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these, of which he was an eye witness. " At one o'clock," says he, “ we alighted among some acacia trees at Waadi el Halboub, having gone twenty.one miles. We were here at once surprised and terrified by a sight, surely one of the most magnificent in the world. In that vast expanse of desert, from W. to N.W. of us, we saw a number of prodigious pillars of sand at different distances, at times moving with great celerity, at others stalking on with a majestic slowness; at intervals we thought they were com. ing in a very few minutes to overwhelm us; and small quantities of sand did actually more than once reach us. Again they would retreat so as to be almost out of sight, their tops reaching to the very clouds. There the tops often separated from the bodies, and these, once disjoined, dispersed in the air, and did not appear more. Sometimes they were broken in the middle, as if struck with large cannon-shot. About noon they began to advance with con. siderable swiftness upon us, the wind being very strong at north. Eleven of them ranged along side of us about the distance of three miles. The greatest diameter of the largest appeared to me at that distance as if it would measure ten feet. They retired from us with a wind at S.E. leaving an impression upon my mind to which I can give no name, though surely one ingredient in it was fear, with a considerable deal of wonder and astonishment. It was in vain to think of flying ; the swiftest horse, or fastest sailing ship, could be of no use to carry us out of this danger; and the full persuasion of this rivetted me as if to the spot where I stood.
“ The same appearance of moving pillars of sand presented themselves to us this day in form and disposition like those we had seen at Waadi Halboub, only they seemed to be more in number and less in size. They came several times in a direction close upon us, that is, I believe, within less than two miles. They began immediately after sun rise like a thick wood, and almost darkened the sun. His rays shining through them for near an hour, gave them an appearance of pillars of fire. Our people now became desperate, the Greeks-shrieked out and said it was the day of judgment; Ismael pronounced it to be hell; and the Turcorories, that the world was on fire *.”
Dr. Darwin has given an animated and correct description of this fearful phenomenon in the following verses of his Botanic Garden.
* Bruce's Travels, vol. IV. p. 553-555.
“ Now o'er their head the wbizzing whirlwinds breathe,
THE PRESTER, OR WATER-SPOUT.
Many of the preceding meteors, or atmospherical phenomena, and especially those described under the name of hurricanes, tor. nadoes, and whirlwinds, are connected, as we have occasionally hinted at already, with the electric state of the atmosphere. We now advance to a meteor that is still more decidedly of this com. pound character, and which seems to be a combination of wind, aqueous vapour, and electric fluid,
The existence of this singular and most active phænomenon has been long known to the philosophical world: and by the Greeks, and after them by the Romans, was described under the name of PRESTER, which imports a fiery fluid of some kind or other. Gassendi, indeed, contended that the Prester of the ancients was a mere tornado or whirlwind, but this was before the nature, or even the existence, of electricity, as a definite power, had been accurately ascertained, however suspected formerly : and we have already observed that Mr. Capper, in the preceding chapter, has been betrayed by so learned a guide into the same error, and has regarded the Prester as a whirlwind or tornado of a peculiar species. To prove this error nothing more is ne. cessary than to quote the description of the Prester, as given by Lucretius, and to follow up the quotation, with the explanation of his learned translator : by which it will abundantly appear, that the Prester, like the spout of the present day, was regarded as both a sea and land meteor, or in other words as filled with water, and without water; the term being more properly applied to the former, and the latter being correctly regarded and called a mimic, or imitative Prester, in reality the fiery wirlwind or hurricane which we have already noticed in one or two of the articles of the last section of the preceding chapter, or a phænomenon most closely allied to it. The passage we advert to is as follows: lib. vi. 422.
Quod super est, facul est ex hiis cognoscere rebus,
Hence, with much ease, the meteor may we trace
* See Section vi.5.
To burst its bondage, oft the cloud itself
Oft, too, the whirlwind from the clouds around
The translator's note upon this passage, in exposition of his author, is as follows, and we give it as affording a clear explanation of the nature and properties of this most singular and powerfal meteor :
“ Having discussed the phenomenon of thunder and lightning, be now proceeds to consider those of the water-spout, and the hurri. cane: and it is truly curious to observe how minutely he concurs with the philosophy of the present day, in regarding them as meteors of a similar nature and origin. Prester, indeed, as our poet informs us, is a Greek word signifying a fiery or infiamma. tory intumescence; and such, he asserts, is the essence of which this meteor (the water-spout) consists: whence it is obvious, that the term ventus, or wind, applied to it immediately afterwards, is employed generically, to express an elastic gas or ether, for which