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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

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