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Raman A




Location: United States
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 143

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 9:02 am    Post subject: Effect of lightning on a sword         Reply with quote

I was reading Roger Crowley's Empires of the Sea, and this passage surprised me:

"...in the Malta Channel, the Order's great flagship, the Saint Mary, was blasted by a lightning bolt. Nine men fell dead; a crackle of electricity flashed down the grand master's sword, reducing it to a twisted scrap, but he stepped away from the scorched deck unharmed."

Is it really possible for lightning to send enough current through a sword to produce that effect? Although Crowley provides a bibliography, only direct quotations are cited so I can't find the source for this. That's what I get for reading narrative history I guess. Can anyone help me out here with primary sources describing this event?
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Lancelot Chan
Industry Professional



Location: Hong Kong
Joined: 24 Oct 2003
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:59 am    Post subject: Re: Effect of lightning on a sword         Reply with quote

Yes, I think so.

One of my expelled students cut a 220v power line accidentally and it melted its edge, twisted and burnt.

Talk about a lightning strike.... you get the idea.

Raman A wrote:
I was reading Roger Crowley's Empires of the Sea, and this passage surprised me:

"...in the Malta Channel, the Order's great flagship, the Saint Mary, was blasted by a lightning bolt. Nine men fell dead; a crackle of electricity flashed down the grand master's sword, reducing it to a twisted scrap, but he stepped away from the scorched deck unharmed."

Is it really possible for lightning to send enough current through a sword to produce that effect? Although Crowley provides a bibliography, only direct quotations are cited so I can't find the source for this. That's what I get for reading narrative history I guess. Can anyone help me out here with primary sources describing this event?

Ancient Combat Association —http://www.acahk.org
Realistic Sparring Weapons — http://www.rsw.com.hk
Nightstalkers — http://www.nightstalkers.com.hk
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Dean F. Marino




Location: Midland MI USA
Joined: 24 Aug 2011

Posts: 229

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 6:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

ummmm - no. Bad Physics.

The SWORD may be steel - but it can not absorb the energy of a lightning strike. That which is GROUNDED will. This is why lightning rods are not just placed on homes - they are equipped with SERIOUS ground wires....

But let's look at your story....

"...in the Malta Channel, the Order's great flagship, the Saint Mary, was blasted by a lightning bolt. Nine men fell dead; a crackle of electricity flashed down the grand master's sword, reducing it to a twisted scrap, but he stepped away from the scorched deck unharmed."

The DECK was scorched? hmmm - that energy made it to the deck, didn't it? How did it get there? And was the wooden deck of a ship "grounded", while suspended in salt water? I suspect a lucky captain Happy. He may have been one of those that had the entire energy of a lightning bolt hit his sword, then chose to seek "earth" over the surface of his salt soaked clothing - not straight thru his body.

In edhil, hai edhil. In edain, hai edain.
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David Hohl




Location: Oregon
Joined: 07 Feb 2011

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 7:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anecdote aside, I think the question is whether the lightning could do that to a sword - i.e. if you were to fly a sword up into a storm, on a kite, etc. what it would do to the blade. So assuming the blade is in the conductive path, what kind of resistor is it?
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Dean F. Marino




Location: Midland MI USA
Joined: 24 Aug 2011

Posts: 229

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 8:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
Anecdote aside, I think the question is whether the lightning could do that to a sword - i.e. if you were to fly a sword up into a storm, on a kite, etc. what it would do to the blade. So assuming the blade is in the conductive path, what kind of resistor is it?


A very POOR resistor, as it has very high conductivity....

ahhhh - but what is the average WATT capacity of a sword? Again - high ... but how many Watts is that lightning strike? Happy. A boatload. Given enough wattage, a steel GIRDER, with very low resistance, could be melted.

What amazes me is the walking, breathing "path to ground" just behind the blade Happy.

