Awakened by the sound of a clanging pot and the savory smell of pan-fried potatoes, Jack fumbled for his pocket-watch. Groggily, he made his way outside the tent. In the dim light of morning, he could barely make out the time. A quarter past one, if his sleep-soaked eyes weren’t deceiving him. He couldn’t believe his brand-new timepiece wasn’t working properly. He wished he could give Boston Watch Company a piece of his mind right now. The hands seemed to be moving fine, but the sun obviously doesn’t lie.
He felt even more fatigued than usual this morning. Maybe gold mining wasn’t his life calling after all. Maybe, he’d been deceived by the enchanting beauty of these majestic mountains. As he made his way to the campfire like an insect to the light, Alan, this week’s designated cook, called out to him.
“Morning, lazy head, where’s the rest of the crew?”
Jack took another look at his watch. It still seemed to be working fine. He held it up with his left hand, while pointing to the glare in the clouds with the other.
“Does the sun normally rise in the north at one o’clock in the morning?” Jack queried his workmate.
Alan took a few steps towards the watch, and poked his head forward to get a good look. He then turned toward the glare. Looking back at Jack, he was met with an equally puzzled and silent stare…
Meanwhile…over one thousand miles southeast of the Rockies, in Havana, Cuba, Antonio turned the key and locked up the tavern for the night. Normally, he would be going home much earlier, but there had been a big brawl just before closing time. It had taken him a lot longer than usual to clean up.
While walking along the narrow, cobblestone streets, a sudden whiff of Butterfly Jasmine grabbed his nostrils. He never tired of the familiar, soothing scent. It was the perfect antidote for the stale beer smell that seemed to linger in his senses. As he neared the intersection and a bigger part of the sky became visible, an eerie reddish glow caught his eye.
“My Lord…what is this?” he thought to himself.
His eyes told him it was beautiful, but in his heart, he felt it must be some type of omen; A good one, he hoped.
Later that day, in New England, a telegraph operator was taking a message from a grandmother in upstate New York. Suddenly, sparks began to fly, jolting her heart into race mode. What on Earth had come over the control board? She flipped switches futilely. She plugged and unplugged…but the system was dead.
What she, Antonio and the miners were all experiencing was ‘The Carrington Event’ of early September, 1856. A non-event really, unless you happened to be a telegraph operator or a sleep deprived early riser. Just the sun spitting up, as it regularly does, although this coronal mass ejection was larger than most. The huge solar storm it produced found Earth directly in its path. In the low-tech world of the nineteenth century, it went largely unnoticed.
What will be the outcome, not if, but when it happens again…?