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No. 79: Jan-Feb 1992

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Milky Sea

A report from the Captain of the m.v. Benalder, enroute from Singapore to Jeddah.

"18 August 1990. At 1640 UTC the sea surface was noticed to have a white appearance which at first was thought to be low-lying fog. This theory was disproved when shining a light in the water gave to noticeable increase in luminance.

"The phenomenon extended to the horizon in all directions and was bright enough to make the ship's foredeck and the sky appear much darker than the sea. Its appearance and disappearance was gradual apart from an area of normal sea which was passed about five minutes before the phenomenon faded away ay 1725."

(Anderson, F.G.J.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 61:117, 1991.)

Comment. Luminous bacteria are usually blamed for milky seas, but biologists have paid little attention to the phenomenon.

Reference. Milky seas and "white water" are cataloged in GLW9 in Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #79, JAN-FEB 1992. 1992-2000 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