Friday, September 23, 2011

The 1630 Comet of Doom

© 2011 Christy K. Robinson 

(for a 2020 update, see below)

September 23, 2011When we hear the prediction of a comet, many of us set an alarm to wake up at oh-dark-thirty, go outside with a telescope, and peer at blurry blobs on the horizon. I did that several times, for Halley’s, Ikeya-Zhang, and Hale-Bopp. The best I could recognize with binoculars was a tiny, glowing cotton ball. But life went on as usual each time, because our culture no longer associates doom with a chunk of icy dust passing through our solar system.

For thousands of years, a comet was believed to presage death, disease, famine, and war. It was considered by many cultures to be a sign of divine favor or judgment. You can't blame them for their superstition about a natural event, because plague and war actually did follow. (William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson of Alford, Lincolnshire lost two daughters to plague in 1630.)

1607 Halley's Comet (though it wasn't yet named for Halley):
Note the skeletons (death), the crown, the sword, and
the warriors connected with the comet.
Further, notice the totally and partially eclipsed suns.
Now that is some DOOM, I tell you!
A noon-time comet was reported in England, Germany, and Italy on May 29 and 30, 1630. It was said to resemble a second sun and to shine so brightly that there was a double shadow.

The comet of 1630 was described by Abbot Assi of Milan as a blazing star, with a "savage face," and of a “horifica specie,” (“horrific kind”). He said that it preceded “de peste quae fuit anno 1630” (“the pestilence which was the year 1630”).

Sure enough, in England and much of Europe, plague and famine followed the comet sighting.

Mary Barrett, age 19, and William Dyer, 21, who didn’t marry until 1633, lived in London at the time of the comet, and they almost certainly witnessed it. In the bubonic plague which struck Europe and England that year, they came through unscathed, though surely they lost friends and relatives when a third of London's citizens died. Perhaps they fled the city for some months, like other people who had the financial means to do so.

Germany in 1513. Note the blood dripping from the sky
and the two-headed animal, a “monster” that was a sign
of God’s judgment against heresy. The middle person in the
foreground has the buboes of the Black Death. Trees have been
broken, and several towers have fallen, probably in earthquakes.
These things happened, it was believed, because of the comets.
In New England, about 300 of the 1000 settlers in Massachusetts Bay Colony died of fever, scurvy, and accident, and their winter of 1630-31 was called The Starving Time. Considering that they’d emigrated to America to found a New Jerusalem, the colonists must have wondered how they had displeased God, to be visited so harshly.
Stars and comets also were believed to mark special dates connected with world events, like births or deaths of kings. Some think it was Halley’s Comet that shown in the sky over Bethlehem in 12 BC.

The 1066 Halley's comet, depicted in Bayeux Tapestry. The English believed it prophesied doom.
Halley’s Comet, said to be four times the size of Jupiter, showed itself in 1066, a year of cataclysm in England, as Edward the Confessor died and Harold was anointed king in violation of his oath of fealty to William “The Conqueror,” Duke of Normandy. William won the crown for himself later that year.  

The first comet to appear in the heavens of New England, of which there is any account, blazed forth from Orion from the ninth to the twenty-second of December, 1652. It was large, and people shuddered when they looked at its beautiful tail of fire.

The people connected their appearance with some famine, plague or disaster, either as its direct cause or precursor; and the learned men of the times taught the people to fear their approach. When it is considered that some persons are still disturbed at their coming in this very end of the nineteenth century, it is readily understood why the people of the days when superstition was fostered trembled at their appearance. They seemed to be the perfection of instruments to accomplish the burning of the world.

More great anecdotes about mid-17th century
England and New England, supported by research,
can be found in the nonfiction book

The DYERS of London, Boston, & Newport,
by Christy K Robinson.
It's the third in a series about Mary Dyer, Anne
Hutchinson, Sir Henry Vane, Roger Williams,
and John Winthrop.
The clergy of New England sought to make the most of this belief and fear, either hypocritically, to simply increase the membership of their churches, or because they shared the common belief and honesty endeavored to have souls prepared for the great change that might come immediately, and without further warning. At these periods many were brought into the fold, and the ordinances and services of the church were more carefully observed.  –The Essex [Massachusetts] Antiquarian magazine, 1898, edited by Sydney Perley

Other momentous events, not necessarily negative, were associated with comets. When the noon-day comet appeared in May 1630, it was believed to mark the birth of Charles II, the son of the English King Charles I and his queen Henrietta Maria.

