In 1978, the people of Bell Island, off the coast of Canada, experienced a bright flash, and explosion, and an electrical surge that took down buildings, killed livestock, and was seen by nuclear weapon detectors in space. It was the loudest explosion in Canadian history. And what caused it is still a bit of a mystery.
It became known as the Chelyabinsk meteor, and thanks to the popularity of dash cam videos in Russia, it became one of the most well-documented meteor strikes in human history.
It was the size of a 6-story building and hit the atmosphere at 64,000 kilometers per hour – roughly 40,000 miles per hour, exploding about 19 to 24 kilometers in the atmosphere (12 to 15 miles).
And this explosion was massive, shattering windows for hundreds of miles and injuring 1200 people. For a brief moment, it was brighter than the sun.
By the way, ackshually (meme), this makes it what’s known as a “bolide,” that’s the technical term for a meteor that shines brighter than Venus in the sky. Which this one definitely did.
In fact, it was picked up on monitors as far away as Antarctica.
Okay, so Russia is here… Antarctica is here.
The energy released exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT, for perspective, that’s 30 to 40 times bigger than the bomb that struck Hiroshima.
Speaking of nuclear explosions, the nuclear detection network, operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said it was the largest explosion ever recorded in its history.
This meteor was no joke, and the scariest thing about it is that astronomers had no idea that it existed. It caught everyone completely by surprise. Don’t think about that too much.
Ironically, on the day that the asteroid hit, astronomers were anxiously watching another asteroid called 2012 DA14, which was passing within 27,000 kilometers of Earth. And then Chelyabinsk hit from a completely different direction, they were totally unrelated.
But even Chelyabinsk pales in comparison to the Tunguska meteor that hit Siberia in 1908.
That one flattened over 2,000 square kilometers of forest. It was not, however, captured on any nuclear detection systems. Or Antarctic sensors. Or dash cams. We’re still trying to figure out why.
The point is, booms happen. And the bigger the boom, the more evidence is left behind from that boom.
That is usually the case. And then there’s what happened at Bell Island.
Darrin Bickford’s Account
on the morning of Sunday, April 2, 1978, twelve year old Darrin Bickford was out for a ride on his bike. When eleven o’clock came around, he raced home to catch his favorite show on TV.
Near the end of his driveway, a sudden stillness filled in the air. The birds and other animals went quiet. Then, according to Darrin:
“It’s like a shotgun blast, followed by a ball of light, and then followed immediately after, the second ball. The ground shook underneath me. It was the biggest noise I have ever heard in my life.”
The hovering ball of light was a beautiful mixture of blue, orange, and yellow. Darrin was terrified, but transfixed. He watched the colors swirl for several seconds before it disappeared, imprinting a memory that would last the rest of his life.
Many Other Witnesses
Darrin’s experience was more vivid than what most of his neighbors experienced. But it was far from unique. People reported seeing strange lights, odd electrical phenomena, and most of all a loud sound from as far away as 100 kilometers away.
The center of those reports was Bell Island. It’s a small island in Newfoundland, Canada’s Conception Bay. And that event has come to be known as the Bell Island Boom.
Because of the noise. In case that wasn’t obvious.
Beams and Balls and Fuses
Several residents of Conception Bay reported seeing a beam of light hit Bell Island immediately before the boom. Some said they saw a ball of light in front the beam. And some reported hearing a bell-like tone before the boom.
Then there were fireballs. Not in the air, but in their houses. Because their fuses blew out.
Yeah, a powerful electrical surge accompanied the event, so powerful the plastic insulation melted off the power lines in some places.
In one home the fuses exploded so violently, glass embedded itself in the opposite wall. That was Darrin Bickford’s grandfather actually.
On Bickford Farm
But ground zero for all this weirdness seemed to be the Bickford Farm, where Darrin lived. One of their barns blew down, and they lost some chickens.
I should clarify, the chickens didn’t just disappear, they died. So it’s not THAT weird. I mean, still pretty bad if you’re a chicken.
Although it is kinda weird because there were no burn marks on the wood or the chickens. And there were strange divots found in the snow nearby. They ranged in size from a rabbit hole to around four feet across.
Like, if this was a comic book, Darrin would have found a ring or a stone in one of these holes and gained superhuman powers. As far as we know, that didn’t happen. But I’m watching you, Darrin.
Investigations were made. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent a fire investigator, presumably on horseback.
After the the mounties, other officials took a look. Some were Canadian. Some came from far away.
Including a pair of American scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory named John Warren and Robert Freyman.
Los Alamos Calling
So I got curious about these two guys and was able to find some of their work in Los Alamos research publications between 1977 and 1981.
It looks like Warren was interested in nuclear energy, he wrote in several issues of Reactor Technology. Freyman, though, only appeared a couple of times.
Once as a co-author of a paper titled “Measurements of Long Delayed Radio Echoes in the Auroral Zone” from 1981. Total banger.
Sounds sinister, but not nearly interesting enough to go on a tier list.
This was an early dog chip. Yeah, Freyman was a big pioneer in RFID technology. All those anti-theft devices in books, tap to pay credit cards… Dog chips. He was one of the guys behind all that.
But in 1978, he was investigating unexplained phenomena on a small island in Canada.
By the way, you might be asking how these guys even knew about the boom, did someone call? Did Darrin Bickman summon them with his newfound superpowers? No. They saw it in a satellite photo.
Yeah. This thing was so bright, it was seen from space. By the Vela satellite. Which was launched to detect nuclear explosions.
Remember how Warren worked on nuclear energy?
They were able to rule out a secret atomic bomb pretty quickly since there was barely any actual damage to the island, and eventually speculated it must have been an unusually powerful bolt of lightning.
There are those who disagree with this theory, though. Namely… um… people who saw it.
“No way that was lightning,” according to Millie Bickford.
There’s a lot of Bickfords on Bell Island. Actually there’s an unincorporated town called Bickfordville.
Okay, so, if it wasn’t a nuclear explosion and it wasn’t oversized lightning, what was it?
Must Go Fast
There are many theories.
As it happens, the Bell Island Boom was just one of a whole a series of similar incidents. Booms were reported all up and down the east coast of North America between late 1977 to early 1978.
I did a video a little while back on sky quakes. These are explosions that seem to have no particular cause and happen regularly in some places. Just weird unexplained booms. Its’ a thing.
The difference between sky quakes and the mystery booms of 77 and 78 was the frequency.
An environmental scientist named Gordon MacDonald looked into about 600 of these booms and two out of three had a pretty simple explanation. Supersonic jets.
Turns out, the Concorde started flying commercial passengers in 1976. Probably not a coincidence.
But that still leaves 1/3 of the booms unexplained.
The US Navy speculated it could be due to strange atmospheric effects carrying the booms of military aircraft from far away. Kind-of like an audio version of ghost lights. That might explain some of them.
But still the Bell Island incident was different for several reasons. For one thing, sonic booms can damage property, but we’re talking breaking some panes of glass, not knocking down buildings and frying electrical grids.
They also don’t generally cause a flash that sets off nuclear bomb detectors in space.
An earthquake could knock a building down. Or even a giant chunk of rock falling into the sea. Because that has actually happened on Bell Island.
In April 2019, residents heard a sound like thunder and felt the ground rumble. Thousands of tonnes of rock had collapsed in a landslide. One resident described the sound as an explosion.
Unfortunately, no debris from an earthquake or landslide was found, so that was ruled out, and besides, there’s that giant flash thing.
So in absence of a simple answer, here’s where the theories get a bit more… fun.
This was 1978, it was the middle of the Cold War and two scientists from a US nuclear research facility visited right after it happened… Cold War shenanigans? I can see it.
Of course the first thought is it was some kind of secret atomic bomb test and the scientists were there to cover it up.
Or, maybe it was some other kind of secret bomb, like an e-bomb.
This was proposed in a 2004 documentary called The Invisible Machine, that the US was working on a bomb designed just to knock out electrical equipment. A giant electromagnetic pulse, basically.
Then there’s an experimental program called HAARP.
HAARP stands for the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program. Officially, HAARP is a research program run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
It consists of a high-power radio transmitter and a bunch of measuring equipment. Basically, they zap the sky and see what happens.
It’s stated purpose is to test how the ionosphere affects radio waves. But conspiracy theorists have used it for all kinds of over the top experiments from mind control to weaponizing weather.
Problem is, HAARP didn’t exist in 1978. But, people who believe this theory think that it might have been an earlier device. Something that created a monster EMP in the ionosphere that got “drawn down” to Bell Island because if it’s particular geology; all those iron ore mines and whatnot.
The effect would have been like a massive lightning strike. Or several lightning strikes, all happening very fast. Which does match the reports from the people on Bell Island. So… kinda plausible?
Of course if it’s plausible that some secret military experiment caused the island to get hit by massive lightning strikes, then it’s at least as plausible that it was… you know… just massive lightning strikes.
Enter the Superbolt
Which is exactly what the experts from Los Alamos suggested they were in the first place. We’re full circle now.
Of course the problem with the lightning bolt theory is, lightning strikes happen literally all over the world all the time. And they don’t set off nuclear weapon detectors. Right?
Actually some do. And they were discovered by that same Vela satellite that caught the Bell Island Boom.
Like scientists didn’t even know this was a thing until it showed up in Vela photos.
It’s called – wait for it – a superbolt. Hey, when scientists nail the name, they really nail the name.
Superbolts are super rare, especially over land, but they’re hundreds of times brighter than a normal lightning strike, sometimes thousands of times brighter.
Superbolts carry trillions of Watts of optical power. For comparison, the average lightning bolt carries. (1.21 Gigawatts, which aside from the pronunciation is accurate)
A blast from a superbolt would explain nearly every detail of the eyewitness reports. The damage at Bickford farm was actually pretty mild, compared to what a superbolt can do. Even the deaths of the chickens can be explained as heart attacks caused by electric shock.
What about those balls of light that witnesses reported seeing? I mean if you’re thinking ball lightning, so am I.
I covered ball lightning in a video a while back, there’s a lot of theories around those but it’s thought that especially powerful lightning can superheat certain elements in the air and ground and create essentially orbs of plasma.
And now I’m talking about glowing orbs again – how many of my own videos can I reference in one video?
So ball lightning is also not completely understood, but it is a thing. It is a thing that happens.
So, if we’re gonna Occams Razor this thing, the most likely answer is a superbolt.
Yeah, I know, wah-wah, I’m a wet towel, that’s the most boring answer ever, well look, if it makes you feel better, if that’s too boring for you, just keep in mind that you now know that sometimes there are lightning bolts as powerful as nuclear weapons. That just happen. Randomly. (a beat) Feel better?
Point is, there are forces at work around us in the world we don’t understand. About forty-five years ago, one struck a tiny island. And here we are still talking about it.