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October 4, 2005 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Evidence of the "Milky Sea" -- The mysterious ocean glow described by Jules Verne in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and observed by sailors has been confirmed by recent satellite photos. On many occasions over the centuries, mariners have reported witnessing surreal nocturnal displays where the surface of the sea produces an intense, uniform, and sustained glow that extends to the horizon in all directions. Although such emissions cannot be fully reconciled with the known features of any light-emitting organism, these so-called "milky seas" are hypothesized to be manifestations of unusually strong bioluminescence produced by colonies of bacteria in association with a microalgal bloom in the surface waters. Because of their ephemeral nature and the paucity of scientific observations, an explanation of milky seas has remained elusive. Here, we report the first satellite observations of the phenomenon.
posted by billysumday (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Otherwise known as Giant Balls of Snot
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2005


Cool. Now if we can only get these critters to gather into areas that spell "Coke"...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:39 PM on October 4, 2005


Gaia just had a wet dream.
posted by HTuttle at 5:54 PM on October 4, 2005


Eh, is this different than the small bioluminescent organisms that -- I thought -- were fairly common? I recall it in the beaches off of Thailand and Malaysia, produced when the water was stirred into motion, for example, by swimming. And the dive instructors and locals there were hardly surprised by it.
posted by dreamsign at 6:09 PM on October 4, 2005


I believe this is different -- it is roughly the size of Connecticut.
posted by drinkcoffee at 6:12 PM on October 4, 2005


mad rush of the millionaires to visit such locations as they are found...
posted by nervousfritz at 6:14 PM on October 4, 2005


Somehow, this is Bush's fault, am i rite?
posted by keswick at 6:14 PM on October 4, 2005


Phosphorescent tides is what they are called and they are common. I grew up on the west coast and have seen them many times. Great fun to swim in at night.
posted by bat at 6:18 PM on October 4, 2005


It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
posted by djeo at 6:18 PM on October 4, 2005


It's just giant squid pee.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:19 PM on October 4, 2005


I believe the report states that there is a difference between what some of you have witnessed - where the microorganisms bioluminesce (can that be a verb?) quickly and then fade out - and these milky seas, where the glow maintains its intensity for days at a time. So in response to Eh, is this different than the small bioluminescent organisms that -- I thought -- were fairly common?, the answer would be, "yes".
posted by billysumday at 6:23 PM on October 4, 2005


This is not a normal phosphorescence, as others have already pointed out.
posted by mek at 6:30 PM on October 4, 2005


The world is so wonderfully strange!
posted by LarryC at 6:33 PM on October 4, 2005


(fixed Bighappyfunhouse's link)
posted by me3dia at 6:44 PM on October 4, 2005


Old leviathan is luring sea creatures to their doom with a little light show.
posted by modernerd at 6:48 PM on October 4, 2005


I remember one magical night in Goa, India, when the moon was up and the bioluminescent waves were crashing like dayglo paint on the beaches. That was extraordinary.

Mind you, the acid was pretty good too.

The next day, the scungy green plankton in the waves looked hideous.
posted by wilful at 6:51 PM on October 4, 2005


Out of curiosity, where does it say that the Giant Balls of Snot are bioluminescent? Doesn't seem to be the same thing, I don't think.
posted by billysumday at 6:51 PM on October 4, 2005


I welcome our new microalgal (bacterial?) overlords.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:58 PM on October 4, 2005


This goo, it vibrates glows?
posted by fandango_matt at 7:01 PM on October 4, 2005


Just a plumbing leak in R'lyeh.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:02 PM on October 4, 2005


We were playing with this stuff a month or so ago. If you're on the west coast and experience the "red tide" bring a jug of that murky water home, turn off all of the lights and add a drop of vinegar to it. It causes the microbes ro release simultaneously. Nice light show. Pretty cool for kids.
posted by snsranch at 7:06 PM on October 4, 2005


Scientists suspect bioluminescent bacteria are behind the phenomenon. Such creatures produce a continuous glow, in contrast to the brief, bright flashes of light produced by "dinoflagellate" bioluminescent organims that are seen more commonly lighting up ship wakes and breaking waves.

Interesting. We had a sudden, surreal event on small fishing vessel close to Flores that turned out to be a large fish that had flopped up on deck, coated in something bioluminescent. And I've seen the milky waves that certainly did seem brighter than the wave-action critters. All very cool.
posted by dreamsign at 7:13 PM on October 4, 2005


Ok, to clarify, we're discussing three things:
1) The FPP is discussing giant, long-term bioluminescent masses in the sea.
2) Bighappyfunhouse is discussing big balls of sea snot that are unrelated to the FPP and unrelated to bioluminescence.
3) A lot of other people are discussing the much smaller scale, short-term bioluminescence that they've experienced in the crashing surf.
posted by Bugbread at 7:29 PM on October 4, 2005


You haven't lived till you've gone midnight scuba diving in bioluminescent plankton at 60 feet off a coral wall in Palau with the flashlights off.
posted by brownpau at 7:43 PM on October 4, 2005


freaky.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 PM on October 4, 2005


These are definitely giant boogers.
posted by onalark at 8:24 PM on October 4, 2005


fascinating.
posted by recurve at 8:26 PM on October 4, 2005


I find this one pretty disturbing as well.
posted by onalark at 8:32 PM on October 4, 2005


I, for one, welcome our phosphorescent snot overlords.
posted by zardoz at 8:41 PM on October 4, 2005


You haven't lived till you've gone midnight scuba diving in bioluminescent plankton at 60 feet off a coral wall in Palau with the flashlights off.

Or night-swum naked with dolphins in photoluminescent plankton in the Bay of Banderas while ripped on ricilla.

We had a sudden, surreal event on small fishing vessel close to Flores

Hey, Flores fishing-boat buddy!

(OK, my travel e-penis++ bit is finished now.) I would love to sail through one of those openwater agglomerations of bioluminescence like the one pictured in the link. I've seen the stuff all over the world swimming, diving and sailing in warm-water oceans, but never as dramatic and enormous as that seems to be. Too much to do, too little time in life.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:38 PM on October 4, 2005


I've seen that too: way offshore. The ocean was milky for about two weeks if I remember correctly. We have photos of it in the daytime and it is pale turquoise, sort of opaque and at night it glowed.

It was pretty damn cool, especially when the Northern Lights were out at the same time.
posted by fshgrl at 1:15 AM on October 5, 2005


Sorry guys. That was me. I entirely miscalculated my ejaculatory force and volume.
posted by srboisvert at 3:48 AM on October 5, 2005


This is totally radical! And by the term radical, I mean, off the heezy.

Sometimes, I wish I could be an old salt, out at sea. That would be fantastic. I'd be like:

"Holy shit, a milky sea which extends over the horizon!"
"Holy shit, Saint Elmo's Fire!"
"Holy shit, a monsoon!"
"Holy shit, a leviathan!"

Crew entry:
Today was quite eventful.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 4:49 AM on October 5, 2005


You haven't lived till you've gone midnight scuba diving in bioluminescent plankton at 60 feet off a coral wall in Palau with the flashlights off.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:43 AM on October 5, 2005


Ia! Ia! Ftagn!
posted by Artw at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2005


What an exciting photograph!
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:52 AM on October 5, 2005


Calling PenguinBukkake.
posted by snsranch at 4:14 PM on October 5, 2005


Filthy!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:00 PM on October 5, 2005


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