Those weird lights in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — what are they?
Are they an unstoppable force of electric underwater creatures swimming, slowly but steadily, toward the shore where they will flood our cities and force us all to watch "Finding Nemo" from now until the end of time?
Fortunately, no (for now). The lights, which were spotted using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite, are actually a large collection of fishermen.
NASA explains, "There are no human settlements there, nor fires or gas wells. But there are an awful lot of fishing boats."
Yep, that's right, those lights that could easily be mistaken for a series of heavily populated islands are actually powerful lights on boats.
What exactly are the fishermen looking for? And why are they out blasting their high beams?
The night fishermen are hunting for Illex argentinus, a species of short-finned squid that forms the second largest squid fishery on the planet. The squid are found tens to hundreds of kilometers offshore from roughly Rio de Janeiro to Tierra del Fuego (22 to 54 degrees South latitude). They live 80 to 600 meters (250 to 2,000 feet) below the surface, feeding on shrimp, crabs, and fish. In turn, Illex are consumed by larger finfish, whales, seals, sea birds, penguins ... and humans.
Fishermen use the powerful lights, "generating as much as 300 kilowatts of light per boat," to draw the plankton and fish that the squid eat toward the surface. The squid then follow the food. Alas, it's the last meal for many.