Appendix 1: Bibliography of observational reports
Anales de la Universidad de Chile, v. 16, Santiago, Universidad de Chile, 1859
Anales de la Universidad de Chile, v. 18, Santiago, Universidad de Chile, 1861
Anales de la Universidad de Chile, v. 19, Santiago, Universidad de Chile, 1861
Journal of Herald’s proceedings in the Coral Sea &c, H.M. Denham (ff.1–188), ADM 55/73, the National Archives of the United Kingdom at Kew
El Mercurio de Valparaíso, 1859-09-02, p. 3
El Mercurio de Valparaíso, 1859-09-05, p. 2
NY Harper’s Weekly, 1859-12-10, p. 787
Appendix 2: English translations of El Mercurio de Valparaíso (MV1 and MV2)
MV1: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, 1859-09-02, p. 3
There are people who say they saw in Valparaíso the same phenomenon that was observed in Santiago on Thursday night. They say the atmosphere was covered by a red cloak like fire.
MV2: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, 1859-09-05, p. 2
Extraordinary phenomenon – It is really interesting the atmospheric phenomenon that was observed yesterday at dawn in Santiago. In this regard, today’s Ferrocarril says:
“Yesterday’s morning, about 1:30 or 2:00, the atmosphere to the south of Santiago was seen extraordinarily illuminated with a bright light, coloured pink, blue and yellow. This strange appearance, as we have said before, kept much of our population alarmed and even shocked, because it is entirely unknown and its cause cannot be explained. Some of the people who witnessed it believed at first that it was a great fire in San Bernardo, whose glow managed to illuminate much of the atmosphere. This phenomenon remained visible for about three hours.
Appendix 3: English translations of the AUC reports
METEOROLOGY–Apparition of an aurora australis in Santiago and Concepción.–by Ramón Briseño
At about 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning of the 2nd of September, we saw the atmosphere, towards the south of both cities, extraordinarily illuminated by a pink, blue, and yellow light, with the shape of a cloud or a globe of marsh fire, which released some kind of flame or vapour and spread out with a clarity similar to that of the Moon, and whose movement was contrary to that of the Earth. This strange meteorological phenomenon, which remained visible for about three hours, did not fail to alarm the population, no doubt for being almost totally unknown in this area. Meanwhile, almost certainly, it was what is called the aurora borealis in the Northern Hemisphere, and in our Hemisphere, we call the aurora australis. (…) (a)
Later, we were informed that the same phenomenon was also seen in Nacimiento.
METEOROLOGY–Data on the aurora polaris in both hemispheres on the night of 2nd September 1859, communicated to the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. (pp. 328–359)
I. Aurora australis observed in Santiago on the morning of 2nd of September 1859 by Mr. Wenceslao Diaz (pp. 330–340)
After moonset, the night stayed in its normal darkness. Then, between 0:30 and 1:00 a.m., it began to appear to the southwest and above the horizon, a red light quite similar to what results in certain circumstances from the decomposition of sunlight, which half an hour later invaded almost all the southern hemisphere of the sky and a great part of the northern hemisphere.
By 2:30 a.m., the phenomenon achieved its maximum development, together with the greatest show of light. Above the hills to the south and to the west of this city, a wide dark band stretched from the SW to the NW, seemingly made of the haze that sometimes arises above the horizon in the coldest nights. The central part of this band, covering ¼ of its length, formed the base of a dark circular segment that seemed of the same nature and whose centre was situated more or less in the direction of the southwest. Over this gloomy part rose an immense luminous arch: its ends coincided with those of the above-mentioned dark band and its circumference disappeared to the east in the Argo Navis constellation, to the north in the Eridanus, and to the west in the constellations of Grus, Sagittarius, Aquila, Lyra, and Sagitta. The colour of the luminous arch, in the part that crowned the dark segment, was of intense carmine, which softened through insensitive gradations until it became red in its central part, becoming a beautiful light pink colour spilling into reddish and whitish shades through the celestial dome. Through this purple transparent gauze, the stars acquired a golden colour, and among them, the brightest were Centaurus and Crucis, Canopus, a few of second magnitude, and the Magellan Clouds. The glow of this phenomenon illuminated the atmosphere with a diffuse light, and the roofs of the buildings were stained as if with the last rays of the evening twilight.
The deepest silence reigned; the sky was completely clear and serene; the stars shone in all their splendour; there was not the slightest gust of wind, and the atmosphere was mild on this November night.
The culminating part of the dark segment was approximately 15º above the horizon, to the west of the magnetic meridian, while that of the luminous arch was below Eridanus.