After the English Civil War of the 1640s, the execution of Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate, Charles II had been restored to the monarchy in London two days before Mary Dyer was hanged in Boston for civil disobedience to the church-state authority.

The April 1661 coronation publicity lauded him as a sort of messiah unifying the war-torn kingdom, and mentioned the 1630 birth comet as proof of him being God's choice for anointed king.

Charles II coronation procession, April 21, 1661.
It looks very messianic with the white gate and clouds.
The poet Waller referred to the comet in his coronation poem, “On St. James’s Park,” in the lines,
His thoughts rise higher, when he does reflect
On what the world may from that star expect,
Which at his birth appeared, to let us see
Day, for his sake, could with the night agree!
A Prince on whom such diff’rent lights did smile,
Born the divided world to reconcile!

The next comet to appear was in 1661, the Ikeya-Zhang. You can read an account from 1799 that described the connection between comets and practically every other disaster known to man, HERE.

The PAN-STARRS comet 


UPDATE March 13, 2013—Until relatively recently in world history, people of all cultures connected the appearance of comets with great events like the birth of a king, the onset of a new era, or a prophecy for good or ill.

Jorge Borgoglio, Pope Francis I
as of March 13, 2013

 And now, at the same time as the election of new Pope Francis I, Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, spiritual ruler of more than a billion Catholics, we are treated to the comet PAN-STARRS. Ten generations ago, this coincidence would have rocked the world of our ancestors! What we now consider a naturally-occurring event was then considered the hand of God declaring the execution of his will.

The NEOWISE comet 

UPDATE July 2020—As I waited for darkness 40 miles outside Phoenix's city lights in the desert near Highway US 60, I scanned the northwestern sky under the bucket of the Big Dipper with my binoculars, and remembered posting this Comet of Doom article nine years ago. I'm not a superstitious person at all, but I couldn't help smiling in the quiet darkness as I remembered the research I'd done and the graphic art of 500 years ago, connecting comets with plague and famine, war and economic devastation. 

I began thinking of all the 2020 Apocalypse Bingo card squares, tragedies and freaky nature we could not have predicted:

Closer to home, there were five evil hornworms that attacked my beloved pasilla chili pepper plant, devouring all but one leaf before I dispatched them to hornworm perdition.  

Out in the Sonoran Desert, it was 100 degrees with no humidity, no breeze, and the occasional buzz of insects. Even the coyotes and roadrunners were hunkered down. I watched the stars of the Milky Way begin to shine, and observed either a satellite or the ISS fly over from south to north. I did find a very faint Comet Neowise glow, but my cameras didn't have time exposure features, so my photos turned out pure black. 

With what we've seen and experienced in 2020,
could pterodactyls, Godzilla, and sea serpents
be far off? Check out 
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Christy K Robinson is author of the books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018) (Amazon author page)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy birthday, William Dyer!

© 2011 Christy K. Robinson

Happy birthday, William Dyer! He was probably born Sept. 17-19, 1609; because there’s a record that he was baptized Sept. 19, 1609 in the parish church at Kirkby LaThorpe, Lincolnshire, between Sleaford and Boston. Baptisms usually were held between the day of birth and about three days. The day of birth was more likely if the infant was in physical distress, while the third day allowed the mother a bit of recovery time. So William's actual day of birth might have been Sept. 17, but the record, written by his father the churchwarden and admitting William to the fellowship of the Church of England, was Sept. 19.

Font from Great Limber,
Lincolnshire; what the
Kirkby La Thorpe font
might be like.
 Weddings took place at the door of the church. Baptismal fonts, usually carved from stone, were located at the back of the church because they symbolized the beginning of the spiritual life; while the crypt or burial chests with effigies were in the chancel or transept area, after the soul's journey and spiritual growth through life. Sometimes babies were immersed, but usually they were sprinkled or the priest's wet fingers traced the sign of a cross on the baby's forehead. I have friends who live near Kirkby La Thorpe, but they haven't yet been able to photograph the church interior for this website.

St. Denys is a parish church built and improved in stages over the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. The chancel was rebuilt 1854-55, and restored 1911-12. Perhaps William’s parents, who were land-owning farmers there (as opposed to tenants), are buried in the church or churchyard. William's father (also William Dyer) was a churchwarden there for several years.

St. Denys Church of England in Kirkby LaThorpe, Lincolnshire,
where William Dyer was baptized in 1609.
William Dyer, 1609-1677, is scarcely known today, except as the husband of the Quaker convert, Mary Barrett Dyer, who was hanged for civil disobedience to the Puritan theocracy in Massachusetts. That’s not how it was during his lifetime!

William was an apprentice and then guild member in London, emigrated to Massachusetts in 1635, was a clerk-recorder-commissioner for Massachusetts and Rhode Island governments, the co-founder of Portsmouth and Newport, a militia captain, the first attorney general of Rhode Island (actually, the first attorney general in all of North America!), and the first Commander-in-Chief-Upon-the-Seas for the United Colonies, appointed by the English Council of State in 1652. Dyer was also solicitor general of Rhode Island in 1657. He was instrumental in the colony charters (he may have drafted them from sessions with the other colony leaders), he was named in the 1663 Rhode Island royal charter, and he was author of a business proposal to King Charles II. He was trained for leather-goods importing in the Fishmongers guild (so he was probably also skilled in many aspects of marketing and customs/duties/inspections). 

Dyer owned properties in Boston, Portsmouth, and Newport. He had a large farm at Newport with horses and tobacco, and traded with Indians for venison, corn, and other goods. We know that he was a mariner from his trading and admiralty duties, so I presume that William was also a primary mover and shaker in developing the wharves and port facilities that made Newport one of three great harbors in New England (besides Boston and New York). He was the father of six children with Mary Dyer, and another child with his second wife. There are no known portraits of William Dyer.

All this from the farm boy out of Kirkby LaThorpe!  (See the article, William Dyer's Boyhood, here: )
Dyer's Point, now Ft. Greene, is due east from Rose Island.

William died in 1677, and was buried (probably with his first wife Mary and some of their children) on the family burial ground at the Dyer farm in Newport, south of Coddington Cove and east of Coaster’s Island.

A 1777 map shows a tiny projection as Dyer’s Point, which is now Battery Park / Ft. Greene, just south of the Newport Bridge--I imagine that Dyer's Point was part of his property. During the Revolutionary War, the British forces that held Aquidneck Island leveled orchards and buildings in and around Newport for clear shooting. The artillery array gave it the name of battery, ergo, Battery Park.

Eventually, the farmland was repurposed and subdivided, and after the American Civil War, a naval college was built on Coaster’s Island and a naval station complex was developed on what had been the Dyer farm, 250 years earlier. Court records indicate that Dyers and Coddingtons had properties bordering one with the other, and that due to politics and land disputes, they were not exactly love-your-neighbor types during the 1650s and 1660s.

Battery Park at Dyer's Point
Surely the co-founder of Newport and naval commander William Dyer would be very proud of his legacy with the port and the naval complex! Wouldn’t it be a good thing for his descendants to propose, fund, and place a historical marker in that vicinity, to the honor of William Dyer? I propose that the Naval land that has been proposed to give back to the city of Newport, which is where the Dyers' original burial plot is located, would be just the spot!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What did Mary Dyer look like?

© Christy K. Robinson
Mary Dyer at prayer, a Howard Pyle painting.
Pyle was an illustrator in the early 20th century,
like Norman Rockwell.

The few illustrations we have of Mary Dyer, made 250-300 years after her death, show a plain, slim, ageless woman in very severe clothing, her hair contained under a starched cap. No one knows what physical characteristics she had, though several artists have made their own interpretations, including the 1958 statues in Boston and Philadelphia, and the paintings of Howard Pyle in the early 20th century.

In mid-17th-century Europe and England, women’s fashions were all over the board. The country women wore long, full skirts and kept their shoulders and arms covered in long-sleeved jackets. Middle-class merchants’ wives also wore clothes that covered them, though they tucked their overskirts above their petticoats. Ladies of the court, and nobility, wore gowns of silk that were turned back to the elbow, and revealed their bare shoulders and bosoms, right down to the areola, though for some reason, they covered their cleavage with a flower or long necklace pendant.

Queen Henrietta Maria, 
of Charles I. 
Click to enlarge for gorgeous detail. 
In contrast, Queen Henrietta Maria was Catholic, and dressed more conservatively than Puritans or Anglicans. She influenced hairstyles, as we learn from portraits and woodcuts of other women of the day. She had ringlets around her face, and pulled her hair back with masses of ringlets behind her ears. Many women copied that style for formal occasions and portrait sittings. Perhaps they wore a hat or cap at other times.

