Museum exhibit includes lenticular photos and science behind them

Eve Thompson
A large framed photograph by Kevin Lahey, “Sunday Afternoon Cloudshow,” will be part of the live auction during Sisson Museum’s History Night and grand opening of the lenticular cloud exhibit this Friday, April 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. The season-opening event includes live music, appetizers, a no-host wine and beer bar, and a presentation at 7:30 p.m. about lenticular clouds by Bill Miesse. Mark Oliver will show a short trailer to preview his upcoming documentary on water at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. They are available at the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce or at the door.

Like the wind that forms lenticular clouds, the new exhibit opening Friday at Sisson Museum in Mount Shasta has two arms. One is a three-month exhibit of 130 contributed digital and framed photographs; the other is a three-year educational exhibit built around 24 images.

The April 6 opening is being held in conjunction with the Museum’s annual History Night fundraiser, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Museum on Old Stage Road in Mount Shasta.

“Every picture has a point about lenticulars; if it doesn’t wow, then it doesn’t illustrate the point,” said Bill Miesse, the Mount Shasta cultural historian and bibliographer who developed the exhibits.

Four presentations on lenticular clouds are planned, beginning with Friday night’s introduction by Miesse.

“I’ll show slides, photographs, provide definitions, using graphs to demonstrate how lenticulars are formed. I’ll touch on the greatest points of interest, covering what I can,” Miesse said of the introduction.

They’re everywhere

Creating a lenticular cloud requires wind, moisture and an obstacle, usually a tall mountain. A layer of air holding invisible drops of moisture “meets” the mountain; wind lifts the moisture up and over the mountaintop, and it then condenses into a cloud. Throughout the process, there is a continuous stream of moist air which crests into a lenticular. “It’s a lot like the way a standing wave flows over a rock in a river to create a crest,” Miesse mused.

Lenticulars are visible everywhere on the planet; however, Mt. Shasta is one of the best places in the world to see different varieties of them.

“We have the perfect equation here: the mountain has two crests, it’s by the ocean, and it has great height,”?Miesse said. “Plus there’s a steady wind flow of very stable and steady winds which create lenticular clouds that last for days.”

“The winds come from all four directions; because of our unique topography, we get incredibly different clouds. I’ve observed at least 15 types, which makes Mt. Shasta an international magnet for viewers.”

Lenticulars have aesthetic power, appealing to people on several levels, so the exhibits explore their scientific, artistic and spiritual aspects. “I believe the more you understand, the more you appreciate what you see,” Miesse said.

Posters explore UFO?lore

“Every single New Age movement mentions lenticulars, so I’ve created five posters for the three year exhibit that explore UFO lore,” he added. One provides an overview of Mt. Shasta beliefs in UFO lore.  Another focuses on Phylos and the book, “Dweller on Two Planets,” considered the origin of the UFO-Shasta connection.

Another centers around Sister Thedra, a UFO contactee, who believed beings from other planets communicated with her; many of her photos of lenticulars appear in the book “Celestial Raise.” “Her world renown work influences many to this day,” Miesse said.

The Telos legend is explored in another poster. Many believed Telos was a subterranean city in Colorado, until Sharula Dux, a purported 350 year old Teleon princess, declared the city was located under Mt. Shasta. “A lot of Mount Shastans channel beings from Telos,” he noted.

Miesse explores the Lemurian connection in the last poster. Cerve, author of Lemuria, the Lost Continent of the Pacific, wrote about UFO ship sightings on Mt. Shasta. “His work popularized Mt. Shasta as a UFO locale,” he observed.

The clouds themselves

Lenticulars certainly can look like flying saucers. Though he is steeped in UFO lore and finds it fascinating, Miesse said, “The clouds themselves are the real focal point and are of the greatest interest to me.”

Miesse said his interest began two years ago. “My 2010 show on the artistic legacy of Mt. Shasta from 1841 to 2008 piqued my curiosity. People admired the paintings, but they’d say, ‘Where are the lenticulars?’ I had no answer.”

Then Jean Nels suggested Miesse create a show solely dedicated to lenticulars. A consummate researcher, he studied numerous library and web resources, interviewed countless authorities, and built a personal library of over 30 books. “Each gave me a different way of thinking about the clouds.”

Future presentations

In three other planned presentations, Miesse said in-depth coverage of the science, legend, lore and art will be provided.

The April 20 presentation, focusing on UFO legend, is entitled “The Lore of Shasta’s Cloud Ships, from Venus to Lemuria.”

A scientist from the National Weather Service will co-host May 18th’s “Learning about Lenticulars.”

The June 15 “Videos and More: the Movements of Lenticulars,” includes a video made by the Cloud Spotters Society. “It’s very funny and the Society, which started as a joke, now has over 50,000 members.”

“There’s quite a network of cloud watchers out there,” Miesse, who has been bitten by the lenticular cloud bug, laughed. “If you see one lenticular at night, you’ll probably see one the next day. You’d be surprised how many of us get up early to get that sunrise picture.

“Everything about lenticulars is amazing,” he said. “These exhibits express that.”

Bill Miesse holds one of the graphs he’ll use to explain the science of lenticular clouds at the Sisson Museum exhibit opening this weekend. “People come from all over the world to view our lenticulars,” he smiled.