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Thunder and Lightning By Camille Flammarion Characters: 33215

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Animals, even more than mankind, attract the fire of heaven. Lightning has a certain regard for human beings, which it seems to lose entirely when it is a case of the humble and faithful servants that Nature has given us.

And, between ourselves, thunder is not always as absurd as it appears. Its proceedings are sometimes even very tactful. Though it may often strike innocent victims blindly and ferociously; yet it seems at times to show a certain amount of intelligence. Thus we find among our many examples a strange fact, which will serve to reconcile our thoughts a little to thunder.

On June 20, 1872, in Kentucky State, we have already cited the case of the nigger Norris, who was going to be hanged for the murder of a mulatto companion, and who, just as he was putting his foot on the fatal platform, was struck by lightning, and thus spared the sheriff the trouble of hurling him into eternity.

Here was a case where thunder was full of justice, and we cannot praise it too much.

Arago gives another case where a chief of brigands was shut up in a Bavarian prison, together with his accomplices. No doubt he was encouraging their arrogance by his blasphemies-the stone to which he was attached acting as a tribune for him-when he was suddenly struck by lightning while haranguing his disciples. He fell dead. The iron manacles had brought on the disaster, but the brigands did not stop to think of this natural cause; they were just as terrified as if the iron had not been there, and the lightning had chosen its victim with intelligence.

Here is another instance-

The favourite of a prince had obtained from him a written recognition of her son. She counted on this to give trouble to the State after the death of her benefactor. She enclosed it carefully in a chest, and went and buried it deep in a wood, hoping to render all search useless, if the prince should change his mind.

But behold, the lightning intervened; the tree was struck, and the open chest was thrown on the highway, where it was found by a peasant.

Animals are worse treated than men, but better than plants and inorganic bodies. What are the causes of this difference? Can we attribute it to physical predisposition? But this has not yet been proved. Experience shows that sparks directed on the vertebral column are particularly dangerous. Now, the backs of quadrupeds are greatly exposed to mortal strokes from the celestial fire.

Their fur or their plumage, which form an intrinsic part of their bodies, put them more or less in the situation of a man who, to protect himself from inclemency, should envelop himself in his hair, supposing this to be long enough and rich enough to cover him decently.

Animals rarely survive when struck. When they do not die on the spot, they succumb soon after to their wounds. The ancients have remarked on this.

"Man," says Pliny, "is the only animal that lightning does not always kill; all the others die on the spot. It is a prerogative granted to him by Nature, though so many animals surpass him in strength." And, further on, he adds that amongst birds the eagle is never struck. This has given it the name of porte foudre.

But these assertions are slightly exaggerated, and we can quote a certain number of examples of animals which have resisted the baneful influence of the electric current.

In 1901, a horse was touched by lightning, which was certainly attracted by the iron of his shoe. It traced two deep trails right along the animal's leg, where the skin was abrased, and appeared as though it were cauterized. These two lines joined together at the fold of the ham, and then formed a single furrow, all sign of which was lost in the abdominal region. The rest of the body was unhurt, and the animal sustained no further harm after being struck than it would have done if an incompetent veterinary surgeon had fired him too severely.

On July 4, 1884, at Castres, ten persons and nine horses were struck by lightning; all survived the accident.

On June 9, 1886, in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, three cows and a little girl, who was in charge of them, were knocked over by a violent shock. The child and the beasts soon got up. Only an ox was killed some distance from there.

Very often horses are stunned by the discharge on animals which are killed, but after a time they recover. This phenomenon has also been observed in other animals. For instance, five or six pigs which were in a cage in the prow of a ship were killed by an electric discharge, whilst others which were only separated from them by a cloth were saved.

But the cases are rare in which animals do not succumb to lightning. They nearly always perish. At present we will only discuss animals as a body, equal, or superior to man. The others, the smaller ones, offer a still more convincing generality.

All animals seem to be greatly exposed to the wrath of Jupiter; nevertheless, some species appear to be peculiarly sensitive to lightning-the gentle sheep, for example, which huddle together fraternally during a storm, and fall in a mass, struck by the fire of heaven.

I have before me a list of animals which have been struck. There are some of every kind. We might divide them thus-

Several hundred rams, sheep, and ewes.

73 horses, mares, and colts.

71 oxen, cows, or bulls.

9 dogs.

4 asses.

3 goats.

3 cats.

3 mules.

2 pigs.

1 hare.

1 squirrel.

A prodigious quantity of geese, chickens, pigeons, and small birds.

Fish also contribute a respectable contingent to lightning.

As a rule, large groups of animals are dangerous when there is thunder, as they seem to exercise a strong attractive influence to the electric fluid.

Often entire herds are destroyed by lightning. Dr. Boudin gives the following example:-

On May 11, 1865, at about 6.30 p.m., Hubert Wera, a shepherd who was surprised in the fields when a storm overtook him, was hurrying home with his flock. On coming to a narrow and difficult road, the sheep formed themselves into two groups. The shepherd took shelter behind a bush, when a terrible clap of thunder was heard. Lightning struck him and his flock. The unfortunate man was struck on the top of his head. All his hair had been taken from the nape of his neck, and the electric fluid had traced a ridge on his forehead, his face, and breast. His body was quite naked; all his clothes were reduced to rags. Moreover, there was no trace of blood. The iron of his crook had been detached from the handle and thrown several yards away, and the handle itself was broken to pieces. A small metal crucifix and a scapular belonging to the unfortunate shepherd were found fifteen yards away.

Of the flock of 152 sheep, 126 were killed. They were covered with blood, and their wounds were as varied as they were peculiar. Some had their heads chopped, others had them pierced from side to side, others had their legs fractured. As to the dog, he was not to be found.

On May 13, 1803, near Fehrbellin (Prussian States), one clap of thunder killed a shepherd and 40 sheep.

On June 1, 1826, thunder killed 64 hairy beasts in a field at Gulpin (Limbourg).

At Prades, on July 28, 1890, 340 sheep were struck at one blow.

During a violent storm which burst over Montmaur in the Isère, lightning struck a flock of 90 sheep, and killed 53.

In the month of April, 1869, thunder burst over a sheepfold in which there were 80 sheep.

Fifty of these were found entirely carbonized, the thirty others were covered with sores, on the head, in the eyes, and on the back, and half asphyxiated by the fulminant fluid. The poor sheep were all cowering together.

On August 11, 1905, a flock of sheep were carbonized, and cattle of every kind were struck.

At Limoges, on July 4, 1884, 42 cows or oxen were struck by the spark. They were all joined together by an iron chain.

On June 24, 1822, near Hayengen (Wurtemberg), a shepherd and 216 sheep out of 288, were struck in the open field.

Lastly, according to Abbadie, a storm in Ethiopia killed in one single stroke, 2000 goats and their shepherd. These figures are, I think, sufficiently eloquent, and if it were not for fear of fatiguing my readers, who might become bored, we could add a great many similar examples to this list. But it would be superfluous to expatiate further on the dangers incurred in a storm by large agglomerations of animals. In their terror, beasts, particularly sheep, press closely together, and are soaked by the rain. In this way they offer a large surface, which absolutely conducts the lightning. Also the column of vapour which rises from these living masses, affords an excellent passage for the fluid to pass through while crossing over the bodies of the poor beasts. It would be better to disperse the flock, rather than form a compact group of them, during a storm.

One sometimes wonders also what would be the effect of lightning on animals arranged in a file. Would it act the same with atmospheric electricity as with that in our laboratories? Would the influence of the electric matter be more dangerous in the extremities than in the middle?

When lightning meets a metallic bar, it does no harm except on entering and departing. On the other hand, when several people form a chain, holding hands, if the first touches the body of a Leyden electrical jar and the last touches the top, the whole circle will instantaneously receive a shock. Only those in the middle receive a less violent one than those who touch the jar. Well, the discharges from the clouds produce similar effects on men and animals.

Arago supports this by the following facts:-

At Flavigny (C?te-d'Or), five horses were in a stable when the lightning penetrated. The two first and the two last perished, the fifth, which was in the middle, was unhurt.

One day lightning fell on an open field on five horses in a line and killed the first and last; the three others were spared.

But we should require a much larger number of proofs before we could be sure of this.

In certain cases, lightning, always fantastic and extraordinary, seems to make a fastidious choice of its victims. It kills one, spares another, strikes a third, does good to a fourth-what a strange game! how fantastic!

Madame la Comtesse Mycielska, of the Duchy of Posen, wrote to me recently-

"During a storm which took place in the month of August, 1901, lightning entered by a half-open door into a stable where there were twenty cows, and killed ten. Beginning with that which was nearest the door, the second was spared, the third killed, the fourth was uninjured, and so on. All the uneven numbers were killed, the others were not even burnt. The shepherd who was in the stable at the time of the shock, got up unhurt. The lightning did not burn the building, although the stable was full of straw."