At 2:25 a.m., the pink colour slowly intensified, but in five minutes it returned in the same way to its first state; shortly after, the same change was repeated, and these alternating changes in colour continued, seeming to have their origin in the dark segment, from where they radiated to the circumference until 4:00 a.m., when the light dimmed and extinguished, obfuscated by the dawn of the new day.
During the persistence of the phenomenon, I observed a declination needle that remained fixed and without any signs of oscillation; I marked its position in order to see later if during the night it had suffered some deviation; but, it continued to point out the same position until 12:00 a.m., when I left this observation.
Identical observations (similar changes in the colours of the aurora) were made by the crew of the brigantine Dart that sailed around latitude 19ºS and longitude 149ºW of Greenwich.
Great has been its (the aurora) extension, as can be deduced from what I have observed; and although we lack the observations that may have been made in the Magellan Strait and in Australia, we must assume their presence in these regions, taking into account the austral situation they occupy. The observers of the Dart observed it all night in the low latitude of 19ºS, and yet nothing appeared in the newspapers of Peru or the states of Mar del Plata (N.B. Argentina and Uruguay).
II. Other data on the same aurora australis in Chile (pp. 340–341)
Data were collected in Santiago by Mr. Carlos Huidobro, from witnesses who observed the aurora: Mr. Domingo Tagle, Mr. Nazario Salas, Mr. Moises del Fierro, and Mr. Fernando de la Plata.
The aurora appeared around 1:00 a.m., beginning to appear towards the southeast part of the horizon, a very light pink light, which was gaining more and more height, and changing in colour from pink to a blood red. Through this light, all the stars could be seen. At about 2:00 a.m., it rose to its maximum height, covering about one-third of the celestial dome above the meridian of Santiago, reaching to the western horizon of this part of the sky. It then remained steady, retaining its fire-red colour, more shadowy in the middle part, and diminishing in intensity on the east and west sides, in such a way that there was nothing left on the horizon but a light pink hue, the same as the hue when it first appeared.
At 3:30 a.m., all this light began to decline towards the west, diminishing slowly in intensity until dawn, after which it took on a whitish colour that was lost in the light of day.
Data collected by Mr. Aníbal Pinto, reported by a trustworthy person who observed this aurora on the plain five leagues north of Yumbel (Latitude of Concepción).
From the point where this person was located, one could see a luminous arch, one of whose stars rested in Antuco (N.B. A volcano to the southeast). The arch ran from east to west along the south horizon. It was formed of a bright red band of a non-dark red, limited in its lower part by a black ribbon approximately 1/30 of the width of the previous ribbon. The intensity of the light of this strip was similar to the moon, although somewhat sheltered. It was observed from 0:00 until after 3:00 a.m. It is assured by the witness that, before seeing the aurora, this part of the sky was dark.
METEOROLOGY–Atmospheric phenomenon occurred in Santiago de Chile the 26th of July, 1861–Communication from priest Enrique Cappelletti, S. J., to the Faculties of Physical Sciences and Medicine in the session of the 10th of September of the same year.
(…) when happened here a few years ago, a similar phenomenon (Enrique Cappelletti uses the resemblance of the phenomenon he saw with the 1859 event to argue that what he saw now was also an aurora) was recognized as an aurora australis, and was seen from Rancagua, which is to the south of Santiago, and people thought it was a fire, and from Santiago it was seen towards the magnetic pole. (…)
Appendix 4: Transcription of HMS Herald's report (pp. 214–216)
On one of these nights (September 2nd) of extreme anxiety under evolutions to “old ones own” in such doubtful waters. –We were beguiled into extra watchfulness by, to us in this region, the unusual appearance of the sky which at one hour after sunset until an hour after midnight presented a ruby tinted field of thin gauzy clouds as if in front of the azure sky, the foot of which was lifted 4º degrees above the horizon while the head of the curtain was elevated 25° degrees; its expanse was from ESE to SSW; all its margins were fleecy, it displayed no varied tints–no golden hues as if of zodiacal order–but as if reflecting a vast conflagration or some active Volcano? Of the later the nearest I knew was that of “Tanna” of the New Hebrides distant 750 miles in line with the left part of the phenomenon from us.
It was a serenely clear night with the moon in her first quarter right opposite descending from an altitude. The uniform ruby tint dissipated rather suddenly at 1 am when the sky became generally charged with threatening clouds which induced reefing our canvas; but neither rain nor boisterous weather ensued throughout the following day. The Barometer which stood at 30.002 at 6 pm rose to 30.048 at midnight and then fell to 30.000 at 1.45 a.m. The temperature of air and sea (75º of Fahrenheit) continued the same throughout.