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No. 38: Mar-Apr 1985

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Expanding Phosphorescent Rings

May 9, 1983. Gulf of Oman. Aboard the m.v. Mahsuri.

"At 1650 GMT, a pale green glow was seen to emanate from the horizon ahead. This gave the appearance of strong moonlight upon the surface of the water. The moon, however, was not in evidence. At 1700 GMT, rapid flashes of light were observed sweeping across the sea directly ahead of the vessel, giving the initial impression of a sudden increase of wind speed causing excessive spray. By 1715 GMT, the vessel was totally surrounded by completely random movements of light as far as the eye could see. The onset of this phenomenon was so rapid, not to say eerie, that the Master was called to the bridge to witness the event. For the next 15 minutes the sea was at a height of activity, displaying several systems of the most unusual bioluminescence. The most significant of these were what appeared to be Phosphorescent Wheels, which, although they did not seem to rotate, originated from a central hub and spread out rings in rapid succession, forming concentric circles. This was pointed out by many of those who observed them as being similar to the instance of a stone being dropped into a quiet pond and causing waves to spread out. In this case each wave crest was a band of fantastic light. Each wheel would last for a couple of minutes, continually flashing out bands of light as though a transmitter was located at its centre. Wheels could be observed in all directions. At the same time systems of moving parallel bands could be observed, again travelling in totally random directions with respect to each other and passing off into the distance, only to be followed by another set."

The complexity of the display was so great that it confused the eye. Of particular interest was the fact that the centers of the wheels seemed to keep pace with the ship. Sometimes parallel bands of light were seen emanating from the side of the vessel itself, as if it was a center of one of the wheels!

The light bands were 3-5 meters wide; the parallel bands at least 160 meters long. Circle diameters ranged from 3 to perhaps 200 meters. Flashes occurred less than a second apart and were pale green with a touch of gold.

At 1740 GMT the vessel passed out of the display and seemed to cross a distinct line. On one side it displays were active, on the other all was dark. The light could be seen astern disappearing over the horizon.

(Round, G.E.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 54:78, 1984.)

Reference. Even more fantastic bioluminescent displays are cataloged in Chapter GLW in our volume: Lightning, Auroras. For details on this book, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #38, MAR-APR 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss