Monday, December 31, 2012

December 30, 2012 Observations

Last night's photography from the highway 181 overlook produced some more interesting images of city lights around Brown Mountain.

North Chestnut Mountain Gap
Looking northeast (43O azimuth) from 181 Overlook toward Blowing Rock only a minute after sunset
A small orange light can be seen on the distant ridgeline just above the trees in the center of the image
The light is the reflection of the fading sun off a glass window at one of the houses on the distant skyline
The low point along the foreground ridge is the gap north of Chestnut Mountain
The Mountain –To-Sea Trail (# 440) and Forest Service Road # 198 pass through this gap
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 119 mm lens at f/5.6, 1/125 second exposure & ISO-400

Baker’s Mountain, Catawba County, Azimuth 129O, 31.7 miles away
Buildings and water tanks can be seen in this late afternoon image (33 minutes before sunset)
The tree-covered ridge of Brown Mountain can be seen in the foreground
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 420 mm lens, f/14, 1/1000 second exposure & ISO-2000

Baker’s Mountain, Catawba County, Azimuth 129O, 31.7 miles away
City lights in the surrounding area can be seen in this image taken 18 minutes after sunset
The tree-covered ridge of Brown Mountain can be seen in the foreground
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/8, 1/15 second exposure & ISO-1600

Brown Mountain, Catawba Valley and the South Mountains
Buildings and water tanks in Catawba Valley can be seen in this late afternoon image (133O azimuth)
 Brown Mountain is the tree-covered ridge in the middle of the image
The South Mountains can be seen on the skyline
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/14, 1/800 second exposure & ISO-2500

Brown Mountain, Catawba Valley and the South Mountains
Two prominent water tanks in Catawba Valley can be seen in this late afternoon image
 Brown Mountain is the tree-covered ridge in the middle of the image
The South Mountains can be seen on the skyline
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/13, 1/800 second exposure & ISO-2000

It was Really, Really Cold Last Night!
Out of focus city lights in Catawba Valley
The single white light above the skyline is a lighted tower atop High Peak in the South Mountains
The cluster of multicolored lights on the skyline at the left side of the image
are the Valdese Houses on Rocky Ridge Road seen in previous images
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR with 420 mm lens, f/8, 3-second exposure & ISO-1600

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Scientific Explanations---Updated

scientific explanations

 At least fourteen separate scientific, or somewhat scientific, investigations over the past 100 years have near-unanimously concluded that the observed BMLs are manmade electric lights.  Only the 1921 U.S. Weather Bureau (Brush Lighting) and a 1977 Geologist (uranium ore) concluded otherwise---but neither actually visited Brown Mountain.   Although highly unpopular with the local residents, the manmade electric light explanation has withstood the test of time and the repeated review of scientific investigators.  These studies include the following:
1913  US Geological Survey D.B. Sterrett---Locomotive Headlights
            c1917 Staged Car Headlights at Lawndale (40 mi SE) seen at Loven’s Hotel at Cold Springs
            1921  Nat’l Geographic Soc & US Weather Bureau---Brush Lighting (St. Elmo’s fire/Andes Lighting)
            1922 US Geological Survey R.G. Mansfield---90% Refracted Manmade Lights & 10% Brush Fires
            1928  NC State College Physics professors---Binoculars & Transit Surveys---Hudson town lights
            1929 E.M. Bell---First BML Photo---City Lights
            1940 H.A. Whitman---Transit Triangulation Survey---BML photo---Refracted City Lights
            1958 B. Brown---BML photos---Refracted City Lights
            1962 S. Rowe & C. Holler, Jr.---Transit Surveys & site visits---Reflected City Lights
            1977  Geologist Francois Schumacher---Uranium ore may the source of the lights
            1977-81 ORION---Staged Lenoir Spotlight & Explosives on BM---Refracted Manmade Lights
            1978 Enigma Project---Refracted Manmade Lights
            2005 Astrophysicist Daniel B. Caton---Camera, Binoculars, Telescope---Refracted City Lights
            2012-13 BML Research Team---BMLCam1; Staged Light Tests; Telephoto Photography
The possibility that the lights seen over the top of Brown Mountain were manmade lights reflected and/or refracted by air layers was first mentioned in H.C. Martin’s 1916 article in the Morganton News Herald.  Martin specifically noted the presence of warm and cold air layers that he thought were due to the recent forest clear-cutting on the mountainous terrains.  He felt that the density variations in these layers caused reflection and refraction of visible manmade lights.  US Geological Survey Geologist G.R. Mansfield expanded on this observation in 1922.  In fact, it is the refraction of the city lights by rising heat waves (mirages) that causes the observed lights to dance, wiggle, wobble, vibrate, change colors, and fade in and out.  Aggravatingly, this minor but very noticeable movement of the lights results in out-of-focus photographic time-exposure images of the lights; thus producing the ‘circular orbs of light’ reported by most observers.

