- Feb 4, 2021
- Reaction score
- Back of beyond
Yes, that's right - the buzzing noise came first, very quiet to begin with, then the cloud became visible out of the darkness of the path from the direction of the treeline. It didn't materialise in front of me or anything - I got the impression that it was moving along the path, and was just entering my field of vision. The sound then became proportionately louder as the cloud drew closer.as i read it there was a disconnect between the momentarily visible cloud and the buzzing noise ... bit of stray coastal fog ? sometimes only takes a couple of insects to get a buzz on, on a quiet night, thinking of how sound of crickets/cicadas also almost seem to follow you
As I retreated back towards the car, I could still make out the cloudy shape hovering over the bench where I'd been, and the sound faded as I moved further away.
Looking at the map, the distance I travelled from the bench back to the cut-through path is about 250 metres. I hadn't quite been running, but I'd certainly been moving at pace. When the sound suddenly started to build again around me again, louder than before, there was nothing at all to be seen - even though I was near to a streetlight, and my visibility was better.
Equally, when the noise started up again in the car a few miles down the road (and you'd best believe I'd been caning it, at 60mph+) there was nothing to be seen. I parked under a streetlight in Crawfordsburn's Main Street and nothing was visible inside or outside the car, but the noise seemed to be coming from all around me. And then it faded, but with a strange feeling of latency remaining for a few moments longer. Then, suddenly, I just knew that whatever-it-was had really gone.
I couldn't say for definite that I didn't see some stray coastal fog - but this was an area of coastline that was very familiar to me, at all hours of the day and night, and I'd never before seen anything even vaguely like that. Although overcast, visibility was good that night and I could clearly see the lights of the opposite shore; usually the first sign of fog or weather closing in is that the lights vanish.
I'm familiar with the sound of crickets and cicadas from my years in Australia, and many a night spent on the verandah listening to their nocturnal concert. This sounded very different, though - imagine a bumblebee in a plastic tube, and you'd be halfway there. Quite low in pitch, not 'bright' or raspy like most flying insects, slightly oscillating and with almost a bit of echo on it.
Suggested ideas are good though - even if it seems easier somehow for me to describe what it wasn't than describe what it was (infuriating though that may be to other commenters). Thanks for taking the time!
Yeah, midge clouds can be quite something - I've camped around Europe and Australia, and seen some impressive concentrations of winged beasties over water, as well as following people in a column over their head. One of the worst I ever saw was in the Vendée region of France, also close to the shore, over some standing water beyond the coastal dunes. The air was just thick with mosquitoes, especially around sunset. Subtropical regions of Queensland also have their hotspots - you find out pretty quickly if your tent has any holes in it...I recall travelling around the Netherlands with a mate around 1992/1993. We camped at a place called Uitdam outside of Amsterdam. It really was in the middle of nowhere.
One early evening we went for a walk along a bank beside the sea. There were no midges at all, until after a while we noticed that we had a cloud of them over our heads. If we suddenly stopped walking, they would carry on for about two metres and then come back for us.
The encounter at Helen's Bay definitely wasn't anything similar to what I've seen or heard before or since, though - it was more like a round white cloud, opaque with no visible movement within it, and audible before it could be seen. The buzzing was also a good deal lower in pitch than the noise made by mosquitoes or the like.
At the point the sound was loudest, under the streetlight at the edge of the path, there was nothing at all to be seen - I would have expected such a large concentration of insects required to generate such a hum to be pretty visible at that stage.
It really was quite odd.
The sea seemed very calm that night, though since the location was a bay on the shores of Belfast Lough, itself an inlet from the Irish Sea, it's usually quite a sheltered spot.Great post! Can I ask what state the sea was in that night? Calm? Rough?
Also was there any moonlight and if so, what phase was the moon? (appreciate it was overcast but you can still sometimes see the moonlight through cloud)
It was low tide though, as I had to walk a fair bit down the sand to get to the water's edge. At high tide, the water laps only about five feet from the path, and in some places right up to the path. The aerial photography on Google Maps shown upthread depicts the beach at low tide.
I can't remember seeing any moonlight at all that night, so either it was around the time of the new moon or the cloud cover obscured it. Because the area's sandwiched between Bangor and Belfast, with Carrickfergus just across the Lough, there's a lot of lightspill from the street lighting of these urban areas to light up the clouds from below - so it's easy for any moonlight to be obscured.
Dunno if that helps at all!