August 18, 2022

First Time A Camera Has Captured The Eerie Radiance Of A “milky Sea”

4 min read
First Time A Camera Has Captured The Eerie Radiance Of A "milky Sea"

A sailor on the Ganesha superyacht saw the ocean had gone white when he woke up at 10 p.m. The sea appears to be full of plankton and there is no moon, but the bow wave is black. It seemed to be sailing on snow, they claimed.

Mariners have long spoken of sailing through unearthly, at-night waters that are illuminated by a mysterious glow, but due to their remoteness, transitoriness, and rarity, these “milky seas” have long evaded scientific study.

Only a small number of people who are still living, in my opinion, have seen one. You have to be in the right place at the right time, according to Steven Miller, an atmospheric science professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “They’re just not very common — may be up to one or two per year globally — and they’re not usually close to shore, so you have to be in the right place at the right time,” he said.

It is believed that bioluminescent bacteria interact with one another to cause milky seas, presumably in response to variations in ocean currents brought on by atmospheric circumstances. Miller has been after them for decades, jealously listening to rare first-hand tales and looking for both the scientific proof necessary to prove their reality as well as a way to personally experience and study the phenomenon.

First Time A Camera Has Captured The Eerie Radiance Of A "milky Sea"

It’s a pretty significant and somewhat enigmatic reaction in our biosphere. We want to understand how it functions and how that might alter as the environment changes, he said.

Miller has received some intriguing leads in the last ten years thanks to the low-light photography equipment mounted on more recent environmental satellites. The first surface-based confirmation that these satellite images actually show milky seas, as well as the first real-world images of the phenomenon, has now been provided by witness testimony from sailors onboard the Ganesha Superyacht.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites photographed what Miller believed to be a bioluminescent event south of Java, Indonesia, spanning more than 100,000 sq km, between late July and early September 2019. (38,600 sq miles). He released photos of the occurrence in Nature Scientific Reports in July 2021, along with 11 other potential milky sea sightings. As a result of media attention given to this study, Naomi McKinnon, one of Ganesha’s seven crew members, got in touch with Miller to share their account of what happened on the evening of August 2, 2019.

Around 9 p.m., while travelling halfway around the world between Lombok, Indonesia, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the East Indian Ocean, the Ganesha ran aground on a patch of glowing water. Unexpectedly, the yacht sailed into these glistening waters, and the experience continued till daybreak.

According to a crew member, the glow’s colour and intensity were “similar to glow-in-the-dark stars or stickers.” The illumination, contrary to what some experts had hypothesised, appeared to emanate roughly 10 metres below the water’s surface, according to the yacht’s captain.

First Time A Camera Has Captured The Eerie Radiance Of A "milky Sea"

According to Miller, whose research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lowering a bucket into the water revealed many pinpoints of constant light that faded upon stirring – the opposite of what happens with “regular” bioluminescence.

The first images of a milky sea were captured by the crew using a smartphone and a digital camera, he continued. “Up until this moment, everything has been done through word of mouth and dates back to the early days of commerce ships in the 18th century. They’ve all kind of describing the same thing, and the images support what they’ve said: it’s a uniform, ethereal glow with a somewhat hazy aspect that is really unsettling.

Future research on milky oceans should be made simpler by this independent confirmation. It implies that we can now confidently direct research vessels outfitted with the appropriate equipment to sample the water and identify its composition while also using satellite photos to investigate milky oceans from space, according to Miller.

It appears that the 2019 Java milky sea lasted for at least 45 nights, which implies that these phenomena are not just a shot-in-the-dark, one-night event, which would make it very impossible to get out to one in time. We’ve discovered that once these bigger ones are set up, they remain there for at least a few weeks.

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