Massive Blocks Of Ice From Nowhere
By James Donahue
Somewhere along my journalistic career I got interested in Great Lakes shipwreck lore and spent
time combing through old news clippings in dusty libraries between Buffalo and Duluth.
In my research I started collecting stories about strange and unexplained happenings that I thought
of one day condensing into a book. One of the stories was about an event that happened to several vessels just off the coast
of Chicago one summer afternoon in the late 19th Century. They were all slammed by a storm of giant blocks of ice that fell
out of a cloudless sky.
While nobody was apparently hurt, the sailors that came into port were anxious to tell their stories,
show the damage to deck and sail, and when they were close enough, bring ashore still unmelted pieces of the ice as proof
that it really happened.
I thought of that old story when I noticed accounts in Internet news links about some contemporary falls of large chunks of ice.
In January, 2002, priests at the Salesian monastery in L'Aguila, Italy, heard a loud noise and found
a large chunk of ice, weighing over four pounds, on their patio. That same day a man was reportedly struck on the head by
a two-pound block of ice from the sky in Ancona, Italy.
The report said that within a 10-day period, that same month, more than a dozen reports were received
about large pieces of ice, some as large as basketballs and weighing up to nine pounds, fell in various locations in Spain.
In Surrey, England, a man said he was walking through a park when he leard a shistling sound overhead.
Seconds later a large hunk of ice fell out of a clear blue sky and crashed into the soft ground, shattering into pieces over
a 50-foot-wide area. The man said the ice dug a hole a foot deep into the earth.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a chunk of ice "half the size of a car" fell out of the sky, ripped
through the roof of an automobile dealership, and flattened the roof of a new car parked inside the building. A spokesman
for the fire department said the ice put a three-foot hole in the roof. Like the other falls, this one occurred in January,
Theories as to the origin of the big ice blocks have ranged from the effects of global warming to
discharges of waste water from aircraft flying high overhead. But an examination of the ice that fell last year in Italy and
Spain revealed that is was comprised of pure and nearly distilled water.
The global warming theory also is ruled out by the stories that have been passed down to us from
the past. Like my old news clipping from the boat captains on the Great Lakes in the 1880s.
There have been some spectacular ice falls in the past.
In the late 1700s, a chuck of ice as big as an elephant reportedly fell on Seringapatam, India.
It was so large it took three days to melt.
In 1802, a lump of ice fell in Hungary that had a volume of 18 cubic feet.
In 1849, a block of ice that was estimated to weigh a half a ton fell on the Balvullich farm in
Ord, Scotland. It measured about 20 feet in diameter. Observers said it was crystal clear, although made up of many cubes
and diamond-shaped hunks of ice that seemed to be fused together.
A carpenter working on a roof in Kempton, West Germany in 1951 was struck and killed by a 6-foot
long rod of solid ice.
Edwin Groff of Bernville, Pennsylvania watched as a 50-pound, white globe of ice crashed on his
property in 1957. A few seconds later, a second ball of ice, half the size of the first, smashed into his flower bed a few
yards from where he was standing.
The roof of the Phillips Petroleum Plant in Woods Cross, Utah was punctured by a 50-pound block
of ice in 1965.
In October 1991, a 20-pound mass of ice smashed through the roof and landed in the kitchen at the
home of Mrs. Mavis Anderson in West Yorkshire, England.
Then on June 26, 1985, a 1,500-pound sheet of ice dropped into the back hard at a home in Hartford,
Connecticut. David Menke, of the Copernican Observatory and Planetarium, told reporters the ice was about six feet long and
eight inches thick. He said a young boy was playing nearby but was not hurt.
So is there any point to this story? No more than there seems to be a point to the falling
ice. It has remained a mystery for as long as it has been happening.