Last night over the Pacific Ocean, somewhere South of the Russian peninsula Kamchatka I experienced the creepiest thing so far in my flying career.
After about 5 hours in flight we left Japan long time behind us and were cruising at a comfortable 34.000ft with about 4,5 hours to go towards Alaska.
We heard via the radio about earthquakes in Iceland, Chile and San Francisco, and since there were a few volcanos on our route that might or might not be going off during our flight, we double checked with dispatch if there was any new activity on our route after we departed from Hongkong.
Then, very far in the distance ahead of us, just over the horizon an intense lightflash shot up from the ground. It looked like a lightning bolt, but way more intense and directed vertically up in the air. I have never seen anything like this, and there were no flashes before or after this single explosion of light.
Since there were no thunderstorms on our route or weather-radar, we kept a close lookout for possible storms that might be hiding from our radar and might cause some problems later on.
I decided to try and take some pictures of the night sky and the strange green glow that was all over the Northern Hemisphere. I think it was sort of a Northern Lights but it was much more dispersed, never seen anything like this before either.
About 20 minutes later in flight I noticed a deep red/orange glow appearing ahead of us, and this was a bit strange since there was supposed to be nothing but endless ocean below us for hundreds of miles around us. A distant city or group of typical Asian squid-fishing-boats would not make sense in this area, apart from the fact that the lights we saw were much larger in size and glowed red/orange, instead of the normal yellow and white that cities or ships would produce.
The closer we got, the more intense the glow became, illuminating the clouds and sky below us in a scary orange glow. In a part of the world where there was supposed to be nothing but water.
The only cause of this red glow that we could think of, was the explosion of a huge volcano just underneath the surface of the ocean, about 30 minutes before we overflew that exact position.
Since the nearest possible airport was at least 2 hours flying away, and the idea of flying into a highly dangerous and invisible ash-plume in the middle of the night over the vast Pacific Ocean we felt not exactly happy. Fortunately we did not encounter anything like this, but together with the very creepy unexplainable deep red/orange glow from the ocean’s surface, we felt everything but comfortable. There was also no other traffic near our position or on the same routing to confirm anything of what we saw or confirm any type of ash clouds encountered.
We reported our observations to Air Traffic Control and an investigation into what happened in this remote region of the ocean is now started.
Two photos included, hardly edited except for watermark and resize. Note that photos are taken with extremely high ISO (sensor sensitivity) so quality might be a bit poor. Also an overview of our route + marking of the location is included.
Now I’m just hoping that if a new island has been formed there, at least it can be named after me as the official discoverer. 🙂
That would be pretty cool!
The 1492 light sighting was a sighting of unknown light during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus on October 11, 1492, by some crew members of Santa Maria, Pinta and possibly Niña shortly before the landing on Guanahani. The light was reported in Columbus’ journal, Ferdinand Columbus‘ Vita del Ammiraglio (The Life of the Admiral), the proceedings of the Pleitos Colombinos (the long lawsuit involving the heirs of Columbus) and some other sources.
Columbus described the light as “a small wax candle that rose and lifted up, which to few seemed to be an indication of land”. He received the royal reward for the sighting. His son Ferdinand also characterized it as a candle, that went up and down.
Bartolomé de las Casas noted the event in his abstract of Columbus’s log: “A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana saw this land first, although the Admiral, at the tenth hour of the night, while he was on the sterncastle saw a light, although it was something so faint that he did not wish to affirm that it was land. But he called Pero Gutierrez, the steward of the king’s dais, and told him that there seemed to be a light, and for him to look: and thus he did and saw it”.
It was calculated that the twelve leagues, that the crew ran since 10 p.m., with the two leagues distance off the land, essentially correspond to the distance and location of Watling’s Island from Guanahani. As such, it was presumed that the light was on Watling’s Island, which was passed by Columbus. Judging by the speed of the ships, provided in naval journal, L. T. Gould supposed that the light “must have been some 35 miles or so eastward of the landfall, and well to windward of it”
An early explanation was offered by Bartolomé de las Casas, who wrote: “I feel about this is that the Indians at night throughout these islands, as they are temperate without any cold, go out or used to go out from their straw houses that they call bohios at night to comply with their natural necessities and take in hand a firebrand, or small torch, or a chink of pine or of another very dry and resinous wood which burns like a torch, when it is dark night, and with which they guide themselves back again, and in the manner could be seen the light which Christopher Columbus and the others saw the light three or four times”.
This version was supported by Morison, despite the fact that it tended to undermine his preferred landfall at Watlings Island (San Salvador). Others have advanced the hypothesis that the light might have been an Indian fishing in a canoe at night, but the very high winds imply that would have been quite unlikely.
These problems have led to the conclusion by some that the light was not on Guanahani, the island of the first landfall, but on another, more easterly island bypassed in the night.
It has been proposed that the light was caused by bioluminescent protozoa on the rocks of Mouchoir Bank. However this theory is rendered improbable due to the “small wax candle” nature of the light, which suggests a point source. A single female Bermuda fireworm Odontosyllis enopla may have separate short periods of excessive and minor brilliance, perhaps accounting for a candle-like display.
But later research has shown that Odontosyllis bioluminescent activity is confined to a few days past the full moon, which would rule out that explanation, as the Moon was near first quarter that night.