Sunday, December 26, 2004

Zanzibar: A Sea of Glowing Waters

Adrian Conan Doyle, the son of the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, wrote in his book "Heaven has Claws" about a lagoon in Zanzibar where the bioluminiscense was so intense that he managed to read a newspaper from his boat deck at night, so bright was the glow coming from the water !

Similarly, he tells the tale of another haunting experience involving sea phosphorescense, which you can enjoy in this excerpt from the same 1952 book:

"Silently, we stood and watched. It was apparent that this great patch of light, burning with a weird electric blue color, was well below the surface of the sea, and as it moved nearer the whole ship beneath the waterline commenced to glow with the radiance of its approach. It was passing directly under the keel when, seizing a lead sinker from the deck, I hurled it into the depth. In an instant the whole mass disintegrated into tongues of blue flame streaking away like meteors through the blackness of the water. It's a school of big fish... Over there, cried Anna, there too! Oh, what a marvelous sight!

From all directions slow-moving masses of submarine light had begun to drift about the lagoon, glimmering palely at a distance of some hundred yards and gradually warming into wonderful shades of blue and green as they moved nearer to the ship. By watching very closely it was possible to discern that some of these mobile patches of light were caused by great sharks while others were whole schools of middle-sized fish.

The hours passed, and at length Anna retired to rest. The moving masses had become markedly fewer and I was on the point of descending when suddenly there appeared far away beyond the bows of the ship a distant patch of submarine luminescence of immense size. Nearer it came, and nearer, and now I could count no less than three great disturbances of greenish light proceeding in line formation one behind the other.

Straight past the ship they swept, their diamond-shaped forms lit up in a livid radiance, their great flukes thirty feet or more from tip to tip and so on into the darkness, streaming with heatless fire like ghost coaches gliding upon their way. Thus passed the Mantas."


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