From 1347 to 1350, the Black Death ravaged Europe, reducing its population by somewhere between 30-60%. It was one of the most lethal pandemics in history and as everyone knows, was caused by the bubonic plague. Or was it?
Mysteries of the Black Death
Conventional wisdom holds that the Black Death was the third great outbreak of bubonic plague, following the Plague of Athens and the Justinian Plague. Supposedly, infected rodent populations in Central Asia, or perhaps Africa, brought the disease to the Black Sea region and the Central Mediterranean, via trade routes. However, the conventional theory is not without problems. Here are just a few to consider:
- Extraordinary Kill Rate: The Black Death killed people at an extraordinary rate, far higher than that of a typical bubonic plague outbreak. There is a pneumonic form of the disease which could explain the kill rate but its symptoms don’t match the descriptions of Black Death victims.
- Lack of Dead Rats: No written documents from that time describe the vast legions of dead rats required to carry the plague.
- The Iceland Problem: The Black Death killed over half of Iceland’s population but rats didn’t actually reach Iceland until the 19th century.
- Geographic Gaps: The Black Death moved in strange ways, including a leap over Constantinople on its way across the Mediterranean.
- Cold Temperatures: It continued to kill people during the winter months in northern Europe despite the fact that the plague requires relatively warm temperatures to survive.
Was the Black Death caused by a Comet?
So, what was the Black Death? One intriguing possibility, according to Professor Mike Baillie’s book, New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection, is a comet shower. Multiple sources tell us that there was a significant earthquake on January 25, 1348. Other earthquakes soon followed. Baillie believes that these were caused by fragments from Comet Negra, which passed by earth in 1347. As the material descended from space, it fell on the northern Mediterranean Sea first, before branching outwards.
Through ground and sea-based collisions, these fragments injected dust as well as large amounts of carbon- and nitrogen-based chemicals into the stratosphere. This poisoned the breathing air and the drinking water, causing most of the casualties associated with the Black Death. Other deaths can be attributed to weakened immune systems, caused by the infected air and water, which made people easy prey for bubonic plague, anthrax, and other ailments.
Evidence for a Comet Shower?
But is there evidence to support this theory? More than you might think.
“There have been masses of dead fish, animals, and other things along the sea shore and in many places covered in dust. And all these things seem to have come from the great corruption of the air and earth.”
The above quote comes from a contemporary of the Black Death. Documents of the time speak of earthquakes, tidal waves, rains of fire, foul odors, strange colors in the sky, mists, even dragons. Historians generally dismiss these descriptions as colorful imagery or the ravings of religious fanatics. However, Baillie suggests that they might be written accounts of what was happening at the time, as people tried to describe the startling things that they saw all around them.
Also, tree-ring data from Europe and the Americas indicates that there was a global environmental downturn during the years of the Black Death. Ice core data suggests that there were increased amounts of carbon dioxide and ammonia in the air, suggesting ocean turnover. All of this points to a corruption in the atmosphere.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Can we say for certain that a comet shower caused the Black Death? No. However, Professor Baillie has accumulated an impressive body of evidence that deserves greater recognition. In my opinion, his theory is the most compelling one yet to explain the true cause of the most nefarious pandemic in history.