Why build so vast a station beneath the auroral ring current? What does Industry want with the Aurora Borealis? Look at the sheer size of the DP. Why the enormous surface area? What has Industry already proven, and what are they hoping to perfect? The history and development of “aerial batteries”, indeed of “earth batteries” as well, is a fascinating and unexpected study. The very first technique used to obtain an energetic flow from the sky to the ground was the very one by which Luigi Galvani first recognized that currents existed in the sky. His elevated copper masts were the very first aerials, the methodic “drawing down” of various energetic currents being attended by a most fascinating series of semi-electrical phenomena. In this regard Dr. Galvani recognized two distinct varieties of current, the one a vitalizing variety; the other, a deadly strain. Before Dr. Franklin ever dreamed of launching forth his famed kite-string-and-key combination, Dr. Galvani had already routinely engaged the several distinct currents with which he was principally fascinated.
Thereafter, the world would seek the mysteries of the skyfire by direct contact through lightning rods and other highly elevated conductors. Aerial terminals of various kinds were tested throughout the latter Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, a period of intense experimentation with otherwise deadly forces. Lightning Rod patents flood the patent archives, a magnificent display of remarkable designs whose operative success predicated their receiving official license. Each such design had to prove its effectiveness in protecting against the rogue behaviors of lightning discharges. This meant that the designs had to be tested and witnessed. Heavy wooden blocks were the test mounts for these designs, well placed on the tops of rocky crags. A shower of lightning blasts, and the shrapnel of inferior rods were tossed aside. Those capable of withstanding the blast were granted patent.
It was later found in these regards that the presence of electricity was not limited to the upper regions of the atmosphere, certainly not to clouds alone, but to every part of the aerial strata immediately above the ground. Therefore many individuals began discovering that power, tremendous power, could be obtained by the use of several different kinds of “collectors”. For this purpose, the inventors of aerial batteries each empirically developed various systems for the methodic accumulation and storage of the “atmospheric current”. In none of these patents do we find the inventors referring to these energetic sources as anything but potent. Indeed, each of the designs were fitted with several lightning arresters. These were used, not so much for the storm conditions which would invariably bring in several accidental lightning bolts, but for the fair weather electrical discharges which appeared with equal and repetitive strength.
The “Electric Apparatus” of H. C. Vion (1860) was stated to be a device for obtaining natural electricity for Industrial Applications. His most powerful embodiments were exceedingly long metallic screens, well insulated from the mountain ridges on which they placed. These screen collectors were interspersed by very tall metallic masts, also well insulated, each sharpened and protruding into the mountain air. The system of Vion brought in a prodigious and dangerous supply of usable current. In his words, the system was an electrical “pile of considerable strength”. A device perfected by W. H. Ward (1872) took the bizarre form of a very large funnel-like turret. Placed atop a very tall peak, and capable of being turned so as “to drive in an aerial current of electricity”. This supply was stored in capacitors and batteries, and used to operate a telegraphic system. M. Dewey (1889) raised a very tall mast, fitted with a large and multi-spiked capacitor hood and drew off sufficient electrical power to run motors and charge storage batteries. Other designs utilized metallic-studded balloons, apparatus capable of bringing in a very powerful surge of current (Palinscar 1901, Pennock 1909).
Experiments with these “passive” designs were gradually moved to very high alpine lands. In addition, it was found that these conditions were most favorably and readily obtained in regions which were as far north as possible. These two requirements, elevation and northern latitude, and the supply of electricity was found to be enormous.
A strange and forgotten series of experiments were conducted in Lapland by Professor Selim Lemstrom as early as 1882. Professor Lemstrom arranged an insulated array of pointed aerials atop a mountain ridge. These were connected with a mile of cable along the mountain ridge. Surging auroral streamers above succeeded in producing corresponding low level auroras, which visibly rose as a white streamer of light. As these covered both the mountain ridge and the geophysically coupled apparatus, the sizzling of millions of electrical watts could be both seen and heard. On December 22,1882, Dr. Lemstrom succeeded in attracting an auroral streamer, one whose visible corona extended for some 400 feet. This pivotal experiment in deriving vast quantities of electrical energy from the auroral process was the probable inspiration for much of what Nikola Tesla sought in his large scale tests with space energies. Such
experiments having been the subject of intense mystery for Tesla, it was his greatest pleasure to write an occasional column for The Electrician Magazine on these wonderful subjects. Tesla consistently shared his fascinations concerning those artificial laboratory simulations of auroral streamers and other such phosphorescent displays, experiments performed in Northern Europe by Bjerknes, Birkeland, Stormer, and others. The Experimental Station of Nikola Tesla in Colorado (1899), is the probable result of applications learned through these exposures.
The vast and critical difference between what Tesla did with the Lemstrom experiment require only appreciation for the fact that Tesla was stimulating a very special light-like non-electric current. The essential difference in approach however was that Tesla applied an active agency in his large elevated capacity terminals. All the pervious experiments were passive systems, limited to a passive process of absorption. Tesla was the very first to stimulate the aerial capacity with an active signal. Despite the fact that his energies were nonelectric, he was the originator of all systems termed “active”. Tesla viewed the terrestrial atmosphere as one under continual bombardment by a dense pressure of rarefied eetheric gas, an incoming flood which bombarded the air and rock, manufacturing electrons in the process. As we have seen, his aims were not to generate electricity, but to secure a usable stream of the otherwise elusive eether flow. The aurora was a polar manifestation of the incoming aether, an interaction between eether, manufactured electrons, and the geomagnetic field. In this view, the polar Auroras were special cases of a general principle; by which Tesla believed he could draw in an equivalent streamer anywhere beyond the pole.
- CHAPTER 6
- CHAPTER 8