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No. 82: Jul-Aug 1992

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May 6, 1991. Straits of Hormuz. Aboard the m.v. Zidona, enroute from Muscat to Ruwais.

"At 1805 UTC a blue-white pattern of fast-moving light was seen around the ship. Initially, it was thought to be a reflection in the bridge windows of the Didimar lighthouse, but on going to the bridge wing, the observers saw an amazing display of flashing lights taking place over 8090 per cent of the surface of the water. The whole ship was surrounded by a mass of blue and white light forming complex patterns that were visible in all directions as far as the eye could see. Looking almost like an 'electric mist', it moved with such speed and ease, as if it were alive.

"At the peak of the activity, there appeared to be two central points of spiralling, each about 150 m off either side of the ship about midships. From these points there seemed to be emerging highly confused patterns of spiralling spokes moving in an anticlockwise direction on the port side and clockwise on the starboard side of the ship. It was difficult to estimate accurately how many spokes were present in each circle, but it was thought that there were three or four at any one time, moving very fast and curving to produce what could only be described as a 'whirlpool' effect.

"At the same time, there were pulsating rings expanding from the centres at intervals of about threequarters of a second. They moved extremely fast, each circle taking about one second to reach a diameter of about 200 m before being lost in the mass of flashing blue and white lights. The thickness of each ring remained constant at about 2 m as the diameter of the circle increased; the formation was always a perfect circle.

"About 300 m off the ship's side, large irregular shapes were observed, They were all about 3-m in diameter and changed both size and shape while flashing intensely. By 1817 the effect had completely stopped on the starboard side and only the pulsating rings were left on the port side and, with these, the intensity of the light reduced until 1822 when there was nothing more to observe."

(Bowden, P.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 62:64, 1992.)

Reference. Chapter GLW in our catalog Lightning, Auroras describes a wide variety of complex bioluminescent phenomena, including many "wheels.". Ordering details here.

From Science Frontiers #82, JUL-AUG 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss