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No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

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Multiple Phosphorescent Wheels

Phosphorescent wheel seen at sea
This is the sketch mentioned in the Marine Observer article.
April 17, 1995. Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Aboard the m.v. British Reliance, enroute Fujairah to Kharg Island. Observers: the Master and Second Officer.

"At 1525 UTC whilst in the westbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme and shortly after settling on a course of 270, a small amount of blue phosphorescence was noticed in the sea waves ahead (the swell being very low).
Suddenly, the wind appeared to blow quite strongly, swirling around the vessel and then for as far as the eye could see and all around the vessel, phosphorescent cartwheels of bright-blue light began forming. The bands of light were roughly 30 cm thick while the maximum diameter of the wheels was 15-18 m.

"Their direction of movement seemed random and they were spinning at high speed, some chasing each other, others spinning in opposite directions next to each other, see sketch.

"Whole groups dumbbelled around each other, all spinning in apparently random directions. The display lasted for about 18 minutes before petering out."

A comment by P.J. Herring of the Southampton Oceanography Centre followed.

"A quite extraordinary account of phosphorescent wheels occurring in one of the places where they are most often seen. In the 200, or so, cases of this phenomenon reported in the last 100 years, never have so many wheels been described so close together, nor has there been any association with wind change. I am very intrigued but at a complete loss to explain how the wheels were produced."

(Greig, N.J.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 66:62, 1996)

Reference. The amazining variety of bioluminescent displays is cataloged in GLW in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

Three-wheel phosphorescent wheel seen as sea This three-wheel system shows the phenomenon more completely. Imagine the whole sea covered with scores of these spinning wheels! These three wheels were seen in the Gulf of Thailand, on April 24, 1953.

From Science Frontiers #106, JUL-AUG 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