Mrs. Oliver Cromwell, wife of the ultra-Puritan Lord Protector of the Realm between the beheading of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy, is shown in a portrait wearing an expensive, low-cut gown—with pearls at her neck and large, pearl earrings. She was considered to be a "plain" (not comely) woman.
Lady Elizabeth Bourchier Cromwell,
Oliver Cromwell's wife.

But in colonial New England, three thousand miles away from corrupt Babylon, men were building the New Jerusalem, the cultural Zion which would contain the saints of God. In this time of God's judgment, the saints ought to be dressed soberly.

Jewelry and cosmetics were forbidden in Puritan culture throughout the 17th century, as something the wicked Jezebel would wear—or the feared, hated Catholics, who wore crosses or saint medals, which were interpreted as idols or pagan amulets. (Again, note the relative lack of ornamentation on the Catholic Queen!)

Mary Winthrop Dudley, daughter and daughter-in-law of strict, legalistic Massachusetts governors John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley, wrote letters to friends in England, lamenting the Puritan ban on stylish clothes in America. She disliked the harsh frontier life and the dress expectations placed upon her. She died in 1643, one day before her four-year-old son also died, never having returned to England for a visit.

Gold and silver embroidery were banned in 1634 Boston, as was particularly fancy lace. Women covered their hair with simple caps. At one point, the religious zealot Gov. John Endecott, along with Rev. Roger Williams who was then a puritan minister, proposed that women wear veils, but that restriction was discarded by the General Court because the women would have rebelled against their husbands. (You think??)  

Anne Dudley Bradstreet
 Anne Dudley Bradstreet, America’s first poetess and daughter of the ultra-conservative Thomas Dudley, wore the clothing of a virtuous matron of high status, blackest black with plain collar and cuffs.

Who decided what women wore? Men. But who wore lace collars and cravats and elaborate periwigs for official occasions? Men. They pointed their beards as King Charles did, and dandified their mustaches, curled their long hair. Their silk brocade waistcoats (vests) were richly decorated with embroidery, and their wives (including Mrs. Endecott) employed lace makers to make collars for them. Colorful ribbon rosettes tied their breeches at the knee, and tied their shoes.

In 1692, Rev. John Cotton's grandson, Cotton Mather (who wore a wig like his grandfather and all men of standing in the community), preached and then published a sermon called "Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion." You can be quite sure that Rev. Mather was not exactly for ornaments! The sermon propounded, "If a woman spends more time in dressing than in praying or in working out her own salvation, her dress is but the snare of her soul."  By Mather’s time, the churches had an attendance very similar to today’s mainline churches: two-thirds of the members were middle-aged and older women. So perhaps the audience he intended to reach didn’t get the memo. 
Rev. John Cotton, with his
research books and Bible.

You may have read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, in which a woman of Governor Endecott's Salem was forced to wear a scarlet A for Adulteress. But did you know that in 1634, Robert Cole, “having been oft punished for drunkenness, was now ordered to wear a red D about his neck for a year.” There’s no record whether his scarlet letter cured his alcoholism.

In her presentation of herself and her family, a woman had to tread a narrow course. She was expected to dress to meet her husband’s social status. A goldsmith’s or tailor’s wife should enhance her husband’s reputation by showing that her husband was successful and popular in his trade, but she should never “get above her station” by dressing like the nobility, even if she could afford it. And she was expected to show her husband’s (not her) godliness by her manner of dress and behavior.  

Most clothes for everyday work in the home, shop, or garden were primary-colored, homespun, calico print, or brown, not the severe black and white that’s been depicted in illustrations of the Pilgrims or the first colonists. Portraits were expensive, and only depicted the highest-income or most-influential colonists, who wore black, an expensive, high-status color, with white collars, cuffs, or shirts, and no jewelry for either gender.  

How did Mary Dyer appear to her associates in England and America? 
There are no portraits of Mary Dyer made in her lifetime, and no descriptions of her clothing styles. But because of her status as wife of a merchant and government official, we may be confident that she was well-dressed for each occasion, and current in fashions.When she became a Quaker, sometime in the last five to seven years of her life, she probably adopted plainer clothing, but still of high-quality material.

Here is the way Mary was described by observers:
  • a person of no mean [inferior or low-class] extract or parentage
  • possessing a piercing [perceptive, acute] knowledge of many things
  • comely [pleasing in appearance] stature
  • comely countenance [facial appearance]
  • wonderful sweet and pleasant discourse
  • fit for great affairs
  • comely, grave [grounded and dignified] woman
  • having a husband of great estate [political/social class, or wealth]
  • a mother of children [eight pregnancies, six living children]
  • goodly personage [distinction, importance]
  • one of a good report [reputation]
  • very proper [appropriate, fit, suitable]
  • very fair [pretty, comely, lovely, blond, pale] woman

This suggests that Mary dressed carefully and appropriately, in what men perceived as a modest, Christian way. But it wasn’t her clothing that defined her. She was noted for her lovely character and demeanor. Surely that was the sort of thing the apostles envisioned when they counseled women to let their beauty come from godliness.

I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it. 1 Timothy 2:9-10

In the end, which is more important—that we know if Mary Dyer had blond or brown hair, if she had large green eyes, a delicate nose, or full lips, or that she was admired for the beauty of who she was and how her selfless actions influenced people for centuries to come?

Click HERE for images of clothing worn in the 1630s through 1650s, during Mary Dyer’s adulthood. 

When I decided on cover art for my biographical novels about the Dyers, I chose details of two Jan Vermeer paintings to depict Mary Dyer reading and writing. Vermeer's paintings were made in the Netherlands during the last few years of Mary's life.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Little Ice Age: coldest in 17th century

© 2011 Christy K. Robinson 

Rubens: The Fur Cloak, about
1636-1639. His model
was Helena, his wife.
Is there global cooling in our future? Scientists are predicting a period of less solar activity, which could be a sign of temporary cooling, but warn that global warming as a trend is a fact that's here to stay.

Our ancestors survived conditions with considerably less resources than we have available. There was no central heating in their homes and shops, of course, and fuel (peat, coal, and wood) was just as expensive, or more so, as the fuels we consume today. Most people just couldn’t afford the luxury of warmth in winter. They didn’t change clothes or bathe much, especially in cold weather when they’d have to haul and heat water. They shared beds near a kitchen hearth or a chimney column if on an upper floor.

Family size burgeoned during the global temperature dip of the 16th and 17th centuries: maybe the long, freezing nights were not all that boring. Certainly, a number of family members of William and Mary Barrett Dyer had birthdays in September through December. So we can make an educated guess about what happened during the preceding January, February, and March deep freezes. It didn't hurt that the Puritans took the "Be fruitful and multiply" command from Creation very seriously.

The Little Ice Age, from about 1317-1800, began with catastrophic floods, crop failure, and domestic animal deaths (which brought on economic depression), harsh winters—and starvation. Epidemics raged unchecked, and millions died in the plague outbreak in 1348-1350. Because so many laborers (peasants tied to the land, who owed service to their landlords) died, cathedral and castle building ground to a halt for years. It may have begun in an active period of vulcanism in the 13th century that resulted in worldwide ash and dust distribution, which led to rapid climate cooling.

Iceland surrounded by icebergs, 17th century
Of course our ancestors knew nothing about it, but they experienced the effects of a plunge in sunspot activity in the 1600s, which corresponded with the coldest years of the Little Ice Age. Specifically during Mary Dyer’s lifetime, 1611-1660, there was the time of famines, waves of plague and other epidemics across Europe, the Thirty Years War, the Great Migration to America, the English Civil War, and the explosion of African slave trade to the Americas and Europe. On America’s east coast, there were harvest failures, starvation, epidemics of smallpox and yellow fever, and pest plagues. Iceland’s ports were ice-bound by miles for several years, and trade and passenger shipping from Europe was forced far south to avoid sea ice. Boston Harbor's sea water froze over for more than a mile out, hard enough to walk on, for two weeks at a time. See "Boston snowpocalypses of 1638" in this blog.

 Journal of Governor John Winthrop—January 1638 (when the Dyers were still living in Boston but preparing to move to Portsmouth, Rhode Island):  
“About thirty persons of Boston going out in a fair day to Spectacle Island to cut wood, (the town being in great want thereof,) the next night the wind rose so high at N.E. with snow, and after at N.W. for two days, and then it froze so hard, as the bay was all frozen up, save a little channel. In this twelve of them gate to the Governor’s Garden [an island], and seven more were carried in the ice in a small skiff out at Broad Sound, and kept among Brewster’s Rocks, without food or fire, two days, and then the wind forbearing, they gate to Pull-in Point, to a little house there of Mr. Aspenwall’s. Three of them got home the next day over the ice, but their hands and feet frozen. Some lost their fingers and toes, and one died. The rest went from Spectacle Island to the main, but two of them fell into the ice, yet recovered again. In this extremity of weather, a small pinnace was cast away upon Long Island [in Boston Harbor] by Natascott, but the men were saved and came home upon the ice.”  

