Monday, February 11, 2008

Earth's Bizarre Bio-Bays

This weekend I paddled a kayak into the center of a sheltered bay off the island of Vieques, 11 miles offshore from the Puerto Rico mainland. It is known as Mosquito Bay and its unique geography gives birth to a rare and wonderful phenomena. Bioluminescent bays can be found across the globe, but the one in Vieques is truly spectacular.

As I ran my hands slowly through the water, tiny glowing dinoflagellates danced like sparklers beneath the surface. And when I swam in the bay, every kick of my legs or sweep of my arms produced an eerie aura around my body.

While I played with thousands of these energetic creatures, I turned skyward to a starscape as dark and full as I had seen since a trip to Big Bend a few years back. I could see the Milky Way stretching like a zipper across the night sky. It struck me as I swam in the glowing sea around me, staring at those worlds far above, that - given their rarity - bioluminescent phenomena might explain tales mariners sometimes tell of eerie glowing water or of "something" glowing beneath the surface. Ships such as the Fort Salisbury in 1902 (along the equatorial Atlantic) or the Batang in 1909 (in the Strait of Malacca) have reported unusual luminous phenomena. And it might also explain sightings of underwater UFO's.
Taking photographs of the bioluminescent phenomenon is problematic at best. Instead, I am simply posting a picture of the Malecon at Esperanza, Vieques.

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