Orb pic sparks mystery sound story

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WALLA WALLA — The Union-Bulletin published a story and photo of a mysterious orb captured on a smart-phone camera by an elk hunter in southwest Oregon in the Jan. 1 Diversions section.

In that story, the hunter was confused about the glowing globe of light, which appeared to reflect off fog in the valley he was scouring for elk. He moved around, trying to find out if it was a reflection off his clothing or binoculars, but it remained there with a shadowy figure inside it.

The hunter, Scott Vierck, pulled out his phone and snapped a couple pictures. Upon downloading the image to his computer at home, it appeared the orb had arms stretched out — almost like wings.

Vierck didn’t have any idea what the orb might be, but after Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic got ahold of the story and published it with a photo, two readers of that paper identified the orb as a phenomenon known as “the Spectre on the Brocken,” a phrase given by early climbers for a German peak on which they often saw it. It means a situation when the sun creates a shadow in the mist below, an accomplished outdoorsman reported to Sandsberry.

After publishing the follow-up story in the Jan. 2 U-B sports section, I was contacted be Walla Wallan Scott Reardon with his recollection of a strange experience he had while fishing on a remote lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming last summer.

“My cousin’s husband, Steve, and I were fishing at about 10 a.m. on a mid-July morning in the southwest corner of Yellowstone’s Shoshone Lake,” Reardon recounted in an email. “This lake is fairly remote and has been touted as ‘the largest lake in the lower 48 states not accessible by a road.’ The nearest roadway is about six miles away, on the other side of the Continental Divide, and the only line of site of any road was about nine miles to the northest.”

Reardon and his relative then heard something they couldn’t explain.

“What we heard while fishing was the unmistakable sound of a large motorcycle, like a Harley, approaching a sweeping curve, going around it, and then fading away in the distance,” Reardon recalled. “It sounded like it was about a half-mile away.”

He said commercial airline traffic is common over the lake, but the sound definitely wasn’t caused by that.

Motorized boats aren’t allowed on the lake, and no other boats were in sight, Reardon said.

“And it wasn’t the sound of a grouse, which makes a motor-startup sound,” he said. “We both independently heard the sound, and were hesitant to ask the other what we had just heard.”

Reardon says there’s absolutely no way anyone could have illegally driven a motorized bike eight miles on the hiking trail to the lake without being seen.

“So we were left with what we perceived to be an acoustical anomaly,” he said. “I have been to this lake dozens of times over the past four decades and have never observed this phenomena.

“I would be curious to know what feedback or explanations other readers might have.”

If you have any insights into what this might be, contact me at bretrankin@wwub.com and let me know. I’ll pass them on to Scott, and see if one of them might explain the sound on the lake.

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