“Mystery Airship” Which Panicked Bermuda

May 13, 2013

A quite literal unidentified flying object panicked Bermuda when it crossed over the island in 1885 in a mysterious episode which remains unexplained to this day.

On August 27, 1885, at about 8:30 a. m., Mrs. Adelina D. Bassett observed “a strange object in the clouds, coming from the north.”

A contemporary report reads: “She called the attention of Mrs. L. Lowell to it, and they were both somewhat alarmed. However, they continued to watch the object steadily for some time.

“It drew nearer. It was of triangular shape, and seemed to be about the size of a pilot-boat mainsail, with chains attached to the bottom of it. While crossing the land it had appeared to descend, but, as it went out to sea, it ascended, and continued to ascend, until it was lost to sight high in the clouds.”

The London “Times” published a short account of the incident on September 29, 1885 accompanied by a comment from former Bermuda Governor Henry Lefroy suggesting the object might have been a stray balloon sent up in England or France. He accounted for the triangular form by deflation — “a shapeless bag, barely able to float.”

This was followed by a letter from Charles Harding, a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, commenting on the “extreme improbability of a balloon crossing the Atlantic, and even adding that “a little practical experience in ballooning suggests it to be thoroughly impossible.”

In fact, the Atlantic wasn’t successfully crossed by a helium-filled balloon until 1978 — the 14th such attempt in a hundred years.

According to researcher Jerome Clark, airship reports were made worldwide from the 1880s to 1890s. What have been called “mystery airship” reports are seen as a cultural predecessor to modern extraterrestrial-piloted flying saucer-style claims.

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