Friday, February 29, 2008

Strangely Illuminated


Weird Effect of Phosphorescence on a Ship In Bering Sea

"I have often heard of the wonderful phosphorescence of southern seas," remarked a traveler from the north, "and I have seen some pretty fair samples of it in the Atlantic between New York and English ports but I did not know until recently that it prevailed to any extent in northern waters.

"Last August I was on board a revenue cutter in the Bering sea, about 63 degrees north latitude, bound north, when one night about 10 o'clock I happened to go on deck, and I was almost frightened by the sight of the sea. The wind was blowing sharp enough to raise the whitecaps, and the whole sea looked as if it were lighted from its depths by a million arc lights, throwing their white rays upward and under the flying foam. The hollows of the waves were dark, but every crest that broke showered and sparkled as if it were filled with light. From the sides of the ship great rolls of broken white light fell away, and she left a broad pathway of silvery foam as far back as the eye could reach.

"But about this hour was the most striking display. Here it was as if the ship were plowing through the sea of white light, and as the water was thrown back from her prow it fell in glittering piles of light upon the dark surface beyond and was driven far down below, lighting the depths as if all the electricity of the ocean were shooting its sparkles through the waves and turning itself into innumerable incandescents that flushed a second and then shut out forever. I stood on the forecastle deck looking down into the brilliant white turmoil of the waters until I began to feel as if we were afloat upon some silver sea, and a really uncanny feeling took possession of me. The white ship was lighted by the phosphorescence of the waters, so that as high up as the deck there was a pale, weird white that made one feel as if the 'Flying Dutchman' were abroad upon the seas and had passed by us. The masts towered in ashy gray above the decks, and every rope and line stood out distinctly in the light, but cast no shadow. It was all as ghostly as if we had gone up against the real thing, and it was a positive relief to get back into the wardroom, where there was something more human. I don't know how long it lasted, but when I went to bed at 11 o'clock I could still see the silver shining through the air port in my stateroom." — Washington Star.

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