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No. 44: Mar-Apr 1986

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Unidentified Flashing Object

May 6, 1984. Equatorial Eastern Atlantic.

"Whilst the vessel was approaching the equator, on a course of 023 and at a speed of 10.3 knots, flashing white lights were observed. The sea was rippled, with a low NW'ly swell and the wind light airs. The visibility was good, with the moon in its first quarter. At first it was thought that there were three lights, one being bright and the other two relatively dim, but as the vessel approached it it was decided that there were only two, one bright and one dim.

"The radar, a 10-cm S-band Decca, was switched on and a single echo was detected initially at a range of 5 n. mile. By this time the lights had already been observed for halfan-hour, so it was estimated that they had first been observed when they were 10 n. mile distant. The time of the first sighting was 2220 GMT. The target, once detected, gave a very strong echo and gave the impression of being a large target. It was plotted and found to be stationary. The initial course of 023 was altered to 028 in order to enable the vessel to close the passing distance.

"Throughout the observations neither light followed any set characteristic. Instead they just flashed at random, but never together. The intensity of the bright light would have put many a lighthouse to shame. As the light came on the beam they both seemed to be on one and the same object -- perhaps at each end of a light float was one possibility suggested. As the lights came on the beam at a distance of 1.3 n. mile the Aldis lamp was shone in their direction but with no success in identifying them.....

"The two previous voyages had been to Brazil and France and the lights were observed on every occasion near the equator; they were identical in every way, but in the previous encounters the lights, both dim and bright, were more numerous."

(Guy, M.E.; "Unidentified Flashing Object," Marine Observer, 55:79, 1985.)

Comment. Similar lights have been reported in this area and elsewhere at sea. See GLN1 in Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights. This catalog is described here.

From Science Frontiers #44, MAR-APR 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss