If you're moderately aware of the stories making news around the world, you are probably familiar with the name Copiapó.
It is the place where the recent global telenovela about 33 miners trapped - and then spectacularly rescued -in the copper mine of San Jose took place.
It turns out, however, that Copiapó had made headlines once before, more than 140 years ago.
On March 18th, 1868, the local newspaper El Constituyente published the contents of a letter received by the editors two days earlier.
It spoke of an unidentified flying object - at first thought to be a huge bird - that caused significant terror and consternation among those who saw it.
Incredibly, the letter was signed by the director of the local copper mine (even more incredibly called "Fantasma" - 'phantom', 'apparition'), for it was there that the "bird" appeared.
The letter claimed that the thing was witnessed, shortly after 17:00 in the evening, by the miners who had just finished their shift.
If you read Spanish, you're in luck.
Here is a very nice article about it, complete with an artistic rendition of the "bird" and facsimile of the article. (A facsimile of the letter would have been even nicer, but I doubt it still exists.)
And here is a brief description of it, published in the July 1868 issue of The Zoologist:
"A STRANGE BIRD"Copiapo, Chile, April 1868:
"Yesterday, at about five o'clock in the afternoon when the daily labours in this mine were over, and all the workmen were together awaiting their supper, we saw coming through the air, from the side of The Ternera a gigantic bird, which at first sight we took for one of the clouds then partially darkening the atmosphere, supposing it to have been separated from the rest by the wind.
Its course was from north—west to south—east; its flight was rapid and in a straight line. As it was passing a short distance above our heads we could mark the strange formation of its body.Its immense wings were clothed with something resembling the thick and stout bristles of a boar, while on its body, elongated like that of a serpent, we could only see brilliant scales which clashed together with metallic sound as the strange animal turned its body in its flight."
Very interesting, especially if you're into UFOs (whatever they are in each case).
I am not.
I have seen many strange things in the sky myself, and I wouldn't be surprised at all even if a massive "spaceship" appeared.
It's just that I do not dwell on this particular modern mystery.
Why am I writing about it, then - and in a blog dedicated to dimensional anomalies, to boot?
Because of an idle thought - and it really is no more than that - that occurred to me as I was reading the report about that 1868 vision at Copiapó.
Could it be that the miners of 1868 saw this?
A Chilean Army helicopter carrying the rescued miners to the hospital
(October 13, 2010).
(October 13, 2010).
"... its flight was rapid and in a straight line... On its body, elongated like that of a serpent, we could only see brilliant scales which clashed together with metallic sound as the strange animal turned its body in its flight."