Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 105: May-Jun 1996

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Another Milky Sea

January 25, 1995. Indian Ocean. Aboard the s.s. Lima, Juaymah to Rotterdam.

Third officer, S.M.F. Masud, and others of the ship's company observed another instance of one of the sea's great unex plained phenomena.

"At 1800 UTC on a clear moonless night while 150 n.mile east of the Somalian coast a whitish glow was observed on the horizon and, after 15 minutes of steaming, the ship was completely surrounded by a sea of milky-white colour with a fairly uniform luminescence. The bioluminescence appeared to cover the entire sea area, from horizon to horizon but above the surface, and it appeared as though the ship was sailing over a field of snow or gliding over the clouds.

"There was no damping effect on capillary waves or reduction of visibility at all and there was no mist at deck level although at a distance it seemed as if there was either lowlying mist or the upwelling of the luminescence itself. The bow waves and the wake appeared blackish in colour and thick black patches of oil were passing by. Later, the Aldis lamp revealed that the 'oil patches' were actually light-green kelp, amazingly black against the white water."

A water sample contained many singlecelled microorganisms, but they displayed no luminescence. After 6 hours, the luminescence disappeared.

Commenting on this report, P.J. Herring, of the Southhampton Oceanography Centre, said that milky seas are most often associated with the Southwest Monsoon. This one was was rare in that the Northeast Monsoon prevailed. His final remark was: "The mystery of its cause remains unsolved."

(Briand, J.P.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 66:12, 1996)

Reference. The various types of anomalous bioluminescence are cataloged in GLW in our Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #105, MAY-JUN 1996. 1996-2000 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