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No. 101: Sep-Oct 1995

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An astonishing medley of bio luminescent displays

April 30, 1994. Strait of Hormuz. Aboard the m.v. BP Argosy enroute to Jubail.

"At around 1710 UTC large but faint whitish patches of bioluminescence were observed on the port side of the vessel; they were fast-moving with random directions of movement. Over the next five minutes the intensity of the bioluminescence increased to patches of brilliant flourescent green, while the random pattern of movement suddenly changed to fastmoving parallel bands heading toward the vessel. The pattern then changed again to form numerous rotating spirals: some were confirmed to be rotating anticlockwise but it was difficult to assess owing to the large number of overlapping patterns." "At this point the vessel was surrounded by the phenomenon to a distance of approximately 1 n. mile radius. Yet again the patterns changed, this time to parallel concentric circles moving outwards from numerous centres. The display started to decrease at 1725, returning to milky-white patches before eventually disappearing at 1730."

(Watson, M.M.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 65:59, 1995.)

Bioluminescent displays often possess mixed geometries
Bioluminescent displays often possess mixed geometries. In this illustration, both moving bars and rotating spoked wheels are noted. Location: East Indian Archipelago. Time: 1959.

May 23, 1994. Equatorial Atlantic.

Aboard the m.v. Taunton enroute to Richards Bay.

"At 0550 UTC the vessel was passing through an area of thunderstorms with moderate to heavy rain and the nearest area of lightning was about 4 n. mile away when the Chief Officer went onto the bridge to observe some bioluminescence. At this point he noted that the hairs of his arms and moustache were glowing with a bluish light although no tingling or any other sensation was felt. A check of the vessel's aerials revealed no traces of 'St Elmo's fire' and the observer seemed to be the only object affected. The glow disappeared once he retreated to the wheelhouse but reformed when he went outside again but without the same intensity." "What was noticeable was that the bioluminescence was only seen at the same times as the St. Elmo's fire, and the observer was left wondering whether it appeared in response to a heavy static charge in the air."

(Nicholls, G.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 65:69. 1995.)

Comments. We see in the first account remarkable changes in patterns and colors, all in the same display. Such collective action (?) by multitudes of tiny marine bioluminescent organisms is much more impressive than Malaysia's synchronized firefly displays. But the second account hints that perhaps external electrical fields may stimulate the patterns. See the book Science Frontiers for several cases of radar-bioluminescent phenomena; also Lightning, Auroras, etc. Both books are described here.

From Science Frontiers #101 Sep-Oct 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss