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On July 16, 2022, Dustin Maggard, an American airline pilot, photographed strange red lights seen over the Pacific Ocean. Since then, his images have been shared on social networks and commented on by many Internet users who think they see secret military exercises or even supernatural phenomena. They were actually lights emitted by fishing boats equipped with particularly powerful LEDs.

Verification in a nutshell

  • On July 16, during a flight over the North Pacific, American airline pilot Dustin Maggard saw and photographed strange red lights visible under clouds. He himself indicated to our CNN colleagues to have “never seen such a thing”.
  • Since then, the images taken by the pilot have been shared many times on social networks. Some users think they see supernatural phenomena, an underwater eruption, or even secret military exercises.
  • We contacted a meteorologist who has worked on this phenomenon. According to his investigation and those carried out by journalists specialized in fact-checking, these red lights have nothing supernatural: they are in fact LEDs used by fishing vessels which then sailed in this area of ​​​​the North Pacific. .

The details of the check

“It’s like being in Stranger Things”, “It’s probably a volcanic eruption”, “It’s a nuclear-powered submarine!”. In an attempt to explain the origin of these mysterious red lights seen above the Pacific Ocean, Facebook and Twitter users share various more or less serious theories. But these images taken on July 16, 2022 by the airline pilot actually have a scientific explanation.

Screenshot of one of the tweets, here posted on July 17, 2022, sharing these photographs taken over the Pacific Ocean.
Screenshot of one of the tweets, here posted on July 17, 2022, sharing these photographs taken over the Pacific Ocean. © Observers

Among those who have worked on the phenomenon, the author of the Twitter account FAKE Investigation specializing in fact-checking, and the American meteorologist Neil Jacobs. Both share the same hypothesis: these red lights would emanate from fishing boats, in particular Chinese, equipped with LEDs (light-emitting diode lamps). In the northern Pacific Ocean – in Japan, for example – this technique is actually used to squid fishing, but also saury.

Contacted by the Observers, meteorologist Neil Jacobs explains: “Traditionally, these fishing vessels used sodium or metal halogen lamps, but all of this was inefficient and very expensive. When LED technology arrived on the market, it was quickly adapted to this use since these lamps are much more efficient and allow you to switch from one color to another, for example white and blue lights which attract squid, to red lights because it is to this color that the saury reacts rather”.


These LED lamps are particularly powerful. To the extent that, May 7, 2022the use of such lights had charged the sky with an unusual red color over the city of Zhoushan.

Such vessels were well within the area over which Dustin Maggard’s plane flew when he sighted these lights. This was verified by the author of the FAKE Investigation account and meteorologist Neil Jacobs using globalfishingwatch.org. This tool, which tracks the movements of fishing vessels, indicates that on July 16, 2022, Chinese fishing vessels equipped with these LEDs – among them, the YONG FA 5 and the GUOJI907 – were fishing at coordinates 50N/ 167E.

“We therefore verified that large fishing vessels equipped with red LEDs were indeed present at the place overflown by the plane when these photos were taken. This is very convincing proof,” confirms Neil Jacobs.

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