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No. 112: Jul-Aug 1997

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Psychedelic Phenomenon

October 3, 1995. Strait of Hormuz. Aboard the m.v. Chilham Castle enroute Karachi to Kuwait.

"At about 2240 UTC, the observers saw a strange effect in the sea stretching for approximately 100 m from the parallel body. It was a soft white light, almost strobe-like in character that pulsed irregularly. The light was bright enough to illuminate the wheelhouse deckhead and seemed to emanate from below the water, almost as if something was shining a spotlight upwards, shimmering and twirling: psychedelic projections of the 1960s were brought to mind. Curiously, the wash from the bow was not illuminated and appeared normal, likewise the wake."

The phenomenon lasted for 6 or 7 minutes, faded, and then reappeared briefly. The night was clear and the visibility excellent.

(Griffiths, P.J.; "Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 66:183, 1996.)

Comment. The comparison to an underwater spotlight shining upward from the depths appears frequently in accounts of abnormal marine luminescence. Note particularly the unlit bow wash and wake. In normal bioluminescent displays, so common in tropical waters, these features are bright -- as Kipling expressed so vividly: "The wake's a welt of light that holds the hot sky tame." (From: L'Envoi)

From Science Frontiers #112, JUL-AUG 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss