Uncanny Sightings At Sea

By Steve Brand | January 15, 2020

Here be dragons

Ancient mariners, dragons and ghosts

Since the earliest days when men and women first took to the sea, there have been tales of bizarre goings-on at sea. Some of these stories have been so far removed from our everyday experience that doubt has been cast on the honesty and reliability of witness to these alleged events.

Our oceans on Earth are vast and cover seven tenths of the planet. So vast in fact that even with modern ships and submarines, we know more overall about the moon than we do about the deep oceans.

Maybe the stress and hardships of pre-modern sailing caused the crews of ships to imagine things. Superstition, hallucinations, alcohol or an overactive imagination might well be the explanation for many of the strange events that have been reported by mariners down through the ages.

Many chilling and terrifying tales told by sea-hardened mariners over the centuries have featured bizarre and frightening entities such as dragons, demons, sirens and ghosts.

Christopher Columbus and the light sighting

Christopher Columbus and his small fleet of three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, are credited with discovering the “New World”. Few people, however, are aware of the very strange events that occurred during their voyage. These events were recorded in the ship’s log.

The light sighting.

On the 11th of October 1492, at approximately 10pm, Columbus and his crew were sailing across one of the deepest ravines in the Atlantic, almost four miles deep, and through what is today known as the Bermuda Triangle.

Pedro Gutierrez was a crew member of the Santa Maria, sailing with Columbus. He noticed a strange light shining out in the distance over the sea.

What was so odd about this sighting, making it particularly intriguing, is that the light was observed coming up from the water. The fact that it appeared at least four times and was seen in a variety of positions rules out many logical explanations such as a comet, meteor, bright planet or star.

The initial sighting was allegedly followed by a great flash of light with a level of brilliance unlike anything these men had previously known. The light is described as suddenly erupting in the sky, startling Columbus and his crew - and the crews of the other two Spanish ships.

This event occurred only five hours before Columbus and his men would discover the New World.

It was Columbus himself who maintained the ship’s log. This rare and valuable handwritten document is today held by the Fordham University in New York. Archivists at this institution have made the logs contents available to the general public.

Columbus described the light as having the appearance of a flickering wax candle going up and down in the night. The light could not have been caused by a camp fire on land because of its initial, dazzling brilliance and also the fact that land would have been well beyond the horizon from the position of the Spanish ships. From reading the logs, the 11th of October sighting was not an isolated occurrence.

Over the two-month journey, Columbus’s log exhibits a consistent pattern of peculiar and cryptically reported incidents, including unexplained sightings and unusual events witnessed occurring in the skies.

On the 10th of September 1492, around about the halfway point of the voyage, the crew of the Nina stated they had seen two different species of bird, both of which are known never to stray further than 25 leagues from the land.

On the 11th of September 1492, the log recorded that the fleet had happened upon the floating mast of a ship estimated to be 120 tons in weight and so large that they were unable to retrieve it for closer inspection.

On the 17th and 20th of September, the logs tells us that the crew witnessed multiple bright lights in the sky that were seen to move in relation to the stars.

Strange lights at sea.

Some experts have suggested that Columbus played these events down when recording them in the ships log. The reason they give is that he might have feared encouraging accusations of insanity among members of the crew who had never before witnessed such strange events.

Superstition and belief in bad omens were commonplace back in the 1490s and Columbus might have feared being locked in the brig on suspicion of insanity or the practice of black magic. He might also have feared similar accusations or ridicule upon his eventual return to Spain.

Few doubt the written word or the integrity of Columbus over these events but more recent analysis has led to numerous suggestions as to their cause.

Many have put forward traditional scientific explanations for what happened, such as oceanic luminosity, while others have put forward more controversial theories, such as the presence of extraterrestrials and the fact that these events occurred just prior to such a notable event in the history of humankind.

We’ll likely never know for sure what really caused some of the strange events experienced by Christopher Columbus and his crew but he was most certainly troubled enough by them to have recorded them in the ship’s log.

This might be an opportune time to remind ourselves of the words of The Bard.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

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About The Author

Steve Brand
Managing Director

Steve is a highly experienced instructor with a long and impressive track record in safety-critical working environments. Training is much more than a job for him, it is a vocation and his dedication and care for his valued students is second to none.


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