300+ Reindeer Killed in Lightning Strike in Norway

Nature is a serious lady.  This is a bummer of a story, but it shows the power that Mother Nature harnesses with respect to light, in this case in the form of lightning.


Last Friday (26 August 2016) in a large thunderstorm system in a private game reserve in Norway, an estimated 323 reindeer were killed in a lightning strike.  From WaPo reporter Karin Brulliard on the story:

The 323 reindeer were killed by lightning Friday, the agency said, in a rare natural massacre that counts as the deadliest lightning strike on record. It took place in a private hunting area of the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in central southern Norway, a verdant and frigid tableau of streams, rocks and glaciers that is home to one of the largest reindeer herds in Europe.

Officials told Agence France-Presse that a gamekeeper stumbled upon the eerie scene Friday and that 70 young reindeer were among the victims. Five animals had to be euthanized, said officials, who told the news service that they were not sure what they would do with the bodies. The gamekeeper told NTB, the Norwegian news service, that samples of the carcasses were sent to a state veterinary institute, which would officially determine the cause of death.
“We’ve never seen anything like this on this scale,” agency official Kjartan Knutsen said.” There were very strong storms in the area on Friday. The animals stay close together in bad weather and these ones were hit by lightning.”

There is some flyover video of the scene — it’s not gruesome or bloody or anything, but please know it’s ghastly:

Nature, you are a cruel mistress sometimes, huh.

Angela Chen, science writer for The Verge, et al, interviewed John Jensenius at NOAA to talk about the phenomenon of mass animal deaths attributed to lightning strikes like this.  Angela, this was a great read!  Y’all need to check out her writing!

Angela Chen:
First, how likely is it that it really was lightning that killed those reindeer? Is there a way to know without having seen the strike directly?

John Jensenius:
It isn’t that unusual to see farm animals, or wild animals such as reindeer, being killed by lightning. Of course, 323 is a rather large number, though we’ve seen reports of 654 sheep being killed in one spot.

Animals do tend to group together in storms and huddle under trees. If lightning strikes the tree or somewhere nearby, the entire group can be killed. We don’t know how common this is because it’s hard to track, though usually it’s herds of 10 or 20 animals that get killed.

In the case where the animals are huddling under a tree, oftentimes you’ll see some visible signs on the tree, though you may not see any visible signs on the animals themselves. In this case, it’s hard to know where lightning struck based on the pictures, but there may be an animal among the dead animals that has visible signs, like a bit of charring on the skin.

Angela Chen:
How did lightning kill all of those reindeer at once? Did they need to be touching for this to happen?

John Jensenius:
When animals or people are in groups, most are being killed by the ground current. First, there’s a direct strike – this is what most people think of when they think of lightning – that hits the tree or maybe the ground nearby. The energy then spreads along the ground surface, and if you’re anywhere near that lightning strike, you absorb it and get shocked.

Lightning goes up one leg and down another. Animals are more vulnerable because their legs are spread out more, so the ground currents travel more easily in their bodies. It doesn’t matter if they’re touching, or exactly how close they are, it matters that they were all in the area hit by lightning. Ground currents are the thing that’s responsible for the most lightning deaths and injuries in both people and animals.

Angela Chen:
How far can the ground current travel? When are you safe?

John Jensenius:
That’s one question we’re often asked, and it’s a difficult question because it depends on a lot of factors, including the strength of the actual lightning strike.

In this case, the animals seem to be in an area that was 50 to 80 feet in diameter and on a hillside, which gives you some idea that lightning can travel a good distance and still be deadly. Lightning doesn’t always travel deep into the ground.


Angela Chen:
What exactly is it about lightning that kills these animals?

John Jensenius:
It’s the electricity going into your body. It passes through the nervous system and your nerves, and the deadly part is that it stops the heart. In the case of people, many can be revived with CPR if tended to immediately but with reindeer, it just would have stopped their hearts.

Angela Chen:
What are some other types of lightning besides the ground current and the direct strike?

