Online Collections at UoB - Objects
ID number: BIRUG 12
Institution: The Lapworth Museum of Geology
Named collection: McLean Collection
Definition: Lechatelierite var. Fulgurite
Place collected: POLAND: Starezynow
Description: Fulgurite- ‘A fossilized lightning strike’
Fulgurites (from the Latin fulgur meaning lightning) are naturally formed hollow glass tubes, produced by a lightning strike. They provide a permanent record of the path of a strike and are relativley rare as most people wouldn’t reconise one if they saw it! The earliest record of a fulgurite was made around 1706, in Germany, by Pastor David Hermann.
The specimen from Starezynow, Poland, displays the characteristic root-like branching form. The outer surface has a typical sandy appearance, whilst the interior is a hollow tube with its sides composed of black, silica glass. Fulgurites form when lightning melts and fuses together the mineral grains in sand. Estimates of the energy required to create a fulgurite vary, but the temperature reached is thought to be up to 4000 °C.
These petrified lightning strikes are usually no more than a few centimeters in diameter, but can be metres in length. The largest known specimen is from the shores of Lake Congamond in northern Connecticut and measures approximately 4m in length. The fragility of fulgurites makes it difficult to extract large complete examples.
In addition to their value due to scarcity and aesthetics, fulgurites can provide valuable scientific information. Recent analysis of gas bubbles in a 15,000-year-old specimen from the Libyan desert has provided important palaeoenvironment data regarding the area where the specimen was found.
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