Start weird sci-fi music now:
Way back when, way way back, one dark and humid night on the sail of a diesel sub running north in the Bermuda Triangle off the Florida coast, four of us (two watchstanders, two of us grabbing some fresh air) were talking about being in the “Triangle.”
The seas were calm and the boat was rolling lightly in the swell, the exhaust note rising and falling with the roll. It was very dark but the moon occasionally peaked through a hole in a low layer of cloud just enough to illuminate the sea surface. A light mist formed and with the mist a faint blue glow began to dance around the periscope shears and radio antennae. For most of us it was the first time we had ever seen St. Elmo’s Fire. It was beautiful in a slighly disconcerting way. It brought to mind Starbuck’s experience on the the Pequod. We could raise an arm and the glow would flicker and flow on our fingertips.
In our awe of the phenomenon talk of the Triangle moved from purely fantasy to maybe a bit more belief … particularly when the lookout said he thought he saw a brief flash of light just below the cloud layer astern. There had been scattered thunderstorms earlier and a bit of lightning but we had seen none for a while so the “sighting” just added to the mystery of the Triangle and the role of UFOs in the Triangle was added to the conversation.
A minute or two later a blinding beam of brilliant white light appeard below the clouds directly off the port side about a mile away at eye level and grew in size as it closed at (literally) blinding speed! We were frozen in the beam until a tremendous roar passed at what felt like only a few feet over our heads. The lookout had not imagined seeing a UFO, he had seen the reflection of moonlight on the wing of a Navy P2V submarine hunter banking into a run onto its target … us. While we rose to our feet shaking from the experience we could almost hear the laughter in the cockpit of the Neptune as it returned to base in Jacksonville.
That is the only St. Elmo’s Fire experience I have had at sea but years later when flying commercially I often experienced the aeronautical version while flying in precipitation or ice crystals at night. That was a much more intense version with fantastic scenes outside the windshield from which a fingertip could draw a long and very visible arc that would have sent the crew of the Pequod over the side.