John Jensenius:
There’s the side flash. That’s when an animal or person is standing close to the tree, the tree is hit by lightning, and then the lightning jumps from tree to person or animal. The side flash usually kills one or a small number of animals, not large ones like with ground currents.

There’s also something called a “wall conduction,” which is when something plugged into the wall is a direct connection to a wire outside. So if the wire outside is struck, the lightning will follow the wire and you can be shocked.

Angela Chen:
Are lightning fatalities, in people at least, going down?

John Jensenius:
Yes, they’ve been dropping over recent years. If you go back over the 1930s and 1940s, we had about 300 to 400 people killed every year in the United States. Nowadays, our 10-year average is about 31 people per year. This year so far we’ve had 32.


Research and hat tips:

Angela Chen, of course!



15,000 Volt Fractal Madness – Lightning on Wood as Art

finished board

I saw this a few days ago, and I was blown away by it’s awesomesaucedness.

That’s right, awesome-sauced-ness.

Meet Melanie Hoff, a woman who figured out that 15,000 volts attached to a wood panel will result in a beautiful wood erosion technique that is really quite stunning:

15,000 Volts from Melanie Hoff on Vimeo.

From the video:

High voltage wood erosion.

Soundtrack: Aire De Zamba by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

To learn when wood pieces will be available to buy, send me a message with your email or follow me on twitter.

The finished board:

What Melanie is doing here is creating what we call a Lichtenberg figure, which is what happens on occasion when high voltage bursts of electricity run through some sort of insulating medium.  This could be glass, acrylic, wood (in Melanie’s case, or even skin, in the case of human lighting strikes.  Like this:


Also, here’s the case of around two million volts having been passed through a block of acrylic.  Notice the three-dimensionality of this work!


Wow.  I wonder what this would look like cranked up to, say, 100,000 voltsYeah, that’s why I don’t play with electricity outside of the confines of distribution equipment.  Consequently it’s also why I don’t ride a motorcycle or 4-wheeler.  I’d give myself a lifespan of about 3 weeks.

Check out Melanie’s other works, Melanie’s Twitter feed, and Melanie’s Squarespace page!  Cool stuff!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the non-Melanie images!

San Francisco Bay Bridge Lightning!

This image of our friend electricity was so neat I had to share! Phil McGrew took out this photo in a single 20-second exposure during one of the recent thunderstorms in beautiful San Francisco.

The Lightning Fantastic, Oklahoma City, August 8, 2011

I drove back from Arlington, Texas last night.  Long story short, I left around 8pm last night, and I spent the entire three hour drive just completely enamored with the sky lighting up with huge bolts of lightning.  I remembered seeing the Trinity test video, and so many other night-based explosions in movies; the sky last night reminded me of that type of phenomenon.  So many bolts of lightning piercing the darkness, it was just like watching that scene in the newest Harry Potter when all of the folks are casting the spells over the school campus.  Overwhelming; beautiful.

(Sorry folks, I’m not a Harry Potter person, I just saw the one…)

I got home and made this video, since I was blessed AGAIN with the lack of tiredness in my body after that drive.  I took about a half hour’s worth of lightning strikes in downtown and condensed them down to about two minutes.  I hope you enjoy!  I’m a great big goofball, just be forewarned.

The Lightning Fantastic in Oklahoma City, August 8, 2011 from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

Thanks, NatGeo and Tal Bachman!

Lightning in Oklahoma City – from the World HQ

For the first time in my life, I live in an apartment tower.  I’ve lived in apartments before, of course, but never anywhere that had floors above the second or third floor.  I’m on the thirteenth floor, with an amazing view of downtown Oklahoma City.

I have found a new kind of peace with this kind of view – when I make it home early enough that the sun is still up, it is amazing to watch the city get ready for the night time by turning on architectural illumination.  The city has a soul, and you see it at night when it is shining.

Another amazing sight at this vantage is storms.  Oh holy crap do I love storms and lightning – and Oklahoma City is right in that tornado-y, ass-kicking thunderstorms and hail alley of the country.  A few weeks ago we had a string of days that had afternoon thunderstorms – and I had my camera on the tripod!

Check these out – I hope it is a good start to your morning!

and I kid you not, when this wave was over, the freaking sun popped out, and BOOM – DOUBLE RAINBOW.


I was checking out some videos of lightning because, well, lightning is cooler than buttered popcorn, and I found this video.

Also, just be forewarned, the guy in the video uses the eff word a few times on the video, so if you’re at work, you might wanna turn the volume down a bit or put on headphones.

This seriously scared the crap out of me, so if you’re on a pacemaker, crank that sucker up to 11:

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

What the – who’s that guy?  Is that Benjamin Franklin?  Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Benjamin Franklin!


Benny Franklin (January 17, 1706 to April 17, 1790) was technically born yesterday, but it was Sunday – so not as many people would have been able to say “WHASSUP BIRTHDAY BOY” had I posted this yesterday.

Good ol’ Benny Franklin is one of a solid handful of light and electricity contributors that were born in the month of January – so being as I share the birthday month with this monster of brainpower, it’s an honor to proclaim that, were you still alive Benny Boy, I’d surely buy you a Shiner Bock and talk of good times with you on your birthday!


For those of you who don’t know who Benjamin Franklin was (?!), this dude made some really heavy contributions to light, electricity, and our society in general.  I get the feeling he’d be turning over in his grave like chicken-on-a-stick from the Texas State Fair if he saw what we’ve done to his glorious ideals of a country, but the man has lots to be proud of.  Benny Franklin can take credit for many things, including:

  • signing the Declaration of Independence, being a Founding Father of the US of A
  • creating Daylight Savings Time, giving us an extra hour of daylight when it’s in effect and saving money on candles
    (he actually theorized that if all of the late-night party animals in Paris would work during the day and sleep at night, they’d save 64 million pounds of candle wax)
  • messing around with optics and creating bifocal glasses.  It was said that he invented them so he “could watch the girls across the room while watching the one close to him.”  Benny, you dog!
  • creating a “lightning rod” that grounded lightning strikes and helped adult males not hide under their bed for fear of “Jobe’s Thunderbolts”
  • coining lots of electrical terms that still stick to the subject, like positive and negative, battery, conductor, and capacitor
  • creating a Fire Department
  • being an all-around flirty dude

Now of course this is not an all-inclusive list, but you get the picture.  Ben Franklin was one Renaissance Man of a guy.  Happy (belated Birthday, Benny Franklin!  Thanks for helping to create America, too!


Thanks Franklin Resources, US History, Wikipedia, and HistoryNet!


The Big Picture blog has a huge post full of beautiful lightning shots.  Take a moment and check it out!  Here are three of my favorites from the post – come on, everyone loves lightning!




Arc Attack and Their Enormous Musical Tesla Coils


Have you ever heard of Arc Attack?  From Arc Attack’s “about” page:

Creators of the original Singing Tesla Coils, the crew of ArcAttack uses high tech wizardry to present music in a whole new light.

ArcAttack employs a unique DJ set up of their own creation (an HVDJ set up) to generate an ‘electrifying’ audio visual performance. The HVDJ pumps music through a PA System while two specially designed DRSSTC’s (Dual-Resonant Solid State Tesla Coils) act as separate synchronized instruments.

These high tech machines produce an electrical arc similar to a continuous lightning bolt which put out a crisply distorted square wave sound reminiscent of the early days of synthesizers. The music consists of original highly dance-able electronic compositions that sometimes incorporates themes or dub of popular songs.

Joe DiPrima and Oliver Greaves are the masterminds behind the design and construction of the Tesla Coils while the music is developed by John DiPrima and Tony Smith.

These things are crazy – Tesla Coils that produce sound as well as the enormous bolts of lightning that they’re known for producing.  Arc Attack has turned this into a band!  The stuff is pretty cool, if I do say so myself.Check out these videos, I promise they’re worth it.

Thanks, Rhizome!