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«    January 2011    »
электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Lunar rainbow

Lunar rainbowThis rare natural phenomenon happened long ago, in 1962, in Tuva, on the banks of the mountain taiga river Elegest, about 10 -15 km from the  Khovu-Aksy village.  I have told my friends many times about the night rainbow, this gift of nature that I witnessed,  but very often I was not believed. Now there is a lot of information about this phenomenon on the Internet, and nobody denies the possibility of a rainbow appearing at night, caused by moonlight during rain.

But regardless of the fact that there are many photographs by eyewitnesses, in almost 50 years after our rainbow I have not met anybody who has actually seen a night rainbow.

Our long walks to go fishing in the taiga river and subsequent late returns home used to  provoke justified concern by our parents. Bu regardless, to abandon our exciting fishing expeditions would have been difficult, and we, almost every morning,  clanking with our fishing boots, hurried to the Elegest. The only obstacle could have been rain, which washed all kinds of grasses and branches into the river. This frightened away the kharius and interfered with fishing, so we would stay at home.

This particular evening it really started raining. We stayed by the river longer than usual, because the fish were biting exceptionally well, and there was no possibility of stopping. Only a true fisherman can understand what it is like when after every throw you  get to drag a muscular body of this speckled beauty - kharius - out of the river. Until, finally, the approaching dusk made us get ready to go home.

There were four of us  14-15 year-old boys: myself, Kostya Achkasov, Valerka Chanzan-ool, and Kolka  Shegorakov.  There were no portents of disaster, and we, cheerfully talking, discussed the results of our great fishing session. And it really was successful, which was also the main cause of such long delay at the river. The sky, for some reason really quickly,  began to darken with approaching dark clouds, and soon it was completely dark. A faint wind picked up, which strengthened in a few seconds, then turned into a real squall. First few drops of rain fell, then turned into a downpour. Lightning flashed through the darkness, then a second one, then another, another, and another… All that was accompanied by frightening rumbling and dry cracks of thunder, because we were apparently right in the center of the  storm.

The storm grew stronger, and now it was a real hurricane, bending hundred-year-old larches growing on the banks of Elegest, the taiga thrummed, and huge drops of rain slapped the surface of the dark, frightening river. The Elegest, already stormy and noisy, became even more terrible. Within minutes its waters overflowed, and by that time represented a mortal danger to us.  Complete darkness alternating with blinding flashes of lightning, accompanied by deafening  rolling thunder, menacing thrumming of the taiga and roaring of the water, at first frightened us, then produced complete panic. We did not know what to do, because any step in the darkness really was a danger to life.

At that moment Kostya, as the most experienced fisherman, took the situation under his personal control. Like a real man he ordered us to throw away our fishing rods and to keep together. We all held hands, which calmed us down a little bit, and made the first steps during flashes of lightning, which briefly lit up the path. Kostya's confident voice added hope, and we slowly moved along the enraged, crazed Elegest.

The attacking hurricane and downpour started gradually slackening, and after some minutes the entire horror was suddenly over. The wind stopped , and only fine rain kept falling. Our fear  dispersed almost completely, and we walked along with increasing confidence, because the  huge black cloud, the source of this whole nightmare, quickly departed behind our backs.

We saw a tiny glint of moonlight coming from behind this cloud, and the first stars began to show in that small area. The fine rain continued, regardless of the dome of open sky, totally dark, with bright stars, now increasing in numbers. We walked, looking at this nature, which was now calmed, enjoying everything that it gave us after the storm the moon came out, freeing itself  from the captivity of  the black cloud, and its strengthening bright light gradually lit up the taiga, the river with its raging stream, and our happy, even though still wet from the rain, faces.

Numberless fireflies blinked their yellowish flashlights in the grass, and their light was so bright that you could read a newspaper by it. Absorbed in all that beauty, we did not notice…

Suddenly one of us yelled: "Look, a rainbow!"

We turned back, and there was that stunning sight. A huge pale arch of  a rainbow was hanging in the sky. It looked a little cold and did not have all the astonishing colors like during the day, but it was a rainbow anyway, a night rainbow,  that we did not know even existed until that moment.

The last rags of clouds now completely released the huge moon, which added a brighter and more pronounced color to the rainbow, which was now not very different from the usual diurnal rainbow.

Astonished, admiring, we stood there and absorbed this sight, thinking that nature gave us this generous gift for the terror and fear she inflicted on us earlier.

The light of the rainbow and the moonlight were reflected in the wet grass, and we, looking at the disappearing beauty, thought about the adventure. The cloud now disappeared, taking the rain along, and our beautiful rainbow also began to fade. We stood there motionless until the last glint of fading light did not say good-bye, then we went on.

Bright moonlight lit up our  road all the way home. Speeding up, we continued to discuss this gift of heaven for a long time, then we gradually  changed the subject to our abandoned fishing rods and to the fish, which we kept. There was the last ford over the Elegest, then a slight rise, and our homes behind it. We made a final effort and our strength left us. Kolka was falling asleep, hugging an old larch tree, I was falling asleep, but "experienced" Kostya did not let us relax. He woke us up, but at that I swore an oath that this was my last fishing trip. Overcoming exhaustion with difficulty, we walked up to the village, and I could see a light in a window of my house. It was around two o'clock at night, but at home nobody was sleeping. You can imagine what they told us. Interrupting frightened parents, I was ranting about our adventure and about the night rainbow. In the morning it rained; that did not let us go to the river, and gave us the chance to sleep until noon. The next morning, the familiar knock of Kostya's fishing rod on my window woke me again. In 20 minutes, we were again crossing the ford, piercingly familiar, over our river. The morning welcomed us with cool weather, the river  greeted us with wind. The words of this well-known song were the perfect reflection of our  life as boys. For the two years that we lived in Khovu-Aksy, the beautiful Elegest lured us daily to its banks. But family circumstances forced us to leave "Little Switzerland" and our friends.

Many years passed since that time. The friend of my childhood, Kostya Achkasov departed this life, and I have no  news about the fates of the others. Fate did not let us meet again even once after our rainbow, but hope remained. I will keep Kostya's bright memory for the rest of my life.  I dedicate this story to him.

Sergei Butakov, Novosibirsk, translated by Heda Jindrak
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