Extended horizontal or vertical movement of the lights, which is often reported by distant observers, is due to the tiring of one’s eye muscles while focusing on individual bright lights in a dark setting.  This lack of movement is easily demonstrated by viewing the suspected light through the viewfinder of a stationary tripod-mounted camera, binoculars, or telescope and was first reported by J.B. Derieux and A.A. Dixon in 1928.  Likewise repeated photography of the lights by tripod-mounted cameras re-set in the same spot hours, days or even weeks later also shows that the lights are stationary and do not change location (Brown Mountain Lights Research Team, 2012).

The report of mystery lights appearing immediately after the July 1916 flood that destroyed the Catawba Valley railroads is often quoted as proof that the lights were not locomotive headlights as previously proposed by U.S. Geological Survey Geologist D.B. Sterrett in 1913.  In his August 29, 1916 letter to the Lenoir News (September 8), G.A. Loven, owner of Loven’s Hotel in Cold Springs states:
“The light still appears every night now, for six years since it was first seen.  It shows to be some four or five miles beyond the top of Brown Mountain.

            It was supposed by some that it was a train headlight; the recent floods stopped the trains from running, but it did not stop the
                    light from showing.  We watched close and it showed every night just the same.
It is not confined to one place; it varies sometimes from two to three miles either east or west.  It seems to go up over the treetops from fifty to sixty feet.”

Note that Loven refers to a single light and fails to mention the presence of the numerous city lights which were reported to be visible from his hotel the previous year by Dr. C.L. Wilson (1915).  And based on 1922 interviews with eyewitnesses, U.S. Geological Survey Geologist G.R. Mansfield reported that moving lights seen from Cold Springs immediately after the 1916 flood were automobile headlights on the roadways not washed away by the flood.  Presumably these and other car headlights were also visible before the flood.  If so many lights were visible from Cold Springs both before and after the flood, why did Loven mention only one?  As revealed by other newspaper articles of the time, Loven’s Hotel was experiencing increased visitation due to patrons wishing to see the BMLs; thus Loven may have been simply perpetuating the legend of the lights to enrich his income.   

Reported BML sightings before the era of electric lights are also often mentioned in post-1900 published documents as proof that the BMLs existed before the time of manmade lights.  However, these reports are not based on confirmed facts and no such light sightings have been found in any document actually published before 1900.   

Slowly at first, and then with ever increasing certainty, manmade electric lights were reported to be visible over the top of Brown Mountain.  In 1915, Dr. C.L. Wilson, identified the community lights of Joy, Lenoir, Connelly Springs, and Rutherford College while observing from Loven’s Hotel at Cold Springs.  Oddly enough, no one else of this early-BML era mentioned being able to see city lights over the top of Brown Mountain; instead they apparently interpreted all of the visible lights to be the mysterious BMLs.
In the most comprehensive and detailed scientific study ever conducted on the BMLs, Geologist G.R. Mansfield reports (1922):

“In summary it may be said that the Brown Mountain lights are clearly not of unusual nature or origin.  About 47 percent of the lights that the writer was able to study instrumentally were due to automobile headlights, 33 percent to locomotive headlights, 10 percent to stationary lights, and 10 percent to brush fires.”

