many lives were lost.

Before 8 October 1779, a hurricane struck the coast of the United States. The Mary traveling from St. Kitts to New York was overset [overturned] in a whirlwind, a few leagues from Sandy Hook, [New Jersey]. The vessel and cargo were entirely lost. Also at the same time a brig with rum for Antigua was lost in the storm.
Before 3 December 1779, a hurricane struck the Atlantic Ocean causing 120 deaths. “The Spitfire Privateer, Captain White, foundered in a gale of wind, and all the crew, in number 120, perished.”

Winter of 1779 / 1780 A.D. The whole winter near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States was intensely cold. The Delaware River was entirely closed or greatly obstructed by ice from the last week in November 1779 until the first week in March 1780. The ice was from two to three feet (0.6-0.9 meters) thick. During the month of January the mercury was several times from -10° to -15° F (-23° to -26° C) and only once during the month did it rise to 32° F (0° C). A great deal of snow fell as far south as the Carolinas and Georgia along with all the western, northern and eastern States. Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake were so completely ice-bound as to be passable with horses and sleights.

The winter of 1779-80 was known as a “Hard Winter”. The Delaware River at Philadelphia, Pennslyvania in the United States froze around 1 December 1779, and remained a layer of ice two or three feet (0.6-0.9 meters) thick at times until 14 March 1780. Thomas Jefferson recalled “in 1780 the Chesapeake Bay was frozen solid from its head to the mouth of the Potomac.” Weather historian David M. Ludlum wrote, “The Hard Winter of 1780 is the only winter in American history when the waters surrounding New York City have frozen over and closed to all navigation for five consecutive week.”
Three strong snowstorms struck the area. These occurred on 28 December, 2 & 3 January and 4 & 5 January. When the storms ended, snow was “over three feet (0.9 meters) deep” in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. George Washington noted in his journal that the depth of the snow in Morristown, New Jersey was 18 inches (0.5 meters) after this last storm. His colonial troops crossed from New Jersey to Staten Island on foot over the frozen bay to do battle with the British. The extreme cold froze harbors and inland bays as far south as the Virginia-North Carolina border. In some places, snowdrifts from ten to twelve feet (3.0-3.7 meters) deep were reported.

In the United States an old revolutionary officer stated that on 7 March 1780, he rode from Falmouth to Fredericksburg, Virginia upon the ice of the Rappahannock River, in company with his regiment, which was returning to Virginia, from the north. The cold weather continued without intermission from 10 December 1779 to March 1780.
In the United States during the winter of 1779-80, the ice was driven out of the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Mexican gulf.

On 24 February 1780, it was reported that a violent storm did great damage at Montega Bay [Montego Bay] in the island of Jamaica.
On 11 May 1780, a storm of wind did much damage on the [River] Thames in England.
On 16 May 1780, it was reported that a violent storm struck Plymouth [England] and did much damage.

On 19 May 1780, complete darkness enveloped New England in the United States. Some people believed it was the end of the world. It was so dark that a person could not see his hand when he held it up, nor a sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes, and the sky could not be distinguished from the earth. The darkness extended over the middle and southern portions of New England. It was observed as far west as Albany, New York, north as far as Portsmouth, New Hampshire and out on the ocean for a score of miles. From about the first of May, great tracts of forest along Lake Champlain, extending down to the vicinity of Ticonderoga, were on fire. New settlements were being made in northern New Hampshire and in Canada and the settlers were burning the forests in preparation of cultivation. This caused a soot to fall, which in some places were 6 inches [15 centimeters] thick. The unusual weather pattern combined with the smoke from the massive forest fires is believed to be the cause of “The Dark Day”.
SOURCE of the 19 May information. Sidney Perley, Historic Storms of New England, Salem, Massachusetts, 1891.

On 24 August 1780, a hurricane more furious than that of the 1779 hurricane struck the Gulf coast of the United States.
On 25 August 1780, it was reported that a violent storm struck St. Kitt’s island in the West Indies and did much damage.
On 15 September 1780, it was reported that a violent storm on the coast of France did great damage to the shipping.
On 3 October 1780, a hurricane struck Jamaica.

The hurricane in Jamaica was different in many respects from the others: it was a week earlier (3 October 1780) than the hurricane that struck Barbados (on 10 October 1780), and was more complex, being accompanied by an earthquake, and a most extraordinary swell of the sea [tsunami]. Its effects were also more confined: it seems to have been only its eastern wing, which swept the western point of that island; the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover suffered most.

On 10-16 October 1780, a Great Hurricane struck Barbados, Saint Vincent, Granada, Saint Lucia, Martinique, Hispaniola, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Saint Kitts, Sint Eustatius [now called Statia], Puerto Rico and Bermuda killing over 27,500 people. The hurricane produced wind speeds (gusts) in
excess of 200 miles per hour (320 kilometers per hour). In Barbados, “The winds stripped the bark off trees before the hurricane downed every tree on the island.” In Barbados, the winds and seas moved heavy cannons about 100 feet (30 meters). The hurricane destroyed 19 Dutch ships at Grenada; the
British fleet of Admiral Rodney at Saint Lucia; a fleet of 40 French ships off Martinique; many ships washed ashore at Saint Kitts; and grounded 50 ships near Bermuda.
 
