Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mystery boom rattles South Carolina Coast!

KIAWAH ISLAND -- The first boom sounded like thunder. The second shook windows. The third shook an entire house. Then they quieted, mysteriously.

The series of booms were reported Monday afternoon by people on Kiawah and Johns islands and Isle of Palms. At least three booms, each more intense than the last, occurred within 15 minutes starting about 3:30 p.m.

"There's another one. The third one, just now. It's like thunder getting closer to us, only there's no rumble, just a blast. Have you ever been around dynamite? A pretty good charge when they're blowing up stumps, that's what it's like," said Dwight Ives, who was on Kiawah Island during the booms.

"We felt the house shake," said Art Morgenstern, an island resident.

Seismographs at the College of Charleston did not report any earthquakes, said Erin Beutel, S.C. Earthquake Education and Preparedness director. She suspected sonic booms, but a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort said no F-18s were flying in the area at that time. A public affairs officer for the Charleston Air Force Base said C-17s were operating, but not fast enough to cause sonic booms.

That likely leaves the strange phenomenon of the Seneca Guns, the unexplained booms that have been reported along coasts around the world almost as long as people have lived there. The sound is so close to the blast of a cannon that folk legend in the East says it's made by the guns of Seneca Indians, fired to get revenge on the settlers who displaced them.

The booms have been blamed on gases released from the sea floor, undersea landslides along the Continental Shelf, the echoed sound of distant thunder, lightning-like electrical discharges that don't cause lightning, even meteors crashing into the atmosphere at angles.

But so far, nobody has been able to say for sure what causes them.


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