What is St. Elmo’s Fire?

St. Elmo’s Fire is the flash of light that is seen around ships in a thunder storm.  It is an electrical discharge caused by the storm.

St. Elmo’s Fire is the name sailors have given to the sudden glow of ghostly flames that can sometimes be men flickering around ships in stormy weather.

Flash of Light

The “fire” is actually a charge of electricity that builds up in the ship as it sails along in the storm.

When enough electricity has built up, the ship discharges its electrical overload into the air in a flesh of light that looks like fire as it fizzes and crackles around the tall masts.  This kind of electricity isn’t strong enough to hurt you – but it may make your fingers tingle.

“St. Elmo” is the nickname of Saint Erasmus, guardian saint of Mediterranean sailors.  They once believe that St. Elmo’s fire was a sign that he was watching over their ships and protecting them during storms.

Sometimes you can see St. Elmo’s Fire on land during thunderstorms, flickering from tail church steeples and treetops. – Dick Rogers

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