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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

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