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Marine Lightwheels:

Crop Circles of the Sea?

By Kris Sherwood


"The versatility of the unknown geometer creating the marine displays seems unbounded." From "The Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena"

A few months ago, to my utter amazement, I became aware of a little known and mysterious phenomenon known as "Marine Lightwheels". Astonishment grew as I researched the facts. I now have little doubt that at least some of the physics involved are similar to those creating Crop Circles.

Reports of "Marine Lightwheels", or "Submarine Lightwheels", have been recorded by mariners for more than a hundred years, and one source states that they are also mentioned in ancient Indian literature. Almost exclusively seen in the waters of the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the South China Sea, but also reported in the Gulf of Mexico and off Western Australia. All in close proximity to the latitude of 19.5 degrees. A fact I find very interesting.

There are hundreds of reports on record describing these gigantic rotating rimless wheels of light, seen on or just under the surface of the water, though there are also a few reports of the phenomenon appearing aerially just above the water's surface. While the source of the light itself has been attributed to the bioluminescent marine organisms, or Noctiluca miliaris (plankton), present in profusion in these waters, what is it that is stimulating them to produce the vast and complex geometrical displays that have been reported?

sea.jpg (45776 bytes)

Most witnesses describe first seeing a distant pulsing, or oscillating, light approach from the horizon. As it nears, radiating spokes of light moving rotationally on the surface of the water become visible and are seen to be rapidly revolving around a central hub that is described as being not brighter than the rays. Nearing the observer's ship the bands of light have been seen to curve concavely into the direction of their rotation, each band passing the ship at the rate of roughly one second intervals, and at speeds of 60 to 200 miles per hour. As the 'Lightwheels' approach and cross the area occupied by the boat there is no apparent effect from the boat on the progress of the light display; though on occasion it has been noted that the Lightwheels have seemed to follow with the boat, or in the case of multiple wheels, converge with the vessel's course for a time. Light from the 'wheel' can be clearly observed reflecting up onto the ship, it is not coming from overhead or being 'beamed down'; but rather seems to come from below the water's surface.

The Lightwheels have been estimated to be made up of roughly 16 radial spokes of light. The width of the light-spokes is usually equal to the spaces between them, and has been reported to vary from 20 to 70 feet, depending on the size of wheel. This width remains constant throughout their length, not widening at the terminus the way a beam of light would. The spoke/rays have been described as forming 'sinusoidal curves', or 'flattened S's', revolving around their hubs; curved like a 'Catherine wheel'. The diameter of the wheels has been estimated at 500 to 600 yards, though there are widely varying sizes reported in the individual accounts; in some cases it's been put at a half mile or more. In the case of multiple wheel events, or (on occasion) concentric radiating-ring displays, the first in the formation is the largest and the following ones tend to diminish in size. Occasionally wheels will overlap, simultaneously turning in opposite directions around separate hubs. One sighting describes two sets of concentric radiating circular light rings that were followed by an elliptical set of rings which radiated at a much faster rate than the circular ones. This particular sighting from the Gulf of Oman in October of 1960 also included the description of 'three separate vortices' spaced out in a straight line on the water's surface, about 600 feet apart, from which the concentric rings of light emanated at the rate of approximately one per second. Sometimes these Light wheels displays have been seen to be proceeded by straight horizontal bands of light approaching side-on from a distance in 'waves' before the onset of the rotating rimless Lightwheels. These wheel displays then finish with a similar set of horizontal bars. Groups of rotating circular patches of phosphorescence have also been seen in the same area. Another report from the Gulf of Oman in 1951, attributed ship's radar, or some type of 'sound excitation' of the Noctiluca by indigenous marine mammal communication, with the cause of a mass display of brilliant whirling phosphorescent crescents, seen spinning, clockwise to starboard and anticlockwise to port, inward toward the ship's bow and extending outward close to two miles. The duration of the 'light shows' has been said to last from 15 to 30 minutes. No occurrences have been reported in open oceans, instead being seen in 'land slide straights' [I am not a mariner,but that description sounds like it refers to something akin to the tendency of crop circles to form on leeward slopes]. Fully 70% of the sightings have been during March through June, and 60% of these in April, May, and June. Additionally, at times the sea's surface has been seen to 'boil' during the event; a 'swishing' sound has been heard that's been likened to that heard during 'low level aurora displays', and compasses have 'gone haywire' in the centres of them. [!!] I even came across ironic (and eerily familiar) comments about how scientists had generally ignored the phenomenon, writing it off to 'wild sailor's tales'.

