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No. 4: July 1978

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Bioluminescence And Spurious Radar Echoes

March 18, 1977. North Atlantic. Throughout the day, spurious echoes had been appearing on the radar screen aboard the m.v. Ebani. Resembling the echoes from small clusters of fishing boats, they would close to within 5 nautical miles and then disappear. At 2200, echoes appeared, closed to within 5.5 nautical miles, and then spread out around the ship in a circle, all the while maintaining a 5-mile range. At this time, the entire sea took on a milky appearance and a fishy smell was dected. The beam from an Aldis lamp revealed luminescent organisms in the sea. After 45 minutes, both milky sea and spurious radar echoes disappeared together.

(Richards, A.W.; "Radar Echoes and Bioluminescence," Marine Observer, 48: 20, 1978.)

Comment. Why should radar echoes and bioluminescence be connected? Does the "fishy smell" imply that the milky sea released something into the atmosphere that created a radar target? Other bioluminescent phenomena, including the famous "light wheels" are catalogued in Section GLW in Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights. For more information on this book, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #4, July 1978. � 1978-2000 William R. Corliss