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No. 85: Jan-Feb 1993

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A Parade Of Spinning Phosphorescent Wheels

October 7, 1991. Gulf of Aden. Aboard the m.v. Wiltshire enroute from Aqaba to Fujayrah.

"At 1745 UTC the glow of bioluminescence was first noted around the hull of the vessel, illuminating the hull above the waterline. The passage of an area of phosphorescent wheels was recorded as follows:

1750: First large wheel of diameter approximately 15 m passed by vessel. Smell of fish in the air. 1806: Continuous wheels passing ves sel 6-8 at a time down either side. The larger wheels were of 15 m diameter and the smaller ones were about 6 m in diameter. 1811: Wheels stopped but bioluminescence still visible around vessel. 1950: Bioluminescence diminished.

"The Aldis lamp was shone upon the water but gave no change, then the echo sounder was switched on and off but made no difference either. Several samples of sea water were taken which when shaken contained glowing, luminous, yellow-green specks 1 mm in size.

"The wheels were turning in slow clockwise motion and the closest that any came to the ship was about 12 m. There was intense milky-white colouring in the centres which faded to pale white towards the outer limits."

None of the radial spokes so common in phosphorescent-wheel reports were remarked in the Wiltshire report. Wheel rotation was also much slower than normal. One scientist supposed that the wheels were caused by fish swimming in tight circles! (Marsh, C.H.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 62:177, 1992.)

Reference. Wheels and a variety of other enigmatic bioluminescent phenomena can be found in Chapter GLW in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #85, JAN-FEB 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss