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Strange history from Roswell and beyond

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Submitted Art — Public Domain Meriwether Lewis (left) and William Clark (right)

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Lewis and Clark Skyquakes

Summer 1808, Rocky Mountains

By John LeMay

Historian

During their travels, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would occasionally hear sudden and deafening booms come from the sky. They didn’t take note of this on cloudy days with hints of rain and thunderstorms, as they obviously wouldn’t have considered that unusual. These booms happened on sunny days when not a cloud was in the sky. It sounded like a cannon or a sonic boom made by one of today’s jet planes. As for cannons, the expedition had the only ones around for miles. And jet planes weren’t in existence back then, which can mean only one thing. In the words of “Ancient Aliens’” Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, “It’s aliens!”

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Well, it might be aliens. The loud booms are called sky quakes and they can still be heard today. They are also still unexplained to this day. Explanations given for the phenomena are many. Some scientists think that the mysterious booms could be caused by CMEs, or Coronal Mass Ejections. Essentially a CME is the solar wind equivalent of a sonic boom, wherein protons are accelerated up to millions of miles per minute resulting in a loud boom.

Others speculate sky quakes might be caused by meteors, or other celestial bodies, suddenly entering Earth’s atmosphere. Some also say it could come from an underwater cave suddenly collapsing. When the trapped air suddenly rises to the surface, it creates the loud noise. Another water-based explanation goes that bio gas from decaying vegetation trapped beneath the lake bottoms suddenly bursts into the air. This theory was postulated because sky quakes are heard more often at Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake more than any other spot in the southeastern U.S. Due to this, sky quakes in that region are nicknamed “Guns of the Seneca.” Or, as Forteans (members of the Fortean Society researching anomalous phenomena) and ufologists like to believe, they could be alien crafts.

Lewis and Clark were first told of the loud noises by the Pawnee and Arikara Native American tribes. They referred to them as “medicine” which was a word they attributed to many things they felt were strange and mystical. The duo assumed their claims of mystery noises were superstition until they heard them for themselves. However, the trader Jean Vallé also told the party about the big booms when they visited his house near the mouth of the Cheyenne River in October of 1803. He had pinpointed the sound as coming from the Black Hills in South Dakota where he said “a great noise is heard frequently.”

Eventually, in the last days of spring in 1804, Lewis, Clark and their party heard the noises for themselves. Lewis mentioned them in a journal entry on July 4th.

“Since our arrival at the (Great) Falls (of the Missouri River on June 13) we have repeatedly heard a strange noise coming from the mountains in a direction a little to the north of west. It is heard at different periods of the day and night, sometimes when the air is perfectly still and without a cloud, and consists of one stroke only, or five or six discharges in quick succession. It is loud, and resembles precisely the sound of a six-pound piece of ordnance at the distance of three miles. I am at a loss to account for this phenomenon. I have no doubt but if I had leisure I could find from whence it issued.”

About a week later, on July 11, Lewis noted another volley of what he had termed the “unaccountable artillery of the Rocky Mountains.”

Apparently that was the last time they heard the mystery booms. Despite all the strange and wonderful things he had seen, Clark was still talking about the booms years later. There is a record of him discussing it with Nicholas Biddle, the editor of the History of the Expedition.

“I think I mentioned having heard a rumbling noise at the falls of the Missouri, which was not accounted for, and you accounted for them by simulating them to Avalanches of the Alps,” Clark wrote to Biddle in a letter dated Dec. 20, 1810. For whatever reason, Biddle abandoned the idea that distant avalanches caused the noise in the History, which was published in 1814 and contained no mention of Biddle’s theory.

The sound of this invisible “artillery” continued to puzzle the pioneers as they made their way westward. But what were they? One could apply the “Guns of Seneca” logic — that gaseous material had just erupted from a great lake — to spots along Lewis and Clark’s trail when they were near large lakes, but probably not all of them. It would be easier to tell if the duo had made notes of exactly where they were when they heard them. All we know is that they heard them at random instances between June 13 and July 11.

Later that summer, in mid-August, Lewis and Clark would be in the Dakota territories. This is also the vicinity of the Black Hills where the big booms were said to be heard. While they recorded no mention of the big booms there themselves, the Crow People told them of a race of very strange little people. Little people with exceptionally large heads and magical powers.

Were the little people, who shared similarities with the Greys of ufology, somehow connected with the mysterious sonic booms, which themselves may have come from a UFO? Close by in the area is the famous Devil’s Tower. Long before its inclusion in the finale of the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), it was the sight of “spook lights” and what we would today call UFOs. In the Black Hills region, between Devil’s Tower, the mysterious tribe of “little men,” and the sky quakes, there’s certainly a lot of strange stuff going on.