Now satellite images of milky white seas in the Indian Ocean have been discovered by scientist Steve Miller and his colleagues of the US Naval Research Laboratory. In a new publication, Miller and colleagues describe finding a sighting of milky white seas from a ship in the Indian Ocean in 1995 near Somalia. They then looked for satellite images taken of this area at the time. The images did capture the event, and subsequent analyses showed that the glowing water covered 15,400 square kilometers. The milky white glow continued for three nights but it moved with the currents.
A large population of glowing bacteria called Vibrio harveyi, which live together with microscopic algae, probably generated the soft, white light. This phenomenon is known as bioluminescence. This is light produced through chemical reactions in an organism. Quite a few organisms produce bioluminescent, some on land such as fungi and fireflies both of which are found in Seychelles, but mostly in the sea.
At sea bioluminescence is a common occurrence in the bow wave and wake of a ship The usually greenish or bluish, iridescent glow is caused by tiny organisms called dinoflagellates, which are single celled algae. The algae are mechanically excited by the passage of ships to produce chemical reactions leading to light. Bioluminescence is a fascinating phenomenon and it is the only source of light in the deep ocean. It usually does not exist in freshwater areas.
The milky white sea is not a common occurrence and until now it was not known what caused it. There have been accounts from sailor for many years but no one had investigated it. The scientists say that as satellite technology gets more sophisticated they hope to be able to detect milky seas as they happen and then can actually go to the area and find out what is going on. You can help as well. Anybody who has seen this phenomenon around Seychelles can call me with the details so I can send the information to the American researchers working on it.
By Nirmal Jivan Shah, published on the People Newspaper, Seychelles on 6th October 2005.