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Oceanography/balls of light on Mediterranean sea


This is going to sound crazy, but I was on the cruise a few weeks ago and I was looking out at the ocean for several minutes when I saw what I thought was a small ball of light floating on the surface of the sea. I didn't say anything to my husband at first, but I watched the waves cover it and it come back up. I mentioned it to him and he didn't believe me. But I saw another one a little later and pointed it out. After that we both saw about 5 or 6 more before we didn't see any again.
Any idea on what it could have been?

What you saw is most likely caused by some phenomenon involving biolumunescence. My guess is that the water contained very small bioluminescent organisms (plankton, small jellyfish) and the balls of light were created by little schools of feeding fish stirring them up so that they glowed. It is a well know phenomenon that bioluminescent organsims flash (suddenly emit light) when the water they are in is agitated, such as through the movement of fish or boats.

Ocean bioluminescence is a much more widespread phenomenon than most people think. Two experts in the field who can be found on the internet are Edie Widder and Mike Latz.

Thanks for the question,



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randy patton


Physical oceanography, surface and internal wave characteristics, ocean currents, fluid mechanics, geophysical fluid dynamics, ocean optics, coastal dynamics, modeling and simulation, data analysis, El Nino and related large scale dynamics Not an expert in marine biology (some in bioluminescence) or chemical oceanography


26 years as professional scientist for research company working mostly on Navy and other government contracts. Projects included modeling, simulations and data analysis related to Non-acoustic Anti-submarine Warfare (NAASW). Other projects included remote sensing of ocean features, statistical analysis of ship tracks, ocean optics instrumentation development, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and sonar (SAS).

Journal of Physical Oceanography, 1984, "A Numerical Model for Low-Frequency Equatorial Dynamics" (with M. Cane)

MS Physical Oceanography, MIT, 1981 BS Applied Math, UC Berkeley, 1976

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