We have given a similar case in the chapter on Fireballs. A propos of this, M. Elisee Duval, of Criquetot l'Esneval (Seine-Inférieure), relates a very remarkable case. On June 20, 1892, lightning fell on the telegraph poles of Havre and étretat. A dozen were thrown over, and the curious part is that every second one was knocked down.

Here is a more extraordinary case still. We were not aware that thunder could distinguish between colours, and that it has its preferences amongst them. Well, we need no longer be surprised at this. Here we have a case where the fluid declares itself distinctly in favour of black. It was at Lapleau in Corrèze. One day thunder fell on a grange full of hay and straw, and covered with thatch, without setting it on fire. Then it went to the sheepfold and killed seven black sheep, and left the white alone.

This choice is categorical, and people who fear lightning might follow this example by wearing long white garments in a storm. Unfortunately, lightning is so eccentric and uncertain, that we must not defy it; it is not to be trusted.

Who can explain why it sometimes glides into a stable full of cows without injuring one? This extraordinary thing happened in the Commune of Grignicourt (Marne).

After a great clap of thunder, all the cows that were in a shed became unfastened, without one of them being hurt.

There, again, the lightning only seemed to want to make itself useful.

If, in some cases, by a providential chance, cattle have been saved, it is none the less true that an animal very rarely survives a discharge which has caused the death of a human being.

But, as there is no rule without exceptions, we will give the following:-

The sky was dark and lowering, and a shepherd, seeing that there was about to be a storm, ran to his flock to drive it to the shed. Just at the same moment, lightning burst and knocked him down, together with thirty sheep. The beasts all got up soon, but the poor shepherd was dead.

On another occasion, on June 13, 1893, a shepherd was killed by lightning, and the remarkable thing was that only one sheep out of the hundred of the flock was struck.

On June 17, 1883, thunder entered a sheepfold, containing one hundred sheep. Only four perished. One of them was marked on the back with a cross, formed of two rectilinear grooves, penetrating to the skin; only the wool was removed.

Sometimes, but very rarely, men and animals survive the discharge.

Thus, Dr. Brillouet's horse was thrown into a ditch, and remained there without moving for three-quarters of an hour, after which he was able to get up. Later on he became very feeble in the legs.

Very often the same stroke kills men and animals simultaneously. We have already given several cases of this kind. Here are some more-

A terrible storm burst at La Salvetat, on August 26, 1900. A shepherd and his flock, composed of twenty-three sheep, were all killed by lightning.

On June 23, 1887, a young boy, fifteen years of age, living at Montagnat (Ain), was struck while fastening oxen to the door of a stable; an ox was also killed.

At Lagraulière (Corrèze), on August 15, 1862, three girls were looking after their flocks. A violent storm burst at about five o'clock, and the thunder growled terribly. The shepherdesses, taken by surprise, had no time to take their flocks in. The two first took shelter under a big chestnut, the third under an oak twenty-five yards away from them. Suddenly lightning struck the chestnut and enveloped the two little refugees. They fell dead. The third fainted, half asphyxiated by the smell of the sulphur. The clothes of the two unfortunate girls who had been struck were burnt, their sabots were broken. Near them there were five sheep, a pig, and a she-ass, which had also been killed by the fluid. The shepherdess's dog had been cut in two.

Sometimes, also, the clap of thunder, when striking men and animals, proves more murderous for the latter than the former, who, however, have sometimes succumbed.

A diligence was slowly mounting an incline, when suddenly a stroke of lightning interrupted its ascent. An electric ball burst over the heads of the horses, and threw the whole five down, stone dead. The postillion was struck, but not one other person was touched, though the carriage was full of women and children.

There is one peculiarity about this incident which ought to attract our attention-the terrible meteor was not accompanied by any emission of light, nor followed by any reverberation of sound.

In June, 1872, at about two in the afternoon, a farmer at Grange-Forestière was trying a couple of oxen, which he had just bought at the fair, in a field. Lightning knocked over the man and the animals. Some hours after, the poor farmer was picked up in a pitiable plight. His hair was burnt in parts, also hair on his chest, he was quite deaf, and in a state of absolute prostration. His trousers were unsewn from top to bottom in all four stitchings, his hat was riddled with holes, and his shoes torn off. All the same, he survived the accident. The oxen were killed on the spot.

In fact, as we have already said, when the spark strikes men and animals at the same time, only the former can resist the shock.