In his 1923 report, F.J. Haskin wrote: “Somewhere in the broad Catawba valley or beyond was the origin of the light.”  In the same year, the Statesville Landmark reported a light (presumably a town light) visible to the east from Brown Mountain itself and located midway between the towns of Drexel and Lenoir.  In 1928, Professors J.B. Derieaux & A.A. Dixon, using survey equipment, identified the town lights of Hudson in the Catawba Valley visible directly over the top of Brown Mountain.    E.M. Bell’s 1929 ‘first ever’ photograph of BMLs resembles today’s photographs and highly suggests city lights in the valley beyond Brown Mountain.  In 1932, F.D. Ruggles reported seeing hundreds of city street lights along a 35-mile length, but concluded they were burning gases instead.  H.A. Whitman’s 1940 transit triangulation survey concluded that the lights were refracted city lights.  And so it goes right on through all subsequent scientific surveys.

Over time, as the increasingly electrically-lit population (i.e., light pollution) increased in the Catawba and Yadkin Valleys south and east of Brown Mountain, the realization began to set in that the BMLs were simply manmade lights.  In the early days of the BML legends (c1854-c1920), these distant lights were a new and mysterious phenomenon that sparked the imagination of the residents in the mountains to the east and north of Brown Mountain who probably lagged behind the town and city residents in the use and understanding of electric lights.  While today the manmade lights are obvious to most observers, some still mistake them for mystery or spook lights.

Campfire Stories---Space Aliens/UFOs

Space travel captured most of the world’s attention during the Great Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s.  It was an exciting time with the Soviet Union taking an early lead but the United States finally winning:

1957, October 4--------First Satellite in Earth Orbit---Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1
            1959, September 13---First Spacecraft on the Moon---Soviet Union’s Luna 2
            1961, April 12-----------First man in Earth Orbit---Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin
            1961, May 5-------------First American in Space (Sub-Orbital)---Alan Shepard
            1962, February 20------First American in Earth Orbit---John Glenn
            1962, April 26-----------First American Spacecraft on Moon---Ranger IV
            1965, June 3-------------First American Space Walk---Ed White in Gemini 4
            1969, July 20------------First Manned Moon Landing---US's Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11

Our preoccupation with space travel during the '60s also had a direct impact on the BML beliefs and myths of that time.  Ralph Lael’s 1965 alien abduction story caused a lot of excitement, while Herbert Bailey’s 1968 article in Argosy magazine describing large squadrons of UFOs appearing nigthly over Brown Mountain proved to be the height of the ‘aliens among us’ craze.  Since no proof of space aliens or UFOs has surfaced anywhere in the world in the ensuing 45 years, the public’s interest in extraterrestrials has greatly subsided; althought stories of other dimensions, time travelers, and benevolent beings are still heard.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Campfire Stories---Faithful Slave Searching for Lost Master

Perhaps the most enduring legend of the BMLs has to do with the spirit of a faithful slave searching for his lost master.  The legend first appeared in print in 1961 with Scotty Wiseman’s folksong, the Ballad of the Brown Mountain Light.  Over the next few years the song became very popular and was recorded by various groups, while local newspaper reporter John Parris wrote the full story of Scotty’s Great Uncle, Josiah Lafayette “Fate” Wiseman (1842-1932) in 1966, 1971 and 1972 articles.  According to Parris:

About 1854, Fate Wiseman, then a young boy, camped on the rim of Linville Gorge and saw the BMLs---long before electric lights.  Fate Wiseman bacame a veteran of the Civil War and he  kept cattle on his land below the cliffs in Connally’s Cove in Linville Gorge.  On a return trip with his father to sell goods in Salisbury, they camped at today’s Wiseman’s View and he could see the lights over BM.  Later he would often watch the lights from the same spot and it came to be called Wiseman’s View.  Fate told of a faithful slave with a lantern searching for his missing low-country hunter master. The spirit of the salve and his lantern still wander the mountain today.
In 2002, J. Baldwin elaborated on the story:

                “Brown Mountain was named after a Brown family, who owned a lot of land during the 19th century
                  that included this mountain.  The family owned slaves, and enjoyed the reputation of treating
                  them well.

“During the Civil War, one of the men in the Brown family fought in the Confederate army as a colonel.  He was wounded in 1863 and came home.  When he was well enough, he went for a day’s hike and hunting on Brown Mountain, a place he knew well.  He took a little food and water, and two lanterns.

“Midnight came and the colonel had not returned.  His faithful slave Jim took a lantern and went to Brown Mountain to look for him.  Neither Jim nor the colonel ever returned.  The family and their slaves searched the entire surface of Brown Mountain, but no trace of either of them has ever been found.

 “Shortly after the colonel and Jim disappeared, bobbing lights appeared on the mountain.  The lights had never been seen before, and the family believed the lights were from the lanterns the colonel and Jim carried.  They are trying to find their way home.”

In 2012, J. Betts reported the following words of the popular song:

The Legend of the Brown Mountain Light by Scotty Wiseman

Way out on the old Linville Mountain,
                Where the bear and the catamount reign;
There’s a strange ghostly light, can be seen every night,
Which no scientists nor hunter can explain.


In the days of the old covered wagons,
Where they camped on the flats for the night;
With the moon shining dim on the old highboard rim,
They watched for that Brown Mountain light. 


Many years ago a southern planter
Came hunting in this wild world alone.
It was then so they say that the planter lost his way
And never returned to his home.
His trusting old slave brought a lantern
And searched day and night but in vain.
Now the old slave is gone but his spirit lingers on,
And the lantern still casts its light. 

High, high on the mountain, and deep in the canyon below
It shines like the crown of an angel, and fades as the mists comes and go.
Way over yonder, night after night until dawn,
A lonely old slave comes back from the grave,
Searching, searching, searching, for his master who’s long gone on.

Campfire Stories---Revolutionary War Soldier

This legend is relatively recent and only first appeared in a 1982 article in the Watauga Democrat.  As the story goes:

“A family settled in the Brown Mountain area in the 1700s.  When the Revolutionary War began, the father enlisted, leaving behind his wife and three children.  The war over, he returned home to find his homestead in ruins.  Desperately he took to the nearby mountain range searching for his missing loved ones.  Finally, he died alone and in despair atop Brown Mountain, and today his spirit continues the search.”

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, presumably the year the soldier returned home to find his family missing.  A children’s book by Carol Crane in 2012 retells the story. 
As with all legends, myths and folklore stories, no references were given for the sources of the information.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Campfire Stories---Lost Lover

The lost lover legend first appears in published documents in 1948 (Unknown Author) and is again mentioned in J. Baldwin’s 2002 document.  Unfortunately neither author references where their information came from.  According to the 1948 article:

“A young man fell in love with a mountain girl who lived with her father on Brown Mountain.  He visited her nightly, coming through the dangerous woods from his village.  They agreed to marry.  On the evening of their departure she lit a pine torch and went to greet him.  He never returned and she took a torch out every night crossing back and forth on Brown Mountain to look for him.”

According to the 2002 article, Amanda lived on Brown Mountain with her widowed father about 1775.  She fell in love with young Caleb who lived in a nearby valley.  On the evening he was to come and take her away to marry, she lit a pine torch to signal him, but he never came.  Her spirit still searches Brown Mountain for him.

Campfire Stories----Murdered Wife & Baby

The legends of a murdered wife from the Jonas Ridge community may have predated the BMLs.  However, ties to the BMLs appear in the writings of S.M. Dugger (1936-1938), R. Russell and J. Barnett (1988) and J. Baldwin (2002).  The details of the story vary greatly, but apparently a husband, known to be mean, murdered his wife and buried her body on either Cold Mountain or Brown Mountain.  She was either pregnant or had recently given birth to their baby.  It was years before the bodies were found.  The BMLs supposedly are the spirits of the wife and baby.  The dates of the murder vary from before the Civil War to the late 1880s.  Unfortunately none of the authors cite references for their information.

Campfire Stories---Civil War Soldiers

A reference to the legend of spirits of Civil War soldiers appears only twice in the published literature.  First on S. Nicholson’s 2012 website at where he mentions Civil War soldiers wandering the mountain with candles.  Unfortunately, Nicholson does not properly cite where this information comes from.

In his 2002 document, J. Baldwin ties the ‘Faithfull Slave Searching for Lost Master’ legend to the Civil War:
 “Brown Mountain was named after a Brown family, who owned a lot of land during the 19th century that included this mountain.  The family owned slaves, and enjoyed the reputation of treating them well.

“During the Civil War, one of the men in the Brown family fought in the Confederate army as a colonel.  He was wounded in 1863 and came home.  When he was well enough, he went for a day’s hike and hunting on Brown Mountain, a place he knew well.  He took a little food and water, and two lanterns.

“Midnight came and the colonel had not returned.  His faithful slave Jim took a lantern and went to Brown Mountain to look for him.  Neither Jim nor the colonel ever returned.  The family and their slaves searched the entire surface of Brown Mountain, but no trace of either of them has ever been found.

“Shortly after the colonel and Jim disappeared, bobbing lights appeared on the mountain.  The lights had never been seen before, and the family believed the lights were from the lanterns the colonel and Jim carried.  They are trying to find their way home.”

However, we have been unable to find any actual written documentation of BMLs sightings during or immediately after the Civil War.  Instead, the monumental, 555-page book on the history of Burke County (Phifer, Jr., 1977, revised 1982) details all of the Civil War military actions in the area, including those on and near Brown Mountain, without noting any BML sightings.  In fact, on page 12, Phifer specifically states that no BMLs were seen prior to the twentieth century.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Campfire Stories---Slave Protecting Buried Treasure

The earliest published account linking the BMLs to ghosts/spirits is C.H. Hites’ 1917 article in the Charlotte Observer (reprinted in The News-Herald of Morganton).   Even though the mysterious BMLs had been known for many years already and they had created great excitement due to numerous newspaper stories in 1913 and 1915, they were not attributed to ghosts or spirits until Hites’ story of Negro slave superstitions.

Hites reports being told stories by Negro slaves who saw a light on BM, presumably in the years following the Civil War, that they thought was the ghost of Bird Carroll.  Apparently Bird, a Negro slave himself, buried his life savings under a large pine tree on BM, but died in 1865 serving in the Civil War at Wilmington, NC before he could return and retrieve it. 

While Bird Carroll’s story itself was seldom if ever retold, the connection between the BMLs and ghosts/spirits was destined to become a common theme in later published reports.  S.M. Dugger's story of the ghost of a murdered wife and Ashton Chapman's story of Native American ghosts would not be published until 1936 and 1942, respectively.  Afterwards, nearly every published author included his/her own version of a ghost legend.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Campfire Stories---De Brahm's 1771 Report

1771 De Brahm Sightings

This is one of my favorite BML myths!
The following paragraph from the 1771 De Brahm’s Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America is often refenced as the definitive earliest written European document verifying the existence of the BMLs. 

"Although these Mountains transpire through their Tops sulphurueaous and arsenical Sublimations, yet they are too light, as to precipitate so near their Sublimitories, but are carried away by the Winds to distant Regions. In a heavy Atmosphere, the nitrous Vapours are swallowed up through the Spiraculs of the Mountains, and thus the Country is cleared from their Corrosion; when the Atmosphere is light, these nitrous Vapours rise up to the arsenical and sulphureous (subliming through the Expiraculs of the Mountains), and when they meet with each other in Contact, the Niter inflames, vulgurates and detonates, whence the frequent Thunders, in which a most votalized Spirit of Niter ascends to purify and inspire the upper Air, and a phlogiston Regeneratum (the metallic Seed) descends to impregnate the Bowels  the Earth; and as all these Mountains form so many warm Athanors which draw and absorb, especially in foggy Seasons, all corrosive Effluvia along with the heavy Air through the Registers (Spiracles) and thus cease not from that Perpetual Circulation of the Air, corroding Vapours are no sooner raised, than that they are immediately disposed of, consequently the Air in the Appalachian Mountains in extreamely pure and healthy."

