26 comments on “Moon blindness. 1907.

  1. This is what Charles Lightoller wrote in his autobiography, I believe while he was still an apprentice on a tall ship:

    It was shortly after we had the grain stowed again that Olsen, the Swede got moonstruck, through sleeping out on deck in the full rays of the tropic moon. He woke up, one middle watch, to muster with the rest, and at the sight of him, with his face all twisted on one side, everyone burst out laughing. Poor devil, he didn’t know what was the matter. It was full moon, and as light as day; one could easily see to read a book by the light, yet old Olsen went stumbling about the decks, as if it were pitch dark. As it turned out, he thought that it was dark, and that gave us the first inkling that something had gone wrong. We heard him say, half to himself, “Gosh! it’s dark,” and then someone asked him what he meant, and it came out that not only was his face all twisted up, but he could not see his hand in front of him. When daylight came he was all right, but as soon as it got a bit dusk, he was finished. He got over it to a certain extent before we arrived home, but he never fully recovered his sight at night time.

    • I am happy to believe that the moon can blind, but there are any amount of drunken yoof who spend the night sleeping it off in a garden bed on any given weekend and they manage to emerge unblinded. I REALLY want to know what this strange affliction was though!

    • I’m in for the MOONSHINE theory. During Prohibition in the U.S. there were cases of blindness and other terrible consequences when people drank poisonous booze. That’s a good argument for legal and safe liquor, if I’ve ever heard one.

      That it came on suddenly in the moonlight is kind of romantic — in the grand, gothic sense of the word. Maybe there’s a science fiction/fantasy story lurking in the moonlight blindness tale?

      • The only thing against the bottled moonshine theory is that you would think a few other people on the boat would have suffered as well. Of course the captain might have had his own stash he was sipping from, maybe it is just as well he wasn’t sharing!

        • The Captain had his private stash of the good stuff and one of the crew replaced it with the dangerous kinds. I’m already weaving a story here. Stop me I can’t help myself…. lol

          • I like! The crew secretly diluted his good stuff with something unmentionable and certainly unfit for human comsumption. They kept some of the full strength good stuff for themselves of course. Now the question begs, what did they dilute it with?! 🙂

          • Or they switched out the contents of two bottles replacing the good stuff the captain kept for himself with the cheap stuff they bought in the last port-of-call, not knowing that one of the crew broke the heart of a moonshiner girl… oh, hell, this story is writing itself.

          • Hell hath no fury like a moonshiner girl scorned. You are right, this story is just waiting to be written! 🙂

          • Hmmmm… after weeks of drifting in a windless sea the food has long run out. One day a shower of frogs falls on deck (as they do) and in their desperation they begin eating them. Amazingly his sight is restored! They set sail for land ready to spread the news of this miracle cure and are blown right into a storm. Shipwrecked with all hands lost, the cure is lost to us forever….. 😉

  2. I say that the moon can hypnotize, but never blind. I can’t help but think about ‘moonshine’ as in home-made liquor too; for surely we can get drunk on the moon’s beauty every night

    • 😀 I would rather the hypnotizing effects of the beautiful moon than the unpredictable effects of the bottled moonshine, that’s for sure.

  3. I was just reading a book about sailing, and it mentions moon-blindness. I’ve not been able to find much online about it (this is literally the first page I’ve found mentioning it) but I’m inclined to believe it could be something legitimate. Check out this account written by a cabin boy several years after:

    ‘The weather was so warm that I gave up my cubbyhole and slept on the deck on the weather side of the skylight to keep me from rolling into the lee scuppers if it breezed on in the night. If it rained, as happened quite often, the officer of the deck would wake me and I would finish the night on the transom in the after cabin. There was a period of beautiful clear nights on the full of the moon and I was awakened several nights with the moon shining full in my face. A few days later, my eyes began to weep and were very painful when I looked out upon the water. Finally, I had to stay in the cabin with a wet cloth over my eyes until the inflammation passed off, which it did in a few days. It was a case of moon blindness which happens often; in fact, my father had a severe attack on his first voyage.’

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