In June, 1855, thunder burst over a flock of sheep in the Commune of Saint-Leger-la-Montagne (Haute Vienne); seventy-eight sheep and two watch-dogs were killed on the spot. A woman who was looking after the flock was slightly touched.

On September 26, 1820, lightning struck a labourer who was driving near Sainte Menehould. His two horses were killed; the man escaped with a temporary deafness.

In August, 1852, two out

of four oxen were killed, the third was paralyzed on the left side. As to the farmer, he came off with a numbness of the left leg.

Very often a man feels nothing, not even a shock, while the animals beside him fall dead.

Here are some facts-

On February 2, 1859, a herd of pigs were surprised by a water-spout near Liége. One hundred and fifty of these animals perished by the action of the electric fluid, their guides felt nothing.

In 1715, lightning fell on the Abbey of Noirmoutiers, near Tours, and killed twenty-two horses without doing any harm to 150 monks, whose refectory it visited and upset the 150 bottles containing their ration of wine.

In the year IX., lightning killed a horse and a mule near Chartres, sparing the miller who conducted them.

On July 17, 1895, four cows were going along a road, when suddenly they were pushed and thrown roughly to the edge of the road. The old drover who was with them felt nothing except the sensation of a strong and very characteristic odour which he could not define.

In 1812, a fulgurant discharge took place near Mr. Cowen's and killed his dog beside him, without doing him any harm.

In August, 1900, lightning penetrated into a cart-shed, where twelve chickens were taking shelter. The poor things were killed, but a lady who was feeding them was unhurt.

One often asks if lightning strikes birds in flight. This question, so often put, would seem to find an answer in the following facts:-

A lady was looking out of her window, when there was a flash of lightning, accompanied by a great clap of thunder. At the same time she noticed on the grass a dead gull which she had not seen before. The people who picked up the bird, affirmed that they found it still hot, and they added that there was a strong smell of sulphur.

Examples of this kind are rare: we have two more-

One day, Mr. W. Murdochs with two friends was looking on at a very violent storm, which spread itself over the Valley of the Ayr. Just then his dog dislodged a flock of ducks which had been sheltered behind an old building. One of the birds began to fly, and as it was cutting through the air, it was struck by lightning and killed as though by a gun.

During a storm in the United States, Mr. Burch saw a flock of wild geese flying by. Suddenly there was a flash of lightning which threw the flock into disorder; six birds fell dead to the ground.

One would have thought that the absence of all communication with the ground ought to protect the graceful winged tribe from lightning; but no, the poor birds have received no mercy from this terrible adversary.

All the same, lightning is less redoubtable for them than the sportsman's gun. It is very seldom that the kings of the air are the victims of the fire of Heaven, but they have another enemy, barbarous, unpardonable Man. Yes, the little earthly Jupiters are infinitely more terrible for the bird-world than the giant of the gods. They are rarely softened by the seductive grace, the elegance, and the delightful twittering of the charming inhabitants of space.

In truth, one of the reasons why birds are so rarely struck in their flight is that they foresee the storm, and have the prudence to take shelter before it bursts.

Amongst birds, sparrows are those which suffer most from the electric fluid.

We sometimes find them hanging by their shrivelled claws from telegraph wires or from the branches of trees. But this latter is rather rare. They generally nest high in the trees, and lightning affects the branches much less than the trunk.

We also hear of little caged birds being killed in their iron prison. One day a canary was in a cage with five others and was killed; the rest were unhurt. The spark was attracted by the metallic bars, and struck the canary, which was no doubt resting on iron.

Fishes in their dark dwellings are no more privileged than other animals. They also frequently receive visits from the lightning, and their sad fate has often proved how dangerous it is to remain near a pool or pond during thunder.

Moreover, why are we recommended always to put the conductor into a well, damp earth, or even into a small pond? It is because water conducts the electric substance admirably.

We can understand that a vast space of liquid would be a good refuge for lightning, when, after having made several victims on earth, and fearing the vengeance of the conductors, it hurls itself into the water.

More often it drowns itself, and in this it follows the example of the immortal Gribouille; but enough of that. The logic of lightning is still contestable.

However that may be, many examples show us the dangers to which the denizens of rivers, and of the liquid element generally, are exposed. Not only are fishermen and sailors unanimous in attesting to the ravages wrought by lightning, but the history of electricity has preserved the recollection of memorable disasters, of veritable hecatombs of fish, which they attribute to the fire of heaven.

Arago recounts that on September 17, 1772, lightning fell on the Doubs and killed all the pike and trout which were in the river. The water was soon covered with their corpses which floated, stomach upwards.

A century before, during the year 1672, the lake in the subterranean part of Zirknitz was the theatre of a similar event, even more terrible, on account of the number of victims. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood collected such a number of fish that were struck, that they were able to fill eighteen carts.

In 1879, during a violent storm at night, the electric discharge fell on a little fish-pond in which a number of fish sported. The next morning they were all found floating dead on the surface of the water. They had the appearance of boiled fish, and their flesh fell to pieces on being touched, just as it would if it had been cooked. There was no injury to be seen, external or internal. The scales and the swimming bladder, which was full of air, had been preserved. The water of the pond remained troubled and muddy the day after the storm, as though the agitation of the tempest had been quite recent.

Here is an observation, similar to the last:-

In 1894, lightning fell on two poplars near Ignon, in the territory of Saulx-le-Duc (C?te-d'Or). A neighbouring pond, which measured 10 yards in length by 5 in width, was also struck. The owner states that all the fish, to the number of about a thousand, were killed.

Another more curious case still:-

One day the fish in an aquarium placed in a drawing-room were struck. They were all found lying dead on the floor. The glass which formed the bottom of the vessel was twisted and coated with a thick bed of yellowish substance.

If we study the effects of lightning on animals from the point of view of the injuries which it produces, we can make some very interesting remarks.

More often the hair of animals is injured or burnt. Sometimes the spark acts on the skin over a large surface of the body of the animal. Thus, two horses had their hair singed nearly all over their bodies, and more particularly on the leg and under the stomach. At other times the hair is only burnt in certain places.

Lightning struck a young four-year-old ox which was red with white spots. It burnt and removed all the white spots and left the red hair.

But generally we find one or more furrows of different kinds. The skin is seldom intact under injured hair. It is nearly always more or less burnt. And one often notices extravasations of blood which correspond to the injuries of the epidermis, in the subcutaneous cellular tissue.

In some cases, the fulminant fluid only attacks the colour of the hair of the animal.

The fracture of the bones or the ablation of a limb is often observed on animals which have been struck.

In 1838, a violent storm broke near Nimegue, and several oxen were killed in the meadows and their bones were broken.

In the month of May, 1718, in the Marche de Priegnitz, eight sheep were struck. They could not be used as food, because all their bones had been broken as though in a mortar, and the fragments were intermingled in the flesh. These, however, remained intact.

We have seen in the preceding chapter that fulguration often leaves no particular sign on men who are struck. It is the same with animals. The electric fluid entirely absorbs the source of life and only leaves insignificant traces of its passage. Sometimes even we can find no exterior injury.

On July 7, 1779, near Hamburg, lightning killed two horses in their stable. They showed no exterior trace of a burn, though both had a rupture of the auricles.

In the month of September, 1787, at Ogenne, two cows and a heifer were struck in their stable; no exterior wound was to be found on their bodies.

Another observation is given by the Abbé Chapsal in his remarkable description of the effects of lightning. A pig fell dead, struck by a clap of thunder, and no indication could be found of the electric passage.

We see that lightning does not always make a great distinction between the blows which it inflicts on men and those which it inflicts on animals.

Sometimes, also, the corpses of beasts which are struck are completely incinerated. At the first sight, the body appears intact, but when you touch it, it falls to pieces.

At Clermont (Oise) on June 2, 1903, several animals were entirely carbonized in their stable.

We have also heard of animals being transported by the meteor a long way from the place of the catastrophe. Others have suffered from grave nervous troubles, following on the strokes of lightning which they have received. Sometimes partial or total paralysis results. Thus, a cow which had been struck by lightning, was knocked over, and remained a quarter of an hour motionless, after which it was seized with violent convulsions, then it got up quickly looking terrified.

Here is a case of a severe shock which brought on an access of delirium.

In the course of a terrible storm on September 4, 1849, a butcher, accompanied by a dog, took refuge under a beech at the edge of the road. Suddenly lightning fell on the tree and struck the dog, which became mad, and threw itself on its master, bit him in the thigh, and only let go when the butcher dragged the animal with him into a neighbouring house and cut his tail. The dog died in the night.

There are some examples of injuries wrought on animals which are barely perceptible. For instance, when it makes a transparent horn, opaque, and when it burns the mucous membrane of the nose.

On the other hand, the foetus which sleeps under the frail covering of the egg, is exposed to the pitiless blows of the most terrible meteor, as is the baby in its mother's womb. Chickens have often been struck before they ever saw the light of day.

Often the noise of thunder, and the fear which results from it, causes the miscarriage of hinds, and particularly of lambs.

An animal which has been struck generally sinks instantly, without a struggle. All the same, we hear of the case of a horse which was struck by the flame, and which struggled for a long time against an inevitable death.

The corpses of animals, like those of men, are sometimes very rigid; at others they are soft and flaccid, and decompose rapidly.

Thus all the sheep of a flock which were together under a tree in Scotland, were killed by a great clap of thunder. The next morning the owner, wishing to get some advantage out of their remains, sent his men to skin them, but the bodies were already in such a state of decomposition, and the stench was so abominable, that it was impossible for the servants to execute his orders. They hurried to bury the sheep in their skins.

On September 10, 1845, at about 2 p.m., lightning fell on a house in the village of Salagnac (Creuse). Amongst other accidents it killed a pig in a stable; three hours after the body was completely decomposed.

When animals are killed, not by the atmospheric fluid, but by the lightning of our machines, decomposition always comes on very rapidly.

Brown Sequard made the following very curious experiment on this subject:-

He took the hearts away from five rabbits of the same kind, the same age, and about the same strength. He put one aside without touching it, and he submitted the four others to the passage of an electric current, of a different strength for each animal. Here are the different results obtained -

The first animal became rigid after ten hours, and its rigidity, which was excessively marked, lasted eight days. The rigidity of the four others was feebler, and lasted a shorter time in proportion to the strength of the electric current. Thus, the one which received the weakest current, became rigid at the end of seven hours, and this lasted six days. The one which received the strongest current became rigid in seven minutes, and its body softened after a quarter of an hour.

This experiment explains the absence, or the shortness in duration, of corpselike stiffness in subjects which have been subjected to the terrible discharge of lightning.

Animals are not only the frequent victims of lightning, but, as this experiment shows, they are still oftener the martyrs of science. Laboratories are sometimes transformed into small cemeteries, where lie poor guineapigs, frogs which have been quartered, and mutilated rabbits. But what is the ordinary lot of these last when science spares them? The chief point is not to let the innocent victims suffer.

Can we eat with impunity the flesh of animals which have been struck? Several people say Yes, many say No. Both are right.

Putting aside the question of the rapid putrefaction to which these bodies are nearly always subjected, the flesh of animals killed by fulguration has often been found unhealthy and uneatable.

A veterinary surgeon who was commissioned to examine the bodies of two cows and an ox which had been struck in a stable, declared that their flesh could not be eaten without danger.

On the other hand, Franklin recounts how some people ate fowls which had been killed by the electric spark-"this funny little lightning"-and cooked immediately after death. The flesh of these capons was excellent and particularly tender, and the illustrious inventor of lightning-conductors concluded by proposing that we should follow this proceeding in order to ensure our fresh meat being as clean as possible when served at table.

We think, however, that it is more prudent to sacrifice the meat which has been struck, as it has been proved that in certain cases the decomposition is very rapid.

Up to now we have seen all animals, man included, as victims of lightning: it is the general rule.

Nevertheless, we often meet beings in this world, men, animals, or plants, which try to distinguish themselves from others by some sort of originality. This appears to be the case with the electric fish, whose existence seems to be dedicated to the worship of Jupiter.

These curious fish have received the gift from Nature of being able to hurl lightning to a certain distance.

This is how they set to work. A little fish in search of food goes too near this terrible enemy, who at once sets his living tail in motion. Fascinating it with his eye, he renders it immovable, and lets fly repeated discharges to it. After a minute, the poor fish is overcome, and allows itself to be snapped up by its pitiless adversary without resistance.

Certain rivers in Asia and Africa and the depths of the Pacific Ocean, in which these curious animals live, are often the scenes of terrible dramas, caused by the presence of these lightning fish, which are divided into five species: the tetrodon, the trichiure, the silurus, the raie torpille (cramp-fish), and the gymnote (electric eel). These aquatic lightnings work terrible havoc among the inhabitants of Neptune's kingdom. They use their influence over men as well as fish. If you touch a torpille, you feel a shock strong enough to benumb and paralyze the arm for some minutes.

A curious experiment was tried: eight people formed a chain, and one of them, with a piece of metallic wire, touched the back of a torpille which had been imported. They all felt the shock.

If thunder had elected to be domiciled anywhere but in its own clouds, it would seem as if it would be in the organism of these curious fish.

Unfortunately, in our international relations, humanity has invented a much more dangerous torpille (torpedo)!

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