References to this passage are misguided, misquoted and/or taken out of context.  In this passage, De Brahm was writing about the origin of thunder and lightning and the health benefits of breathing the pure ‘Mountain Vapors’ of upstate South Carolina!  The passage occurs in the South Carolina chapter of his book and De Brahm does not even describe North Carolina anywhere in his 325 page book---he may have never even visited North Carolina!  The influence on the health of the local inhabitants by breathing good air versus bad air is a repeated theme throughout De Brahm’s book, and elsewhere he describes, with similar floury words, the poor health effects of breathing ‘Pond Vapors’ (p. 79) and ‘Swamp Vapors’ (p. 160) and even goes on to suggest “a prudent and moderate use of Spirits” to offset the effects of living in an area where one is constantly breathing bad air.
The first reference to De Brahm’s 1771 report can be found in R.K. Babington's 1927 article in The Gastonia Daily Gazette; however Babington failed to reference his source--so it is unclear if he was quoting someone else or if he had actually read De Brahm's report, which in 1927 was still a very-difficult to read hand-written document.  It also appears that many later authors picked up the story without properly checking their references either.

Refreshingly, Brian Dunning, in his 2010 podcast on comments:
"Taken in context, it's clear that de Brahm's quote has nothing wahtsoever to do with the Brown Mountain Lights.  This leaves us with no documentary evidence that the Lights existed prior to the arrival of electric lights and people in the area in the early 1900's."

Campfire Stories---Native American Sightings

Reported sightings by early Native Americans differ somewhat depending on who is telling the story.  Most BML authors refer to legends of Indian maidens carrying torches (or lanterns) searching for their brave warriors killed in an epic battle, while others refer to the warriors themselves carrying torches or burning fires on the battlefield, and still others refer to the spirits of the slain warriors.  The dates for the supposed battle or Indian legend are given as either 800 years ago (1200 AD) or 1,200 years ago (800 AD).  Unfortunately, no published author references the source of his/her data---probably a clear indication that the data does not exist in the first place.

The first report of Native American BML legends appeared in the 1942 Charlotte Observer newspaper article by Ashton Chapman; however, Chapman failed to reference the source of his data.   After extensive searching, we have been unable to find any authentic written or published reference supporting BML sightings by Native Americans, except in the BML writings themselves since 1942; thus we conclude that the varied stories are myths made up by recent authors in an attempt to enhance their BML story.

Indeed, on page 629 of the most definitive  and authoritanian collection of information on North Carolina Folklore ever published (1964), Dr. F.C. Brown makes the following comment concerning the BMLs:
".....there has been adduced no legend dealing with these lights prior to the twentieth century, and no evidence that the lights themselves had appeared before that time.  The lights seem to have been noticed only after the neighboring towns had developed to a certain size with a certain amount of electric illumination."

Campfire Stories---Legends, Myths & Folklore

"The thing that makes the Brown Mountain Lights so great is that it is a blank slate upon which you can  project your imagination, your dreams, your visions."  Joshua Warren, 2012.

Exhaustive literature review finds gross inaccuracies in the currently popular stories of the Brown Mountain Lights.  For instance, we find no authentic written reference to BMLs before 1900, except in the BML literature itself; thus many of the numerous references in the BML literature to pre-20th century sightings appear to be unsupported legends, myths and folklore.  These are 'Campfire Stories’ because the details of each story vary greatly according to who is telling the story.  The variations in the details of each story are amazing and no one references where they got their information.  This lack of references is a clear sign that campfire stories are being told and adherence to the facts takes back seat to spinning a good tale.

These stories include:  
          Indian Maidens/Warriors
          Revolutionary War Soldier Looking for Missing Family
          Civil War Soldiers
          Slave Protecting Buried Treasure
          Murdered Wife & Baby
          Lost Lover
          Faithful Slave Searching for Lost Master
          Miners Killed in Mine Collapse

Space Aliens/UFOs

Abnormal Earth Processes
          De Brahm’s 1771 ‘Sublimating Mountain Peaks’
          Luminescent gases/plasmas
          Weather Phenomena (Andes Light, St Elmo’s fire, etc)

Glimpses of Other Universes/Dimensions

Each of these legends and myths will be covered in seperate posts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shortoff Mountain Staged Light Test

Another successful staged light test---this time on Shortoff Mountain

Last night, December 1, 2012, from Wiseman's View in Linville Gorge, I photographed some staged camper lights.  Our campers were on Shortoff Mountain, 4.8 miles away.  A campfire and four headlamps were visible!

Staged Lights on Shortoff Mountain, Linville Gorge, NC
Shortoff Mountain is the dark flat topped ridge in the middle left of the image.  Five man-made  lights from our team of volunteers are visible just below the crest of the mountain:  an orange campfire, a tiny adjacent white light, and a double white light can be seen near the vertical cliffs at the end of the mountain, while a brighter white light can be seen closer to the left edge of the image.  Radio contact with the campers was maintained during the photo shoot. 
All the other lights in this image are city lights in Catawba Valley.
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera with 105 mm lens at f/5.6, 17-second exposure & ISO-800.
In addition, another campfire, this one much closer and from unknown campers, was observed and photographed along the river in Linville Gorge.
Campfire on Linville River
This campfire was unexpected and was not part of our staged light test. 
It's about 1/2 mile upstream from Wiseman's View. 
Two small white lights, probably headlamps, can also be seen in the image. 
Illumination from the campfire reveals several campers hudled near the fire.
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera with 420 mm lens at f/8, 8-second exposure & ISO-800.
Lastly, here's a neat shot of Jupiter.
Jupiter over Hawksbill Mountain
Jupiter rose in the east at 5:12 pm, only a minute after the sun set to the west.
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera with 105 mm lens at f/5.6, 1-second exposure & ISO-800.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Google Data Center - Lenoir

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Google is involved in the Brown Mountain Lights!

The prominent white building photographed by me on November 28, 2012 just above the ridge line of Brown Mountain has been identified!!!  It's one of the buildings at the Google Data Center on the south side of Lenoir!!  This $600m complex was opened in May 2008. 

OK, actually Google has nothing to do with the Brown Mountain Lights!  But I did use Google Earth to positively identify the Google Data Center!  The line of sight bearing to this building, plotted on Google Earth, was instrumental in proving it's true location---19.2 miles away!

The white building is clearly visible with magnification from our Jonas Ridge House observation site and it has an azimuth of 100 degrees.   In fact, with favorable sunlight, the building is also visible to the naked eye from the same observation site. 

Identifying this permenant landmark clearly shows that man-made structures and their associated electric lights, which are located in the valley beyond Brown Mountain, can appear as optical illusions located on the top of the mountain itself.   This is especially true of night time observations when one's normal distance perception is unreliable.  Having this known landmark will also greatly facilitates our BML research since it will allow us to better pinpoint any future mystery light locations.

Prominent White Building Above Brown Mountain
The white building can be seen slightly to the right of the center of the image.  Brown Mountain is the nearly level ridge line ending with a steep slope on the north end (left side of image).  Ripskin Ridge is the closest ridge line at the bottom of the image. 
This image was taken from the Jonas Ridge house observation site, 19.2 miles west of the building.
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera with 112 mm telephoto lens at f/8, 1/320 sec, and ISO 100.

 Prominent White Building Above Brown Mountain
This is a digital enlargement of the building seen in the image above. 
The tree covered ridge line of Brown Mountain can be seen in the foreground of the image.
Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera with 420 mm telephoto lens at f/16, 1/1000 sec, and ISO 800.

Google Earth Image of the Google Data Center on the South Side of Lenoir, NC
The long narrow white building (marked “White Building above BM”) is clearly visible with magnification from the Jonas Ridge House observation site.  Actually the building is also visible to the naked eye from the JR House under favorable sun lighting as a tiny white spot.  With magnification, the features of the building and the layout of the surrounding grounds are identifiable; i.e. electric devices immediately adjacent to the building, orientation of the building, electric substation and power lines, white rock-lined drainage ditch connecting the building and the nearby cooling pond, and the newly landscaped brown yard.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where's the Brown Mountain Lights?

Where's the Brown Mountain Lights?

Those of you who have have been following this blog are probably asking: "Where's the Brown Mountain Lights?"  It should be obvious by now that I'm having trouble finding them!  In fact, our research team has probably put in over 1,000 man-hours already this year---but we have yet to find any mystery lights.  We've seen 100's and 100's of lights, but they were all man-made electric lights as shown in the many photos posted on this blog. 

However, we do have dozens of intriguing eye witness reports of mystery lights observed by other people, and several members of our group report observing mystery lights in the past.  While we all have some ideas about what those lights might have been, we don't yet have any definitive evidence leading us in one direction or the other.  So the search goes on. 

We plan to continue photographing and documenting the man-made lights, conducting staged light tests, and keeping a close watch for anything mysterious.  If you have observations to share, we'd love to hear from you!  Just leave a comment on any blog post.

Our efforts also include camping, hiking, and biking on and around Brown Mountain and Linville Gorge.  And now that we have the BML Cam up and running, we hope to see and record even more lights, including natural, man-made, or otherwise! 

Stay tuned as the adventure continues!

Staged Light Tests Aug & Sep, 2012

Our industrious research group conducted several staged light tests this past summer.  These three images show hand-held DC flashlights on the western side of Brown Mountain as seen from the Highway 181 BMLs Overlook.  In all cases, radio contact was maintained between the hiker and the photographer.  Similar staged light tests were also conducted at Wiseman's View, Table Rock, Gingercake Mountain, and Hawksbill Mountain.

Light from a 520 Lumin, Hand-held DC LED Spotlight from 3.7 miles away
The light is located at a small prospect pit on Wildcat Knob Ridge; it is pointed directly at the camera
The red lights along the crest of Brown Mountain are Tower Lights in Catawba Valley
Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera with 140 mm telephoto lens; 21 second exposure at f/5.6 and ISO 200
Light from a 520 Lumin, Hand-held DC LED Spotlight from 3.7 miles away
The light is located on FS Road 4099 near Wildcat Knob Ridge
The near-level crest of Brown Mountain can be seen on the right side of the image
Adams Mountain is the dark summit in the center of the image and it nearly obstructs Hibriten Mountain in the distance
The single white light above the skyline is a lighted tower atop Hibriten Mountain
The red light is a lighted tower in the Lenoir area
Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera with 140 mm telephoto lens;  29 second exposure at f/5.6 and ISO 200

Light from a 135 Lumin, Hand-held DC LED Headlamp from 3.7 miles away
The light is located on Wildcat Knob Ridge
The Skyline Ridge is the near-level crest of Brown Mountain
Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR camera with 350 mm telephoto lens;  11 second exposure at f/8 and ISO 1600

BML Cam Installed November 28, 2012

The BML Cam1 is up and running!

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC has just installed a full time camera aimed at Brown Mountain!  The purpose is to capture real time images of night time lights near Brown Mountain.  Hopefully the camera will soon be streaming live online.

Here's the first two images captured last night:

First BML Cam1 Image November 28, 2012
The large bright rayed light just above the eastern horizon is the full moon. 
Jupiter, which also rose near the moon, is obsecured by the glare from the moon
Note the bright verticle line and the triangular-shaped lens flares (lower right corner of the image)

Second BML Cam1 Image November 28, 2012
The moon has passed out of the field of view
The roof and patio of the house where the camera is mounted are seen in the foreground

Brown Mountain is located in the center of the images.  Both images show distant city lights in Catawba Valley.  The collective glow of Hickory's city lights can be seen in the center of the image.  A prominent bright spot of light on the horizon near the left side of both images is the recently lighted Christmas Star atop Hibriten Mountain near Lenoir (22 miles from the camera)---this light will remain stationary and provides a convienant landmark; at least until the city of Lenoir turns it off after the holidays.
Installation of the BML Cam1 November 28, 2012
The house is located on Jonas Ridge, Burke Co., NC
The satellite TV dish is not part of the BML Cam

BML Cam1 November 28, 2012
The camera is housed inside the metal box
The camera lens looks out through the dark glass-covered window