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whitewave

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Good find, BStankman! I knew someone would find something. Burning was a method of land clearing back then (and even today) so it's always possible that it got away from them. There was a revolutionary war going on at the time too so it's possible someone's gunpowder started a big fire. Couple of things with the article, though. Although all of New England was affected and reported the darkness, by far the majority of the accounts were from Massachusetts. Not sure why that is. But if they were clearing/burning land near New Hampshire and it got away from them then they would KNOW what happened and not be in terror and awe of the event. Plus, the majority of the accounts would probably have come from New Hampshire, not Massachusetts.
I think our forebears were smart enough not to do burns on dry, windy days. Not being as well equipped to fight fires as we are today, they would have been more cautious, not less.
Haven't checked weather reports for Provencial Park for that week (hard to find) but I'd be curious to know if it was rainy, windy, especially dry or just what.
The time frame of the event is what makes the whole thing suspicious to me. Right about the time we started not knowing what happened in our history. The fact that over 200 years later the cause of this event is still being argued piques my interest.

@jd755: That's the kind of corroborating/refuting evidence needed to help solve the mystery. "The darkness extended over the middle and southern portions of New England. It was observed as far west as Albany, New York, north as far as Portsmouth, New Hampshire." (Not as far north as Canada where the "smoking gun" of tree scars gave experts their official story?)
 
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jd755

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The problem is within the publication date.

I get it. What I find to be missing is any reports of people from outside the darkened area 'looking in at it' if you will. I cannot find any.
The dark didn't last long according to the detail. Only from daybreak till sometime after 2-00 pm with 'morning returning until sundown. The night was very dark despite the presence of a full moon until midnight when it lightened noticeably.
From this distance in time and geography it feels like the weird weather of the late 1700's, across the world not just America had more than a part to play. It reads very similar to accounts of fish or frogs or dead birds falling from the sky just with the addition of the darkness.

Just found this courtesy of gibiru. THE DARK DAY OF NEW ENGLAND

A correspondent to Independent Chronicle by the pen name of “Viator” made several postulations based upon his observations made at his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He noticed that morning that just as “the sun was quite shut in, and it began to shower. It looked as though a powerful storm was approaching from the southwest; and while the sky churned and boiled at higher altitudes, nary a blade of grass stirred at ground level. From the thickness of the clouds, and the confusion that attended their motions, we expected a violent gust of wind and rain; the wind, however, near the earth, continued small, and it rained but little.”

Viator and his companions noted that by one o’clock in the afternoon the last bit of light was gone. By 2 PM things got weird as an odd luminescence shone in the west and became brighter with time. The clouds in the west were now “more quick, their colour higher and more brassy than at any time before” and there appeared to be “quick flashes, or coruscations, not unlike the aurora borealis.”33 It sounds as if the sunbeams were bleeding out of small vents in the thick clouds. When Viator and his pals finally ventured outdoors at 3 o’clock, they “perceived a strong sooty smell” and “others conjectured the smell was more like that of burnt leaves.”34 When Viator headed down to the tavern, he found agitated punters. They lead him out back to examine the tubs where they had collected of the strange rain water. “Upon examining the water, I found a light scum over it, which rubbing between my thumb and finger, I found to be nothing but black ashes and burnt leaves. The water gave the same strong sooty smell we had observed in the air, and confirmed me in my opinion, that the smell…was occasioned by the smoke, or very small particles of burnt leaves, which had obscured the hemisphere for several days past, were now brought down by the rain. The vast body of smoke from the woods which had been burning for many days, mixing with the common exhalations from the earth and water, and condensed by the action of winds from opposite points, may perhaps be sufficient causes to produce the surprising darkness.”

Others, like a correspondent dubbed “Nubes” claimed that there was an accompanying sulphurous odor. Many other accounts poured in from all over New England that indicated a whiff of burnt leaves and smoke. Many birds were found dead on the ground, having blindly flown into structures or possibly asphyxiated by the thick smoke pall. By the next morning, things got back to normal and the sun returned as its effervescent self and occupied its right place in the sky, for New England’s Dark Day was indeed, over.

The author favours land clearance and the weird weather as the likely cause but very local land clearance. All sources are on the linked page
 
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whitewave

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No doubt there was a fire but I don't think that was the cause of a "horror of darkness."
 

esgee1

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While I've not found any verification on this theory yet, I was thinking that maybe there was some kind of eruption at Yellowstone National Park area back in 1780? Maybe this is what caused the "Day of Darkness"?
 
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whitewave

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Oh Lord, I hope not. If/when Yellowstone goes, I think the whole world will know, not just New England. Do we have any volcanos on the east coast? Volcanic eruption would be capable of a day of darkness, I think, but yellowstone would do more than blot out the sun for a day..... That, or we've been lied to about Yellowstone capability. Dang! Now I don't know.
 

Red Bird

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I live relatively close to Yellowstone and we had a 3.8 earthquake last night and the sound was very scary, too. Then a short one this morning...
 

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