The parallels to the Crop Circle Phenomenon are obvious, but how does it fit together? I suspect a critical combination of elements have to come together in order to trigger a Crop Circle event. Part of the physics involved may work much the way lightning strikes, and involve a similar ground based Electro-magnetic component. This might involve, among other things: ley-line energies, Earth-energy grid points (Bruce Cathe's work), the Van Allen Magnetic Belt, and in the case of Lightwheels, the energy concentration at 19.5' latitude North & South (Richard Hoagland's work in Tetrahedral geometry). The Lightwheels, by a combination of synchronous ingredients, may be an image of one or more of these energies as captured and revealed by the agitated phosphorescence of the local marine life. Why the Indian Ocean seems to be the centre of this phenomenon when Noctiluca is found in abundance in many other areas, is a mystery. Could this area near the Indian Ocean be a power point of converging energies similar to that of Southern England? While I'm convinced that in the case of Crop Circles there is a powerful intelligence behind the designs that appear, I think naturally occurring energies are being applied in their formation. Lightwheels may be a 'shadow on the wall' of one of them. Writing this piece I kept seeing an image of Lightwheels roaming the ocean's surface like the energy in an electric glass 'plasma-ball' (the kind you can buy in some speciality shops), that radiates from the centre randomly until you touch it and it 'magnetises' to your hand. But what 'hand' is involved here?

Kris Sherwood

January 1997

Illustration by Ed Sherwood

UPDATE by Kris Sherwood

‘In the first week of August I received a letter from an Australian mariner containing exciting new confirmation of the exotic and rarely reported phenomenon of ‘Marine Lightwheels’, or (geometrically organised) ‘Bioluminescent Displays’, which exhibit many uncanny similarities to some of the formative characteristics of Crop Circle events.

After reading my article on the ‘Lightwheels’ phenomenon in Nexus Magazine (April ‘97) Mr. Norman Fraser, a master mariner who operates a marine surveying company out of Queensland, wrote to me enclosing two articles published in separate marine journals containing his account of the two spectacular occurrences of this phenomenon that he witnessed, within days of each other in November of 1997 in the Bay of Bengal. He found and sent for the back issue of the Nexus containing my article,
while doing his own research into what it was that he had witnessed. Mr. Fraser’s description of the awesome display, that he and a shipmate observed, closely matches the historical accounts I found while researching my article; although the most recent one I was able to find was recorded in 1964.

Mr. Fraser’s eyewitness account describes being on watch aboard the supply ship the ‘Ocean Worker’, at 3AM on November 4, 1997, in an area of the sea where naturally occurring bioluminescent organisms are common. Mr. Fraser and shipmate Samuel Apaya observed as the sea began to pulsate in ‘unusual luminous patches’ for a distance as far around the ship as they could see. The patches soon formed huge ‘rotating wands of green light’ in the water; the curved spokes turning from a central hub at ‘more that 80 cycles per minute’! Very much, he said in his letter, like the illustration that Ed did for my article. After about five minutes the display ended. As a trained observer he took careful notes of the event, and had the account co-signed by his shipmate. The British Met office has told him he is possibly the only person to have witnessed this phenomenon more than once. In his letter he states there have been hundreds of reported sightings of these amazing displays. He also has written another article, soon to be published, in which he relates a sighting by a friend of his that took place ‘years ago aboard a war ship near Viet Nam’.

(As I’ve said in my original article: I suspect that a geometrically moving energy field, probably Electro-magnetic in origin and moving in a very similar pattern to the shapes seen in Crop Circle events, is stimulating the bioluminescent organisms to phosphoresce. In past written accounts the marine displays have been seen in sets of decreasing sized circular wheels; in circular patches; in groups of multiple crescents; and in sets of straight lines. Also they seem to ‘gravitate’ toward, or ’magnetise’ to and follow along with, the ships they have been seen in the vicinity of.)

Mr. Fraser has promised to forward his latest article to me, containing his friend’s near Viet Nam sighting, when published. Meanwhile I am awaiting information from one of the maritime journals that published his article, to arrange posting a copy of it here on our Homepage.

K.W.S./September ‘98

Reference sources:

The Books of Charles Fort Henry Holt & Company, New York 1941

Invisible Residents Ivan T. Sanderson, World Publishing Co. 1970

Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomenon William R. Corliss, Crown Publishing New York 1986

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