Some of us on FB were speaking about lightning bugs, and it made me think of something else pretty wondrous I've seen I thought I'd share.
I've deduced that the conditions required for this are pretty rare, related to things like the time of year, time of day, the lack of a moon, and thermal gradients in the ocean. I only saw it once, and in 20 years I never heard of another sonar person relating this either.
One night underway in the Indian Ocean as lead sonar technician on watch, I was conducting testing and maintenance on our very high powered sonar. We were actively pinging at full blast into the water and there's something in the order of 300 kilowatts of sound energy being pumped out with every series of pings. These are sent out first as three sequential directed pings of 30 degrees each, left center and right to cover 90 degrees. These are followed by a single 360 degree ping.
At some point I was called to the bridge by the OOD (Officer of the Deck). Once I reported to him, he asked me to look out in front of the ship and tell him what I made of what was going on. It took a few moments for my eyes to finish acclimating to the utterly black night, but I'll never forget what I saw.
Out in the water, like Neptune himself with a huge flashlight; our sonar pings were lighting up the ocean! 3 bright sequential flashes, blue-greenish and perfectly in synch with our pings, each lighting up the water in beams; followed by one dimmer 360 degree flash in synch with the last ping. While I was astounded, I immediately and almost nonchalantly deduced the cause and relayed same to the OOD; can you guess what it was?
After talking to the OOD, I went down to the sonar shack and directed the maintenance team to take a break and meet me on the ships bow, leaving the sonar engaged. Although they are typically our nemesis on a ship, I had friends in engineering so I also called down to the plant and let them know they needed to come see this. Each department's watch team took turns to allow the operators a turn on deck, though I don't think everyone got a chance to see before the phenomenon ended.
Some of us tried to take pictures, but cameras failed to capture it at all. Apparently meant to only be kept in our minds, I think Goddess was trying to show us the wonders she could let us share with our technology were no match for her own.
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