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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

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