Little Ice Age severity, AD1000-2000
 The Little Ice Age “peaked” in Mary Barrett Dyer’s lifetime—the coldest years in many centuries were those she spent in colonial America. This graph shows the severity of winters in Europe and North America from 1000-2000 AD. The absolute coldest period, 1600-1675, coincides with William and Mary Dyer’s life spans.

The Dyers lived in Boston from 1635 to the spring of 1638, then co-founded Portsmouth, Rhode Island, about 60 miles away. One year later, they co-founded the city of Newport, Rhode Island, where they developed a large farm and the seaport.

When Mary Dyer was making a winter trip back to America after several years in England, her ship diverted to Barbados because of severe storms. From a letter written in Barbados on Feb 25, 1657:
“A ship came in hither, which was going to New England, but the storms were so violent that they were forced to come hither, [until] the winter there was nearly over. In this ship were two Friends, Anne Burden of Bristol, and one Mary Dyer from London; both lived in New England formerly, and were members cast out of their [Puritan] churches. Mary goes to her husband who lives upon Rhode Island...”

London's Thames River frozen, 1684
 A NASA website says, “During the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, from 1645 to 1715, there is believed to have been a decrease in the total energy output from the Sun, as indicated by little or no sunspot activity. Known as the Maunder Minimum, astronomers of the time observed only about 50 sunspots for a 30-year period as opposed to a more typical 40-50,000 spots. The Sun normally shows signs of variability, such as its eleven-year sunspot cycle. Within that time, it goes from a minimum to a maximum period of activity represented by a peak in sunspots and flare activity.”

More from NASA: “Between the mid-1600s and the early 1700s the Earth’s surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere appear to have been at or near their lowest values of the last millennium. European winter temperatures over that time period were reduced by 1.8 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1-1.5 Celsius). This cool down is evident through derived temperature readings from tree rings and ice cores, and in historical temperature records, as gathered by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Virginia.”

More articles on the solar minimum:
Huffington Post 
The New American
LA Times
Climate Science International

Scientists say that global warming is already here and will continue to worsen, even if the sun goes quiet for a short period. 

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click a highlighted title):

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Goodnight sun: Scientists predict sunspots might disappear for years
By: Associated Press
Updated June 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - The sun is heading into an unusual and extended hibernation, scientists predict. Around 2020, sunspots may disappear for years, maybe decades.

But scientists say it is nothing to worry about. Solar storm activity has little to do with life-giving light and warmth from the sun. The effects from a calmer sun are mostly good.

There’d be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems. And it might mean a little less increase in global warming. It’s happened before, but not for a couple centuries.

“The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show,” said National Solar Observatory associate director Frank Hill, the lead author of a scientific presentation at a solar physics conference in New Mexico.

Scientists don’t know why the sun is going quiet. But all the signs are there. Hill and colleagues based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams: Weakening sunspots, fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun’s corona and a disappearing solar jet stream.

Those three cues show, “there’s a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover,” said Richard Altrock, an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory and study co-author.

The prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020. Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots -- higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots.

The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth. Every 22 years, the sun’s magnetic field switches north and south, creating an 11-year sunspot cycle. At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites.

Earlier this month, David Hathaway, NASA’s top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century. Hathaway is not part of Tuesday’s [June 14, 2011] prediction.

Altrock also thinks the current cycle won’t have much solar activity. He tracks streamers from the solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere seen during eclipses. The streamers normally get busy around the sun’s poles a few years before peak solar storm activity. That “rush to the poles” would have happened by now, but it hasn’t and there’s no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said.

Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory, another study co-author, said sunspot magnetic fields have been steadily decreasing in strength since 1998. If they continue on the current pace, their magnetic fields will be too weak to become spots as of 2022 or so, he said.

Jet streams on the sun’s surface and below are also early indicators of solar storm activity, and they haven’t formed yet for the 2020 cycle. That indicates that there will be little or delayed activity in that cycle, said Hill, who tracks jet streams.

“People shouldn’t be scared of this,” said David McComas, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, who wasn’t part of the team. “This is about the magnetic field and the ionized gas coming out of the sun. It’s a reduction in that, not the light and the heat.”

There are questions about what this means for Earth’s climate. Three times in the past the regular 11-year solar cycle has gone on an extended vacation -- at the same time as cool periods on Earth.

Skeptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists. The Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, said there could be small temperature effects, but they are far weaker than the strength of man-made global warming from carbon dioxide and methane. He noted that in 2010, when solar activity was mostly absent, Earth tied for its hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping.

Hill and colleagues wouldn’t discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.

“If our predictions are true, we’ll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,” Hill said.

Emerging from the solar minimum in 2020--article from NASA and NOAA. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The great New England quake of 1638

Notice the 1638 date, with the epicenter in New Hampshire.
This is the quake connected with Hutchinson and Dyer!
© 2011 Christy K Robinson

The Hutchinsonians (followers of Anne Marbury Hutchinson’s religious faction) had been in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, for a month or two after having been exiled from Massachusetts Bay Colony. On June 1, 1638, at 2:00 pm, when New England was enjoying a lovely, sunny day, an earthquake struck New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The epicenter was in New Hampshire, and of about 6.5 - 7.0 magnitude, according to modern seismologists, based on its duration of four minutes. There was a large aftershock about 30 minutes after the main shock, and many more tremors before the earth stilled about three weeks later—just in time for a full eclipse of the moon, which showed itself a dried-blood color on June 25, 1638. 

The moon turning to blood is an apocalyptic sign. Revelation 6:12 describes the end-times that the Puritans believed were upon them, "and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood."

Another prophecy of the end was in Acts of the Apostles 2:20-21:  “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

There are numerous references to earthquakes, or the sun, moon, and stars in biblical prophecies, as being heralds of "the day of the Lord," the apocalypse, or the second coming of Christ.

The hand of God (right) animates Adam.
Earthquakes and other natural phenomena (comets, eclipses, great storms, famines, epidemics, plagues of pests) were considered to be direct messages from the hand of God, to display his displeasure at human sinfulness. In the case of the 1638 earthquake, those recording the history believed they were of God’s Elect (people set apart to be saved from wrath and hell), so the message must be for someone else—especially the “someones” who followed Anne Hutchinson in exile to Rhode Island (between 50 and 75 families, including William and Mary Dyer). The “someones” who had defied Massachusetts Bay laws to speak and believe as God led them, instead of conforming to the theocratic, autocratic government there. The “someones” who, after repeated “loving demonstrations” of their error, had refused to recant. Well, then, bring on the judgment for those damned heretics!

We have a very good idea of what Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer were doing at the time of the earthquake, thanks to Gov. John Winthrop, who tells us that they were having a prayer meeting, as they’d done for several years in Boston. When the quake struck (no doubt amplified by the marshes and sand of the island, but causing no permanent damage because the settlers were housed in wigwams while building their homes), the Hutchinsonians were convinced that just as on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, they were being blessed and honored by the descent of the Holy Spirit, giving them spiritual gifts in confirmation that they were firmly set in God’s will.

Perception of curse or blessing depends on where you stand! 

There are several contemporary descriptions of the event.

William Bradford was the governor of the Pilgrims’ Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.
William Bradford, Morison Edition, Chapter 29, pp. 302-303:
This year, about the first or second of June, was a great and fearful earthquake. It was in this place heard before it was felt. It came with a rumbling noise or low murmur, like unto remote thunder. It came from the northward and passed southward; as the noise approached nearer, the earth began to shake and came at length with that violence as caused platters, dishes and suchlike things as stood upon shelves, to clatter and fall down. Yea, persons were afraid of the houses themselves. It so fell out that at the same time divers of the chief of this town were met together at one house, conferring with some of their friends that were upon their removal from the place, as if the Lord would hereby show the signs of His displeasure, in their shaking a-pieces and removals one from the other. However, it was very terrible for the time, and as the men were talking in the house, some women and others were without the doors, and the earth shook with that violence as they could not stand without catching hold of the posts and pales that stood next to them. And about half an hour or less came another noise and shaking, but neither so loud or strong as the former, but quickly passed over so it ceased. It was not only on the seacoast, but the Indians felt it within land, and some ships that were upon the coast were shaken by it.”
Seismograph of 7.0 quake

Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony, who had been extremely ill and nearly died during the month of May, recorded in his journal: 
--June 1. Between three and four in the afternoon, being clear, warm weather, the wind westerly, there was a great earthquake. It came with a noise like a continued thunder or the rattling of coaches in London, but was presently gone. It was at Connecticut, at Narragansett, at Pascataquack [Piscataqua River, the boundary between New Hampshire and Maine], and all the parts round about. It shook the ships, which rode in the harbor, and all the islands, etc. The noise and the shakings continued about four minutes. The earth was unquiet twenty days after, by times.  

