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No. 118: Jul-Aug 1998

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Phosphorescent Rings And Wheels

October 13, 1996. Arabian Gulf. Aboard the tanker Arabiyah. Expanding phosphorescent rings were observed emanating from a single point. These rings were equally spaced and expanded outwards for about 500 meters before disappearing. Rings with spoke systems also formed, rotating clockwise. The observers had the distinct impression that the rings were above the sea surface.

We have reported on so many of these light wheels in the past 22 years that we have skimped on the details in favor of the comments made by P. Herring of the Southampton Oceanography Centre.

"This is a fascinating account of the most spectacular (and rare) bioluminescent phenomenon known (I have a record of some 250 reports in the last 100 years). These wheels/rings occur in relatively shallow water and are most frequently encountered in the Arabian Gulf and Bay of Bengal. The is no agreed cause, though some scientists have suggested seismic disturbances on the sea floor may be responsible."

(Kent, D.R.; "Phosphorescent Wheels," Marine Observer, 67:192, 1997.)

Comment. The frequent impression that these marine phosphorescent phenomena occur above the water surface is always puzzling because the bioluminescent organisms supposedly responsible are below the surface.

From Science Frontiers #118, JUL-AUG 1998. 1998-2000 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