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No. 17: Fall 1981

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Bioluminescent Cartwheels And Whirlpools In The Arabian Sea

6 March 1980. Arabian Sea.

"At 1552 GMT bioluminescence in the form of diffused white light in 'whirlpool' and 'cartwheel' formations was observed; within 3 minutes it completely encircled the vessel and extended to the horizon. The 'cartwheel' formations were brightest at the centre with a halo effect surrounding the outer edges. As the vessel passed over 2 such formations the 'spokes' were estimated to be 2-2 metres in width and the entire concentration, which was more than the width of the vessel (approximately 27 metres), was observed on both sides of the bridgewing simultaneously. The 'whirlpool' formations, with a distinct central hub, varied from l to 2 metres in width and from 14 to 15 metres in length. The phenomenon was observed for 40 minutes."

(Messinger, P.A.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 51:13, 1981.)

Comment. This is the first report uncovered that described "whirlpool" formations. The variety of phosphorescent formations and their long durations cast doubt on the usual seismic explanation.

Reference. The many strange types of marine biolouminescence are detailed in Section GLW in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. Details here.

From Science Frontiers #17, Fall 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987