Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

Issue Contents

Other pages











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