Winthrop also recorded a hearsay account of the earthquake in Rhode Island. He may have received information from Dr. John Clarke, or seen a letter from William Hutchinson to Rev. John Cotton. Winthrop wrote in April 1639:
"On the first of June 1638, there was an earthquake which continued about four minutes and left the earth in an unquiet condition for twenty days afterwards. Mrs. Hutchinson and some of her adherents happened to be at prayer when the earthquake was at Aquiday [Portsmouth, Rhode Island], etc., and the house being shaken thereby, they were persuaded, (and boasted of it,) that the Holy Ghost did shake it in coming down upon them, as he did upon the apostles" [at Pentecost; Easter had been on April 4, so Pentecost would have been on or just before June 1—not that anyone but Catholics celebrated the church festivals at that time!] 

Letter from Rev. Roger Williams of Providence, Rhode Island
For his Much Honored Mr. Governor, John Winthrop.
Providence, [June, 1638.]
 SIR,—I sometimes fear that my lines are as thick and over busy as the musketoes, &c., but your wisdom will connive, and your love will cover, &c. Two things at present for information. First in the affairs of the Most High; his late dreadful voice and hand: that audible and sensible voice, the Earthquake. All these parts felt it, (whether beyond the Narragansett I yet learn not), for myself I scarce perceived ought but a kind of thunder and a gentle moving, &c., and yet it was no more this way to many of our own and the natives’ apprehensions, and but one sudden short motion. The younger natives are ignorant of the like: but the elder inform me that this is the fifth within these four score years in the land: the first about three score and ten years since [1568]: the second some three score and four years since [1574], the third some fifty-four years since [1584], the fourth some forty-six since [1592]: and they always observed either plague or pox or some other epidemical disease followed; three, four or five years after the Earthquake, (or Naunaumemoauke, as they speak). He be mercifully pleased himself to interpret and open his own riddles, (and grant if it be pleasing in his eyes) it may not be for destruction, and but (as the Earthquake before the Jailor’s conversion) a means of shaking and turning of all hearts, (which are his,) English or Indian, to him. To further this (if the Lord please) the Earthquake sensibly took about a thousand of the natives in a most solemn meeting for play, &c.

1727 quake sermon shows connection
between heaven and earth

Wonder-working providence of Sions Saviour in New England, Volume 2
By Rev. Edward Johnson
Chap. XII.
OF the great Earthquake in New England, and of the wofull end of some erronious persons, with the first foundation of Harverd Colledge.
This yeare, the first day of the Fourth Month [June], about two of the clock in the after-noone, the Lord caus'd a great and terrible Earth-quake, which was generall throughout all the English Plantations; the motion of the Earth was such, that it caused divers men (that had never knowne an Earth-quake before) being at worke in the Fields, to cast downe their working tooles, and run with gastly terrified lookes, to the next company they could meet withall; it came from the Westerne and uninhabited parts of this Wildemesse…

Travels in New England and New-York
 By Timothy Dwight, 1822
There are eight earthquakes recorded in the history of New England. The first of them was on the 1st day of June, 1638, and is styled by Dr. Trumbull, "a great and memorable earthquake." His account of it is the following:—" It came with a report like continued thunder, or the rattling of numerous coaches upon a paved street. The shock was so great, that in many places the tops of the chimnies were thrown down, and the pewter fell from the shelves. It shook the waters and ships in the harbours, and all the adjacent islands. The duration of the sound and tremor was about four minutes. The earth at turns was unquiet for nearly twenty days. The weather was clear, the wind westerly, and the course of the earthquake from west to east."

Special Publication No. 149
1638. June 1 or 3. This seems to have been quite a violent shock. At Plymouth, Mass., people had to hold on to objects to keep from falling. Ships at sea were shaken. It was felt in Connecticut and at Narragansett.  

New England earthquake monitor:
For more information on New England earthquakes, click HERE.   

This blog article appears as a source to an article of the British Astronomical Association historical section newsletter, Spring 2013.   “Jeremiah Horrocks and New England,” by Mike Frost.

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):  

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)