remote viewing

Strange Powers

Remote Viewing in Mauritius - The Story of Bottineau 

We know very little of Bottineau, the obscure Frenchman who discovered the 'science' of Nauscopie, that is - the detection of ships and lands at a considerable distance (up to 1000 kilometres), allegedly by examining the effect which they produced on the atmosphere. Very much like an early form of remote viewing. He was supported by the concurring testimony of hundreds of people, and certificates from high-ranking officers all indicating that there must be some truth in his statements.

Bottineau relates in a letter that, as early as 1762, whilst serving in the French navy, he was thinking that a vessel moving towards land should produce a certain effect on the atmosphere, and so make the approach discernible to a trained eye well before the vessel itself was visible. After many observations, he thought he had discovered a specific appearance heralding the advance of a vessel before it came in sight. However, he had only limited success, and so gave up the idea. 

Early Experiments in Remote Viewing

In 1764 his career took him to the island of Mauritius (then known as the Isle of France), in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, where he had a lot of free time, and again attempted to develop the art of remote viewing. Here, away from civilization, with a clear sky, pure atmosphere and fewer ships stopping at the island, he was less likely to make mistakes than off the coast of France. After six months Bottineau was sure of the reality of his discovery and of its value as a real science. He took advantage of the fact that officers were often on the shore looking through their glasses (small telescopes) for approaching vessels from Europe. 

He made bets on ships arriving up to three days before they actually came in sight, and as he was very rarely wrong, won a large amount of money, much to the bewilderment of the officers. The Governor of the island kept a record of Bottineau's remote viewing predictions in a private register for about two years. On one occasion he announced to the Governor that three vessels were approaching the island, even though the lookouts could see nothing with their telescopes. The next day the lookouts told the Governor that a ship had just come into sight above the horizon. On the next day a second appeared, and a week later a third was visible to the naked eye. Bottineau's prediction had been correct. Though the government offered Bottineau a considerable sum of money and a pension for the details of his secret, he declined, saying that he didn't think the price high enough.

Incredibly, the Frenchman was able to detect the approach of ships from about 500 km, up to1000 km distant. For over fifteen years he consistently predicted the arrival of vessels, at times three or four days before they could be seen with a telescope. The Governor's register showed that his predictions were nearly always correct; and that even when he announced the approach of vessels which didn't arrive at the island, it was shown that the ship or ships were foreign and had come within two or three days' sailing without  stopping there.

On one occasion Bottineau maintained that a fleet of eleven vessels were approaching the island, causing great apprehension, as an attack from the English was expected. A warship was immediately sent out to check, but before its return Bottineau informed the Governor that the signs in the atmosphere had gone, so the fleet must have taken a different direction.

Some time after this a ship arrived in Mauritius from the East Indies, and reported seeing a fleet of eleven ships sailing towards Fort St. Williams. Again Bottineau had been correct.

Predictions using Remote Viewing 

Between the years 1778 and 1782, Bottineau correctly predicted the arrival of 575 vessels, several of them four days before they became visible to anyone else. At no time did any vessel reach the island which was not predicted by Bottineau. Bottineau was also interested in whether the atmospheric effects produced by the approach of a vessel to land would be the same when one vessel approached another, and found that when he tried the experiment during a voyage, the effect was same, though less powerful. He also wanted to try his method out in discovering land from a ship long before it could normally be seen from on board the vessel. On one occasion he told the captain of a ship he was travelling on that they were within about a hundred and fifty kilometres of land. The captain refused to allow this possibility but, after reexamining his calculations, was forced to acknowledge that he'd made a mistake, and changed course immediately. Bottineau discovered land three times during the voyage, once at the distance of 750km. 

In June 1784, in the midst of the French Revolution, Bottineau went to Paris to try and get some official notice for his new science. But perhaps because people had little time or inclination to think of such things, he was practically ignored, even though he had certificates signed by the Governor of Mauritius, and all the officers of the garrison there. Bottineau was ridiculed by the editor of the Mercure de France, saying that it was not 'ships at sea, but castles in the air' he'd seen. He was completely disheartened by this rejection and predicted that  the world would be deprived of his discovery. He was right, the world did not listen, and he died in poverty in the (at that time) French colony of Pondicherry, southern India, around 1802.

In 1817 and 1818 Captain Francis Maude of the Royal Navy (1798-1886), at the time a midshipman on H.M.S. Magicienne, often met an old inhabitant of Mauritius who had learned the art of Nauscopie from Bottineau himself, and used it regularly with great success. Over a century later, in 1935, Peter Green, of Tristan da Cunha, an island in the Atlantic between South Africa and South America, was also attributed the ability to predict the arrival of ships one or two days in advance.

What are we to make of the shadowy Bottineau and his strange ability? Was it really an 18th century version of remote viewing? What we know of him and Nauscopie comes from private papers preserved and published in The Nautical Magazine in 1834. However, this is not the only source for this odd story. Sir David Brewster in his Letters on Natural Magic, the last of which was written in 1832, two years before the Nautical Magazine article, refers to Nauscopie as a matter of common knowledge at the time.

If, as seems to be the case, Bottineau was able to predict the arrival of ships when still a long way below the horizon, how did he do it? 

Bottineau himself explained that his knowledge didn't come from the movement of the waves, nor from especially sharp eyesight, but from simply observing the horizon, where he could detect certain signs indicating that a vessel or land was approaching. He explained that when a vessel approaches land, or another vessel, a specific kind of atmospheric effect appears, visible to everyone without much effort. This effect, he said, was the necessary result of the approach of one ship towards another, or towards land. The existence of the atmospheric effect, which he described as a kind of vapour cloud, and the knowledge of its distinct variations, formed the certainty and precision of his announcements. He asserted that the phenomenon sometimes appeared four or five days before the ship itself could be seen, and sometimes only one day, depending on whether the vessel had met fair winds or contrary. 

In other words Bottineau had trained himself to perceive some very faint cloud-like appearance near the sea-horizon, and he discovered by experience that this preceded the coming of a ship. He must, to say the least, have had peculiarly sharp vision, but more importantly he had trained his eyes to detect faint signs invisible to ordinary observer who did not know what to look for. But still, detecting the presence of ships 1000 km away would suggest  something more than this. If contemporary accounts are to be believed, and the evidence is mostly anecdotal in this case, then perhaps Bottineau possessed an unusual power akin to what is now referred to as 'remote viewing', though the nature of this power was completely unknown to him.

Sources and Further Reading

Gould, R.  Oddities. A Book of Unexplained Facts. New York, University Books, 1965, pp173-93.

Copyright 2003 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.

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