Set the Lagoon Aglow
Bioluminescence is Nature’s Natural Fireworks
We jokingly call ourselves “Deacons in the Church of Nature,” my group of friends that loves to spend time in the outdoors.
There are plenty of opportunities around for us to “go to church.” I put that in quotes because we don’t literally worship the outdoors, but we do view our adventures as a way to connect, reflect and remind ourselves to be grateful for our existence and all that we are afforded.
One of my favorite outdoor experiences is bioluminescence season, June to early October, in the Indian River Lagoon. There is a single cell organism called a dinoflagellate in our lagoon that with the right temperature and salinity, creates a spectacular mesmerizing light show.
It’s hard to explain exactly what it looks like, you have to see it to believe it. Every year, I try to get as many people as I can out on the water to see it firsthand. My favorite place to go is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I like the refuge because there is not a lot of ambient light. The bright lights of our towns are far enough away that you don’t get too much interference.
I recently took an out-of-state relative to check it out. What a night! We saw shooting stars, the bioluminescence was beautifully bright, and toward the end of our trip, we found a group of about five dolphin playing in Haulover Canal. Not sure if they were curious about the glow of our kayaks moving through the water or what, but they circled around us and played for about 15 minutes. It was magical.
Of course if there’s no breeze, you have to deal with the mosquitoes… but trust me, it’s worth it. It is the most amazing sensation to float down the canal, look up at the constellations in the sky, and then look down into the water and see more constellations — blue green sparkles emitted from the movement of various sized organisms. To see the glow of the water moving through the grasses or see the glowing outline of a submerged tree limb or rock.
And if you happen to stumble upon a school of mullet, watch out, it’s like fireworks exploding from under your boat. Note that mullet leap from the water, so you might get smacked by a mullet or even have one land in your kayak.
There is such a sense of connection and of peace for me when I spend time like this.
A bit of the poem “Peace” from Bessie Rayner Parkes may describe it best:
“All natural things both live and move
In natural peace that is their own;
Only in our disordered life
Almost is she unknown.”
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