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No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987

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Ship Enveloped By False Radar Echo

August 1, 1985. Red Sea. Aboard the m.v. Botany Bay.

"At 1800 a crescent-shaped trace of spurious echoes appeared about 15 n. miles ahead of the vessel. This gradually developed, in an encirculating manner, until, by 1845 the echoes had totally surrounded the vessel. (See sketch.) The effect looked like, or could be likened to a plan view of a black island with sandy beaches around its perimeter. The echoes were significant with strong contrast and could even have been mistaken for land on the radar. The effect could not be removed or diminished by changing range scales, motion modes, gain, tuning or perhaps most significantly, altering the pulse lengths. An identical effect was observed on the vessel's independent ARPA radar. The Master commented that although false echoes were invariably encountered in this region, he had not seen one such as this, which actually 'encapsulated' the vessel within the PPI of the radar. By 1935 the false echoes had dissipated into isolated batches splayed randomly across the screen."

(Leslie, A.J.; "Radar Echoes," Marine Observer, 56:117, 1986.)

Comment. In the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, similar false echoes are often associated with bioluminescent phenomenon. For details, see category GLW in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. Ordering information here.

Ship enveloped by false radar echo

From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987. 1987-2000 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