Solar Storms

In 1859, a solar flare so powerful that it allowed the telegraph operators of the day to draw power down from the atmosphere to power their machines, smacked into earth.

“We observed the influence upon the lines at the time of commencing business — 8 o’clock — and it continued so strong up to 9 1/2 as to prevent any business from being done, excepting by throwing off the batteries at each end of the line and working by the atmospheric current entirely!” the astonished telegraph operators of Boston wrote in a statement that appeared in The New York Times later that week.

The Boston operator told his Portland, Maine counterpart, “Mine is also disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?” Portland responded, “Better than with our batteries on,” before finally concluding with Yankee pluck, “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

My guess is that if this were to happen today, we wouldn’t be able to just “go ahead with business” for quite some time.   More from Wired