January 18th, 2008

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Bioluminescent dinoflagellates

One of the coolest things I have ever done is swim in the ultra-luminescent Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques, a small island just off Puerto Rico. 



I cannot really put into words just how cool this is.  According to tourist information, this bay has one of the highest concentrations of   Pyrodinium bahamense in the world. The bay is protected, and no motorized boats are allowed to use it.  There are several kayak companies that take tourists (such as myself) out into the bay at sunset.  These dinoflagellates flash when they are disturbed.  As the sun goes down, you start seeing blue flashes in the water.  The tips of the waves start showing blue, the wake of your boat also glows.  as it gets darker, you can easily see where the other boats in your group are located, just by the light they create.  As you paddle, the water dripping into your lap also flashes blue.  If you stare down into the water, you can see fish moving around, with blue wakes drawn out behind them.  if you scoop the water into your hand, it glows blue as well.  And then, you can jump out of your kayak, and be blissfully surrounded by warm, flashing blue water.  moving your hand produces an effect like this:



it is, quite simply, the coolest thing I have ever done.

if you get a chance to go to Puerto Rico, I'd recommend taking a day to go out to Vieques to experience this phenomenon for yourself.