When Lightning Strikes Water Do All the Fish Die and What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Ship at Sea?

When a bolt of electricity, such as a lightning bolt, hits a watery surface, the electricity can run to earth in a myriad of directions.

Because of this, electricity is conducted away over a hemispheroid shape which rapidly diffuses any frying power possessed by the original bolt.

Obviously, if a fish was directly hit by lightning, or close to the impact spot, it could be killed or injured.

when lightning strikes water do all the fish die and what happens when lightning strikes a ship at sea

However, a bolt has a temperature of several thousand degrees and could easily vaporise the water surrounding the impact point. This would create a subsurface shock wave that could rearrange the anatomy of a fish or deafen human divers over a far wider range, tens of meters.

If someone in a metal-hulled boat was close enough to feel the first effect they would be severely buffeted by the second. Besides which, metal hulls conduct electricity far better than water, so a lightning bolt would travel through the ship in preference to the water.

When lightning strikes, the best place to be is inside a conductor, such as a metal-hulled boat, or under the sea, assuming you are a fish.

Last century, the physicist Michael Faraday showed that there is no electric field within a conductor. He demonstrated this by climbing into a mesh cage and then striking artificial lightning all over it.

Everybody except Faraday was surprised when he climbed out of the cage unhurt.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for zippyfacts.com. Born in New York, she loves interesting random facts from all over the world.