Fractal Scarring: The Amazing Mark Left Behind on a Lightning Strike Survivor

Lightening Saskatoon

 Bruce Guenter / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A couple of years ago, during a heavy spring storm, 24-year-old Winston Kemp ran out to his garden to save his pumpkins from the pummeling rain. As he was heading back inside after securing his crop, lightning struck with a loud and bright blast in his neighbor's yard nearby. Kemp was startled by the blast but went inside, thinking nothing more of it.

His arm started to feel sore within the hour. A few hours after that, it really started to hurt. He had blisters on his arm the next day and called in sick to work. It took weeks to fully heal and he complained of random pains even a month later.

Winston Kemp had been hit by lightning. He was most likely hit by so-called ground lightning rather than the main bolt, which he would have most definitely felt, assuming he survived.

For all the pain, Kemp was rewarded with a beautiful lightning scar.

Regular readers and those with an interest in science and math might recognize the branching tree-like structure of Kemp's scar as a fractal pattern, specifically known as the Lichtenberg figure. I wrote an article not too long ago about examples of fractal patterns showing up in nature and shared a couple of images of electricity branching out like Kemp's scar. Here is what electricity will do when it's run through a piece of wet wood.

Fractal woodburn
Peter Terren / Wikimedia Commons

The scars eventually healed, but not before providing Kemp with months of opportunities to showcase his amazing tale. I can't imagine he had to buy any drinks at the bar during that time.