Weird fireballs in South China Sea (Google Maps)


New Member
Anyone know what's happening here. War games? The large object is clearly a ship but why does it look like it's on fire? I found a Russian site that claimed it was the Chinese navy battling ufo's.

Maps link



Senior Member
Is it an oil rig flaring? Looks boat shaped, though. It probably means something that the area is full of smaller somethings reflecting/emitting the same bright orange light -- but exactly what it means I do not have a good guess. It seems unlikely that a whole flotilla of boats would reflect bright sunlight up to the camera all at the same time. Though I think I detect an orangish tint to some clouds to the south which may suggest an orange, low to the horizon, sun, which if true would suggest reflections.

Google Earth dates the image to 3/5/2012 but does not give a time of day that I can see. There does not seem to be any ther historical iagery from that spot in GE, which would be useful to see if it is a rig or a boat...

I am tempted to wonder if evening is drawing near (or morning has broken) and we're seeing a fishing mother ship and assorted smaller squid boats, all lit up as they are won't to do.

But I am not convinced...


Active Member
Ignoring the color for the moment, what about a squid fleet? The squid boats fish until full. Then they head to the factory ship to unload. Factory ship has floodlights on the side to aid in docking/unloading operations.

Several of the small ships appear to be underway and headed towards the large ship.


Senior Member
The that MclachlanM shared in this thread ( does confirm a boat in that location for about two days at the right moment in time, but does not resolve what looks like a lot of small boats associated with it. If I am using it correctly, it does not seem to detect lights associate with it, though, which seems odd. Not a huge help, since the picture pretty clearly shows a boat. But every data point is a data point, I guess.


yes the clouds and wave crests have a yellow tinge too.

And the waves seem to be lit from the west, which would indicate we're nearing sunset. Just because this image is intent on confusing me, the cloud shadows seem to indicate the opposite, and that we're looking at morning. (Tears hair out quietly.)

Ashley Pomeroy

New Member
A bit of Googling reveals that the location is the Macclesfield Bank - named after HMS Macclesfield, which hit it in 1804:

That specific spot on the bank - which is about a hundred miles from tip to tip - seems to be very close to Oliver Shoal. There's an ongoing dispute between China and Philippines over fishing rights in the area, which is presumably why Google chose to visualise it.

I was hoping that a Google search for "macclesfield bank sea fishing" would return lots of images of fishing boats in the area, but sadly not. Google tells me that the range from the larger vessel to the nearest small vessel is less than 300 metres, so if it's a naval battle it's being fought at unusually close range. The area was in the news in 2012, which also might explain why the imagery dates from that time:
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Senior Member.
a Google search for "macclesfield bank sea fishing"
when you do a google image search for the pic you get sites in chinese. searching names in chinese might get you better results. unfortunately i'm seeing multiple names used...but "Great atoll of Sands Islands" 中沙群岛大环礁 is one. anyway led me to this description (with another name) but seems to be describign the area well. ??
The deepest part of the South China Sea

Zhongsha Great Atoll is the largest atoll in the South China Sea islands, with a length of about 140 km and a width of about 55 km, extending from north to south west, slightly oval. The atolls are all submerged by seawater, and the depth is generally 9-26 metres.

According to Bi Hua, a professor at Hainan Normal University's School of Geography and Tourism, the eastern side of the Great Atoll is a deep and large crustal fault zone, with the landshell and oceanic crust coming into contact at a steep slope of 51C-58C and falling to -4000m. The waters between the twin reefs in the southern part of the Great Atoll and the Spratly Islands are the deepest in the South China Sea (-5559 m), and the heat flow, Bug gravity and magnetic forces are abnormally high and may be related to land mass drift; The west side is xisha, the middle sand trough, the depth of 2000-3000 meters;