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No. 135: MAY-JUN 2001

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Whence Whitings?

Curious clouds of fine white particles often decorate the surface of the warm, shallow waters around the Bahamas. Called "whitings," these clouds of suspended material are not minor phenomena to file away and forget. Some of the bright streaks are 200 square kilometers in area and can be seen from the Space Shuttle.

The source of the whitings has not been determined with certainty. The locals claim that schools of fish stir up the fine, white, calcareous sediments. This is doubted because fish are very scarce in the areas where whitings occur. Another thought was that calcium carbonate was being precipitated directly from the ocean water. Chemical tests showed this to be impossible. A new theory has schools of sharks intentionally raising clouds of bottom sediments to blind fish. The sharks then move in with their electrosensitive organs, which are unaffected by the "white-out," and pick off the helpless fish.(Copley, Jon; "Sneak Attack," New Scientist, p. 22, December 2, 2000.)

Comment. It would take a lot of sharks to stir up 200 square kilometers of sediment! And why bother if fish are scarce where whitings are seen? A similar phenomenon is seen in the sudden whitenings of the Dead Sea. Details in GHC4 in Earthquakes, Tides,...

From Science Frontiers #135, MAY-JUN 2001. � 2001 William R. Corliss

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