In edhil, hai edhil. In edain, hai edain.
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Tom Kinder





Joined: 27 Nov 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jun, 2014 4:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was a chief electrician for the U.S. Coast Guard for more than 20 years. first of all a lightning bolt is basically a gigantic arc. arcs can and do destroy metal on their paths kinda like you had a welder turned up too high but a lot stronger. yes, the ampacity of a sword sized bit of steel would be huge but you only get to use all that if the connection is a solid metal to metal one. a lightning bolt is arcing through huge amounts of open air and generating massive amounts of heat because of it. were the sword connected to a solid earth ground with a sufficiently sized conductor it could route a lightning bolt to earth with minimal or maybe even no damage (lots of variables here) but being held in a hand on a deck of a ship which is already a floating ground I would think a lightning bolt is very likely to destroy a sword. I have seen the effects of lightning strikes on light houses and ship masts and it can do lots of damage or none at all depending on a lot of things.
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Dan P




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 28 Jun 2007

Posts: 208

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jun, 2014 4:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
Anecdote aside, I think the question is whether the lightning could do that to a sword - i.e. if you were to fly a sword up into a storm, on a kite, etc. what it would do to the blade. So assuming the blade is in the conductive path, what kind of resistor is it?

I would say TOO GOOD a resistor, because basically everything has too much resistance to shrug off a lightning strike.

My take on what happened is that I am not sure the flash-heating would be enough to actually destroy a metal blade. If we take the original account as literally as possible, the phrase "reducing it to a twisted scrap" may imply that the blade was affected by strong and unpredictable magnetic fields generated by the strike.

If the ship was in a storm, then the Master may have been wearing a soaking wet, salt-saturated long coat, providing the strike with a path around his body. His sword may have been destroyed in its scabbard as part of that event, or he may have had it out for some utilitarian purpose- as a pointer, or maybe clearing a tangle. Whereas the men killed may have been riggers stripped down for action, or higher in the rigging and killed when the lightning caused shock, concussion, and paralysis leading to a fall. Or perhaps they just were standing in the wrong spot on the deck.
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Jeroen T




Location: Holland
Joined: 23 Oct 2013

Posts: 56

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jun, 2014 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here´s the anwser.....

When i was about 10 years old a had a sword, well it was a wallhanger but it was some kind of steel and not stainless.
I always wanted an Excaliber like sword and one day i looked outside and saw a thunderstorm was coming.

I picked up the sword and went outside to an openfield in a very large park nearby.
As i was getting closer to the centre of the field some static electricity touched the blade and in a reaction i held it behind my back. I felt the electricity go through my stomach and getting stronger.

I through the sword away and the connection was broken. i picked it up again, stuck it in the ground and stood back around 12ft.
A couple of seconds later a small lightiningbolt made contact with the blade and then a large bolt started burning the whole blade to the ground ending whit a huge BANG.
The sword was burned to a crisp and completely rolled up like you roll up a whip only much tighter.

http://www.westernwhips.com/australian-whips.html

At this point i wish i kept the result but i through it in the water for some reason.

Now don´t think i was a complete 10 year old idiot, i knew the if the lightning struck the sword it would be destroyed.
But i thought what if`maybe` just maybe there was some kind of thing we don´t know of could turn this sword into something magic......

This is a true story, no BS here i swear.
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Tod Glenn




Location: Helena MT
Joined: 05 Sep 2008
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Posts: 55

PostPosted: Thu 26 Jun, 2014 10:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom is dead on. I've been involved in amateur radio for about 40 years and I have seen quite a few antennas struck by lightening. I had 25 foot tall vertical antenna that was basically a hollow aluminum pole grounded with a piece of 10 gauge wide survive 2 direct hits. I've also seen a 50 foot steel tower turned into a corkscrew. Lightening is pretty unpredictable. There are plenty of people walking around after being struck by lightening. Others have been killed stone dead. Objects are hit and sometimes unscathed and other times destroyed.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Thu 26 Jun, 2014 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not an expert, but I believe it has something to do with the amount of charge that's generated in the atmosphere to create the lightning bolt. Electricity doesn't need a whole lot of power to make a spectacular arc; Nikola Tesla and similar guys would do fancy shows with lightning bolts and such flashing around them, but as long as they stayed grounded it did nothing to them. Now, if there's a LOT more current going on, well, all that energy has to go somewhere...
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Wed 18 Mar, 2015 9:31 am    Post subject: Effect of lightning on a sword         Reply with quote

I myself have never heard of events such as a bolt of lightning striking a sword in a person's hand. That kind of event, however, has become a subject to many films (in this case, magic swords).
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Iagoba Ferreira





Joined: 15 Sep 2008

Posts: 153

PostPosted: Thu 19 Mar, 2015 1:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know an account of a napoleonic officer and his horse being killed by a lightning, but it's so scarce in details that it doesn't say if he was riding it...or holding his sword. Sad
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