Go Back Report # 63



By COMMANDER J. R. BODLER, U. S. Naval Reserve (Inactive) 

       My vessel had passed through the Strait of Hormuz bound for India. Little Quoin Is. Light was still in sight on the starboard quarter, bearing 305° T, distance 20 miles. The night was bright and clear, with very good visibility, no moon. The Third Mate called me to the bridge saying that he had observed something he thought I should see.

       About four points on the port bow toward the coast of Iran, there was a luminous band which seemed to pulsate. Its appearance suggested the aurora borealis but much lower, in fact, on or below the horizon. Examination with binoculars showed that the luminous area was definitely below the horizon in the water and drawing nearer to the vessel. With the approach of this phenomenon, it became apparent that the pulsations seemed to start in the center of the band and flow outward towards its extremities.

       At a distance of about a mile from the ship, it was apparent that the disturbance was roughly circular in shape, about 1000 to 1500 feet in diameter. The pulsations could now be seen to be caused by a revolving motion of the entire pattern about a rather ill-defined center with streaks of light like the beams of search-lights, radiating outward from the center and revolving (in a counterclockwise direction) like the spokes of a gigantic wheel.

       For several minutes the vessel occupied the approximate center of the phenomenon. Slightly curved bands of light crossed the bow, passed rapidly down the port side from bow to stern, and up the starboard side from aft forward. The luminosity was sufficient to make portions of the vessel’s upper works quite visible. The bands of luminance seemed to pass a given point at about half-second intervals. As may well be imagined, the effect was weird and impressive in the extreme with the vessel seeming to occupy the center of a huge pinwheel whose "spokes" consisted of phosphorescent luminance revolving rapidly about the vessel as a hub. (The sketch on the next page shows, diagrammatically, the effect produced. Arrows indicate direction of rotation.)

       The central "hub" of the phenomenon drew gradually to starboard and passed aft becoming more and more distant on the starboard quarter. While it was still in sight several miles astern and appearing by this time as a pulsating band of light, a repetition of the same manifestation appeared fine on the starboard bow. This was slightly smaller in area than the first and a trifle less brilliant. Its center passed slowly aft on the starboard side with the pattern of revolving, luminous "spokes" clearly defined.

       It was my impression that the actual illumination was caused by the natural phosphorescence in the water periodically stimulated by regular waves of energy. The shape of the "pinwheel," the well-defined "spokes," the revolutions about a center, and the speed with which each band of light traversed the water all preclude the possibility of this phenomenon being caused by schools of fish, porpoises, or similar cause.

       Approximately half an hour later, a third repetition of this manifestation was observed. The general characteristics, direction of rotation, etc., were the same as the others, but this one was much smaller and less brilliant. Its diameter was not over 800 to 1000 feet and, compared to the other two, was unimpressive. It was first observed much closer to the vessel than had been the case with the others. Whether this was due to its lesser brilliance or the fact that it came into being at comparatively close range could not be determined.

       At the time of the above, conditions were as follows: Date—14 November, 1949, time 1830 GMT, position 26°-17.5' N, 56°-51' E. Wind NW'ly force 1. Sea calm with slight surface ripples; no swell. Air 75° (Fahr.), sea 83°. Visibility very good. A clear, bright night with no moon.

       Vessel’s course 157° T. Speed through the water 11.6 knots, Actual speed over the bottom approximately 9 knots due to strong head current. (Very strong streams are encountered in this area.) At no time were any unusual deviations of the magnetic compass observed.

       It is of interest to note that the same, or similar, phenomena have previously been reported in the Indian Ocean. A book titled Oddities by T. R. Gould, published in England during the past century, devotes a chapter to reports of similar manifestations. However, the author is as unable as the present writer to offer an explanation! This volume, unfortunately, is not in the writer's possession at the present time. The author appears to be a pre-Ripley collector of various odd occurrences, well authenticated, but never satisfactorily explained.

       It is the present writer's conviction that he has been privileged to witness one of the rare instances of a most curious and impressive natural phenomenon. If other seafarers have had a similar experience, or [if] anyone of scientific bent can offer an explanation of the foregoing, he would be most interested to learn more on the subject.        



A veteran Merchant Marine Officer, Commander Bodler was Gunnery Officer of the Regulus (AK-14) and of the Liscome Bay (CVE-56), and in command of the Hemminger (DE-746) and the Vixen (PG-53) during World War II.

       Returning to the Merchant Marine in 1946, he has been Master of the Frank Adair Monroe, the Charles Tufts, and the Sarah Orne Jewett, and at present is Master of the Seaveteran.    

This original reference: Bodler, J.R., "An Unexplained Phenomenon of the Sea," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, 78:66, 1952, pp. 66-67.

UFOCAT PRN – 056813 [DOS: ??-??-1949]

UFOCAT URN – 081391 Invisible Residents by Ivan T. Sanderson, p. 99, © 1970      

UFOCAT PRN – 181965 [DOS: 11-11-1949]

UFOCAT URN – 136608 UFO’s and the National Security State by Richard M. Dolan, 493-048,

                                        © 2000

UFOCAT URN – 181965 UFOs and the National Security State by Richard M. Dolan, 398-048,

                                        © 2002       

UFOCAT PRN – 181965 [DOS: 11-14-1949]

UFOCAT URN – NONE    "An Unexplained Phenomenon of the Sea" by J.R. Bodler, in the

                                        United States Naval Institute Proceedings, 78:66, 1952, pp. 66-67.

UFOCAT URN – 056813 UFO’s Over the Americas by Coral Lorenzen, p. 49, © 1968

UFOCAT URN – 182363 *U* UFO Computer Database by Larry Hatch, # 01471, © 2002      

Southwestern Asia - Persian Gulf - is bounded by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran

Location from Text                   Latitude 26-17.5 N, Longitude 56-51 E (D-M) 

Persian Gulf                             Latitude 27-00 N, Longitude 51-00 E (D-M)

Little Quoin Island, Oman        Latitude: 26-30 N, Longitude 56-31 E (D-M)

Reference: Oman Gazetteer, prepared by the Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Center, Washington, D.C., March 1976           

Strait of Hormuz                       Latitude: 26-34 N, Longitude 56-15 E (D-M)

Located between the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Iran

Reference: Arabian Peninsula Gazetteer, prepared in the Office of Geography, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., June 1961     

Indian Ocean                           Latitude 10-00 S, Longitude 70-00 E (D-M)

Reference: Indian Ocean Gazetteer, prepared in the Office of Geography, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., March 1957          


Print this Page