When “Sea Stories” Aren’t…

It took ten years to learn more about that night twenty years ago.


The “milk sea” in a composite satellite image, and the region of the ocean where it was spotted. Credit: Steven Miller, NRL

I am referring to the natural world phenomenon of bioluminescence.

Quoting Robert Roy Britt from his October 4, 2005, article titled, ‘Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos‘:

[Excerpt] “The newly released images show a vast region of the Indian Ocean, about the size of Connecticut, glowing three nights in a row. The luminescence was also spotted from a ship in the area. … The event occurred in 1995 and was finally analyzed and reported last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”


The “ship in the area” mentioned in the ‘Live Science’ article above was reportedly a merchant vessel, but I know that other ships, including those of the U.S. Navy, also witnessed the phenomenon… because I was on one, a Spru-Can, call sign ‘Forerunner’. I was on other tin cans before and after, but what happened this night became the talk of this ship. It was a night no Sailor could forget…

I was on watch in CIC when our lookouts first reported it. I called Radar One for a spot relief then went up to a crammed bridge to see the phenomenon for myself. It was truly amazing… Everyone was awe-struck… There was a giddy buzz from the crew, and yet a sobering hush as well. A bunch of us immediately headed to the weather decks and the fantail to get a closer look. The sea literally had a pulsing-type glow for miles as we moved through it, almost like being on a massively-strobed airport runway. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It was one of the most spectacular things in the natural world I’ve ever witnessed…


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