Wednesday, March 26, 2008

from The Gentleman's Magazine, 1904

(page 127)

As the steamship "Kilwa," Captain Whitehead, was leaving the Persian Gulf, at 8 o'clock on the night of April 4, 1901, the officer of the watch called the commander's attention to a peculiar appearance of the sea-surface. Great waves of vapour seemed to rush past the steamer at the almost incredible rate of sixty miles a minute! There was not any phosphorescence, except at the instant that each wave passed the bridge; and then the water seemed covered with star-like specks as though a handful of pebbles had been thrown into quiescent phosphorus. The vapour-like waves were comparable to a field of gold-ripe corn over which a strong breeze was passing, depressing the ears in long waves and thus causing light and dark lines. The sky was cloudless, and the distant high land clearly defined.

Each puny wave in diamonds rolled

O'er the calm deep, where hues of gold

held spell-bound the cosmopolitan crew. In a few minutes the waves
changed their direction ; and, instead of coming from the south-east, towards which point of the compass she was steaming, now came from the south, and quickly from the south-west. It was then noticed that the centre of the disturbance was close to the ship, as there appeared to be a circular dark patch whence the waves were darting in every direction. This display lasted fifteen minutes, and gradually died out.

A somewhat similar experience was recorded by
Captain Pearson, of the steamer "Strathleven," in 1881. Just at the entrance to Aden Bay a species of luminous vapour was observed gyrating on the sea-surface; the zone being about three hundred yards broad, and connected with extremely luminous water to the eastward. Last September, somewhat to the eastward of the above position, the P. & O. steamship " Australia," Captain Cole, found the sea-surface covered with a luminous haze, apparently due to phosphorescence.

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