[W]here the Catatumbo River empties into South America’s largest lake, an “everlasting lightning storm” rages continuously for up to 10 hours a night, in exactly the same place, 260 nights a year. Nowhere else on Earth is so much lightning concentrated in one spot, with such regularity.
Known as the “Beacon of Maracaibo”, the Catatumbo lightning has guided sailors for centuries. In his 1597 poem “The Dragontea”, which tells the story of Sir Francis Drake’s last expedition, Spanish poet Lope de Vega tells how the lightning — “flames, which the wings of night cover” -illuminated the silhouettes of the English privateer’s ships, tipping off the garrison at Maracaibo to his surprise attack.
There are a number of theories as to what is causing the unusual phenomenon, including a very intense low pressure zone in the basin that generates as many as half a dozen storms at a time.
Another theory involves methane from the swampland increasing the conductivity of the air. Or, possibly, malevolent pixies. That last theory is mine.