Strange Lights Spotted by Pilot In Remote Area of Pacific Ocean
When you're flying over a remote part of our planet's largest ocean, the last thing you expect to see is a vast expanse of red/orange glowing lights. But that's exactly what Dutch pilot JPC van Heijst saw during a flight to Alaska last night. As his aircraft was flying over an area of the Pacific between Japan and Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, van Heijst describes witnessing the mesmerizing green glow of auroras over the northern sky. 20 minutes later, van Heist's eyes were once again drawn to a strange set of lights, but this time they appeared to be coming from the ocean.
"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," said van Heijst. "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."
(Credit: JPC van Heijst
Since the pilot posted his story, many theories have attempted to explain what these strange lights were. Among some of the more common theories are those suggesting that the lights were caused by fleets of fishing vessels or light pollution from a distant city, but van Heist doesn't believe those explanations fit with what he saw.
(Credit: JPC van Heijst
"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."
Indeed, it does seem unlikely that in the location stated (seen below) a city could be behind lights as bright as the ones captured in the pilot's photos. The nearest land is quite some distance away and an experienced pilot would be well aware of any significant urban populations across his flight path.
But what of the notion that the lights could be caused by a fleet of fishing vessels? Normally you wouldn't expect fishing boats to cause such a bright glow, but as ISS astronaut Reid Wiseman showed us earlier in the week, fishing vessels on the hunt for squid can have an impact so profound, it's visible even from space.
(Credit: Mercury Press and Media)
The green glow that Wiseman photographed off the shores of Bangkok last week was caused by the LED lights used by fishermen trying lure in squid. The LED lights are used to draw in swarms of algae and plankton, which in turn attract vast numbers of squid to the ocean's surface. While the green lights seen in Wiseman's photo above are very different in color to those seen in the images from van Heijst's trip across the Pacific, fishing certainly seems to be the most plausible explanation.
Van Heijst has submitted his images to Air Traffic Control authorities in the area for investigation and has even offered some potential theories of his own. Van Heijst seems to think that the red glow may have been caused by volcanic activity deep under the ocean's surface. As extreme as this theory may sound, it's not completely pie in the sky. Seismic activity has been on the rise in recent weeks, with this weekend's Earthquake in northern California and a heightened threat of a serious volcanic eruption in Iceland, it's not hard to see why van Heijst is hinting at this explanation.
Said van Heijst: "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!"
To read all of van Heijst's account and to see more images, click here.