Friday, 19 August 2011

Tesla and the Tommies - Part 2

It wasn’t just Tesla’s theories about ‘death rays’ that the British Government were interested in. In 1899 Tesla claimed to have received faint radio signals from outer space on his array at Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs and believed them to be a form of interplanetary communication.

 Tesla's Colorado Springs Laboratory
"The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been first to hear the greetings of one planet to another."
-Nikola Tesla, "Talking with Planets", Colliers Weekly February 9th 1901.
Then, in 1926, the Hepton footage was discovered in a French field, along with the journals and letters that constituted the rest of the Lefeuvre find. The silent black and white film, depicting the Pennine Fusiliers apparently alive and on an alien world, was shown to packed picture houses around the world. If the Pennines really were stranded on another planet, it occurred to some in the War Office that there maybe a way of communicating with them. They urgently sought confirmation from Tesla. Partly financed in secret by the British Government, Tesla continued to refine his Teslascope in an attempt to contact the battalion by radio, hoping to detect a responding radio communication from them. No such signal was ever detected or, if it was, its contents have been kept secret to this day.

In the end, the Government officially declared the Hepton footage to be a hoax but nevertheless continued its clandestine funding of Tesla’s research for some years after, suggesting that at least one or two powerful political figures believed in the provenance of the film. But, in the early 1930s, Ramsay MacDonald's Government became disillusioned with Tesla’s progress and withdrew its support.

However, the fate of the 'Broughtonthwaite Mates' along with this early governmental research served to foster an underlying attitude within Whitehall that, in the 1950s, eventually inspired the Government’s decision to form the British Rocketry Group.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tesla and the Tommies - Part 1

In the minds of the public and the press, Nikola Tesla, famed scientist and inventor, became embroiled the Harcourt Event shortly after the First World War and has been linked with it ever since.

Nikola Tesla circa 1890

In the aftermath of the war, the War Office held an enquiry into the 1916 events at Harcourt. Despite the official explanation that the Harcourt crater was created when the Germans blew up a mine filled with ‘experimental explosives’, popular conjecture focused on ‘death rays’. Indeed, in 1914, the War Office itself had offered a reward of £25,000 to anybody who could create such a weapon. It was no great leap to assume that the Germans might have been working on something similar and Tesla appeared before the enquiry testifying to the scientific possibility of such a ray causing the crater.

Tesla claimed to have built such a ‘death ray’ himself. Many other people subsequently made similar claims, including Britain’s own Harry Grindell Matthews. However, Tesla was said to have been testing the application of this ‘peace’ ray technology as early as 1908, at his Wardenclyffe  laboratory. When Robert Peary set off on an expedition to the North Pole, Tesla asked him to look out for any unusual activity as he intended to test his ray. Peary saw nothing. Tesla assumed his ray failed.

Tesla's Wardenclyffe tower

It wasn’t until 1927, however, that news of the 1908 Tunguska explosion reached the outside world, after a Russian expedition to the remote site. When it was implied that Tesla’s ray might have  been the cause of the explosion, to some it was proof positive of Tesla’s unwitting involvement in the Harcourt Event, too, suggesting that a further test of Tesla’s death ray misfired, causing the deaths of 900 British soldiers. It was a theory Tesla was quick to refute, citing the Hepton footage itself, which had been found a year earlier and quite clearly showed the soldiers to be alive. The fact that shortly afterwards the British government  declared the footage to be a hoax only served to fuel the conspiracy theories.

There were others, though, that saw a different explanation for what happened at Tunguska - a failed attempt  at recreating the Croatoan Working.