Glowing Waters of the Horn: Somalia’s Maritime Marvel

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By Ahmed Ali 

The Glowing Sea mystery off the coast of Somalia refers to a remarkable and poorly understood natural phenomenon where large expanses of the ocean surface glow in the dark with a milky or creamy light. 

Sailors throughout history have reported seeing this natural phenomena around the Somali coast, often attributing it to supernatural or mysterious causes. These accounts included descriptions of glowing or phosphorescent waters, which might be related to bioluminescent events that are rare and still not fully understood. 

The Glowing Sea event off the coast of Somalia is notable for its vast scale and extended duration. Satellite imagery revealed a glowing area covering hundreds of square kilometres, making it one of the largest bioluminescent events ever documented.

This phenomenon was documented in 2005 by Steve Miller, a U.S. naval oceanographer, who came across reports from sailors in the past describing a large, persistent glow in the ocean. Using state-of-the-art satellites with his colleagues they have developed a new way to detect the Glowing Sea phenomonon. Miller explained. “Our best working hypothesis is that we are witnessing bioluminescence produced by bacteria that are colonising some kind of organic material present in the water,” he said. “Satellite detection will hopefully allow us to target milky seas with properly equipped research vessels that will then be able to answer all these questions definitively.”

The glow in the milky sea is attributed to the presence of bioluminescent microorganisms. While the exact species responsible for this particular event may vary, it is often associated with bioluminescent bacteria, such as Vibrio harveyi. These bacteria emit light as a result of a chemical reaction that occurs within their cells.

The Somalia Glowing Sea phenomenon has captured the attention of scientists and researchers who are interested in understanding the ecological and environmental factors that contribute to such occurrences. Studying these events can provide insights into the dynamics of marine ecosystems, the distribution of bioluminescent organisms, and the conditions that favour their proliferation.

Despite its size, observing and studying the milky sea phenomenon can be challenging due to the remote location of many such events and the difficulties associated with conducting research in the open ocean. Their unpredictability and elusive nature make it very difficult to know exactly when and where they will appear,  hence why satellite technology has been crucial in capturing and documenting these events from space.

The Somali Glowing Sea mystery lies in its elusive nature, sparse historical documentation, and the intricate ecological dynamics that give rise to this breathtaking natural spectacle. Ongoing scientific research and advancements in technology offer a glimpse into the workings of this phenomenon, yet the full extent of its mystery remains to be uncovered in the depths of the Indian Ocean.

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