In this morning’s Guardian newspaper I read about an extraordinary lake in South America which has started to make the headlines now because suddenly it is no longer extraordinary. I quote: ‘Darkness rarely lasted long in the skies over Lake Maracaibo. An hour after dusk the show would begin: a lightning bolt, then another, and another, until the whole horizon flashed white. Electrical storms, product of a unique meteorological phenomenon, have lit up nights in this corner of Venezuela for thousands of years. Francis Drake abandoned a sneak attack on the city of Maracaibo in 1595 when lightning betrayed his ships to the Spanish garrison. But now the lightning has vanished. A phenomenon that once unleashed up to 20,000 bolts a night stopped in late January. Not a single bolt has been seen since… The spectacle, one of the longest single displays of continuous lightning in the world, lasts up to nine hours a night. On average it is visible over 160 nights a year and from 400km away. Lightning bolts discharged from cloud to cloud strike 16 to 40 times a minute. They can reach an intensity of 400,000 amps but are so high thunder is inaudible. There are similar phenomena in Colombia, Indonesia and Uganda but they do not last the whole night. Fishermen in the village of Congo Mirador, a collection of wooden huts on stilts at the phenomenon’s epicentre, are puzzled and anxious by its absence. “It has always been with us,” said Edin Hernandez, 62. “It guides us at night, like a lighthouse. We miss it.”‘ If you read about such a lake in a science fiction novel, you’d think it was a clever invention. But here is proof again of the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.