Mystery glow over the Pacific Ocean: Pilots left baffled by strange orange and red lights spotted in the dead of night
- Strange lights have been spotted near the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka
- The sighting was made by pilots flying from Hong Kong to Alaska
- The glow came about 20 minutes after a vertical lightning bolt was seen
- Dutch pilot van Heijst ruled out squid-fishing-boats as the origin
- He says the cause may have been an underwater volcano
- An ongoing investigation is taking place to find out what happened
By Jonathan O’Callaghan for MailOnline
Published: 07:24 EST, 26 August 2014
A pilot and his co-pilot have spotted a mysterious orange and red glow over the Pacific Ocean.
The strange lights were spotted south of the Russian peninsula Kamchatka during the flight of a Boeing 747-8 from Hong Kong to Anchorage, Alaska.
And while no explanation has yet been given, it’s thought that they may have originated from the explosion of a huge volcano under the surface of the ocean.
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Strange lights have been spotted near the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka (image by Dutch pilot JPC van Heijst). The sighting was made by pilots flying from Hong Kong to Alaska. The glow came about 20 minutes after a vertical lightning bolt was seen
WHAT CAUSED THIS MYSTERY GLOW?
After the initial vertical lightning bolt it was thought the phenomenon could have been a thunderstorm, but that was ruled out when none were reported in the area.
The predominant theory at the moment is that the lights were caused by an underwater volcano.
Such eruptions are not unprecedented; on 21 November 2013 an submarine volcano famously created a new ‘island’ off the coast of Japan.
Another explanation is they were caused by lights from fishing boats.
Last week astronaut Reid Riseman was left baffled by a similarly bizarre green flurry of lights (shown below) off the coast of Bangkok.
It is thought those lights were in fact created by fishing boats. The offshore illumination comes from enormous arrays of bright green LED lights used to attract squid and other sea life to the surface.
However that explanation has been ruled out for the latest mystery glow, as more than 50 boats would be needed to produce light of this magnitude – but no fleet of fishing boats was thought to be operating in the area.
Dutch pilot JPC van Heijst explained on PBase how, five hours into the ten-hour flight, they spotted an intense flash of light like a lightning bolt, directed vertically up in the distance.
This was then followed by a deep red and orange glow 20 minutes later.
And the experience left van Heijst somewhat perturbed, owing to the lack of an explanation for what happened.
‘Last night over the Pacific Ocean, somewhere South of the Russian peninsula Kamchatka I experienced the creepiest thing so far in my flying career,’ he said.
There were no thunderstorms on their route or weather-radar, suggesting the lightning did not originate in a storm.
The glow is also a mystery; similar lights have been spotted from squid-fishing-boats, but van Heijst says this ‘would not make sense in this area’.
‘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,’ he continued.
‘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.’
He was then nervous of encountering an ash-plume in the middle of the night, but fortunately they did not encounter anything of the sort.
Before the flight they had heard via radio about earthquakes in Iceland, Chile and San Francisco.
But despite their being a few volcanoes on their route, they had had not been alerted to any new activity – although this doesn’t necessarily include unseen underwater volcanoes.
The strange lights (shown at the pink dot) were spotted south of the Russian peninsula Kamchatka during a flight from Hong Kong to Anchorage, Alaska (flight path in blue)
Van Heijst ruled out squid-fishing-boats as the origin. He says the cause may have been an underwater volcano. An ongoing investigation is taking place to find out what happened
Together with his co-pilot van Heijst says they felt ‘everything but comfortable’, while no other aircraft were nearby to confirm the sighting.
‘We reported our observations to Air Traffic Control and an investigation into what happened in this remote region of the ocean is now started,’ he added.
‘Now I’m just hoping that if a new island has been formed there [from the eruption], at least it can be named after me as the official discoverer.
‘That would be pretty cool!’