Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that 232 years ago a strange event occurred that remains shrouded in mystery to this day. On May 19, 1780 the sky turned yellow in New England and Canada, animals ran for cover and darkness descended, causing people to light candles and start to pray. By lunchtime night had fallen. With little scientific knowledge amongst the populace, people were afraid and some lawmakers in Connecticut believed it was the day of judgment. "There are some verses in Matthew that might have led them to believe that this is the second coming of Christ," says historian Mike Dash. "At the time, natural events — even birds fighting in the sky — were a sign of God's intentions. The Dark Day would have seemed like a warning to Man." A solar eclipse can be ruled out as there is a record of when these occur — and they only last for a matter of minutes, there is no record of volcanic activity in 1780 making a huge ash cloud an unlikely explanation, and a meteorite is equally unlikely. Now scientists may have found the answer in the trees. Academics at the University of Missouri's Department of Forestry analyzed tree trunks inland from New England, where westerly prevailing winds would originate and found signs of fire-scarred rings in tree trunks dating back to that period in the area that is today occupied by Algonquin Provincial Park. Eyewitness accounts in New England support the forest fire hypothesis as soot was spotted in rivers, and one letter noted that the air had the "smell of a malt-house or a coal-kiln". Whatever the cause in 1780, geography must have exacerbated the fear, says Dash with European settlers living on the edge of a vast unknown continent. "When it goes dark for them, there's no guarantee it is ever going to get light again," says Dash. "In those days it would be quite natural to think it was the Second Coming.""
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