Bioluminescent Bay

       Bioluminescent algae blooms are truly a wonder of nature.  A rarity for most shores, these fluorescent waters appear when populations of bioluminescent algae species, such as Pyrocystis lunula, rapidly grow to produce a dense cell concentrations that can span for miles along the coast.  During the day, waters may appear turbid due to the phytoplankton concentrations, but after the sun sets a circadian mechanism initiates their bioluminescent potential.  Cells become sensitive to movement, either by the water itself or by other organisms that physically interact with the cells, such as copepod grazers.  With this physical disturbance, energy containing molecules called Luciferin are released within the cells to be oxidized by the enzyme Luciferase, and highly efficient reaction releases an instantaneous silver-blue light.

     This song explores the dichotomy between the human experience of natural phenomena and the ecological purposes of these processes.  We can find great beauty in the light of the water, but for the microscopic organisms that produce it, the light is rather a sophisticated tool for minimizing predation risk and maximizing survival.

One foot on the sand
the other by gunwale,
we pushed off from the shore
and out on our way.

The waters were calm
giving no indication
of the plankton that bloomed
and spread through the bay.

The last signs of day
had left the horizon
after charging the land
and waters below.

But a wonder arose
when a glow formed beneath us,
as each stroke of our oars
made a light of it’s own.

Ooh, a light of it’s own.
Ooh, Pyrocystis has grown.

But to us, they were the light of the night,
as our wake made the life shine so bright.

A cyan decree of microbial rhapsody, roused by a boats narrow beam
in a bioluminescent bay.

It’s just part of the game,
outwit or be eaten,
as the waters would shear
and cells agitate.

With a hundred or so
in a droplet of water,
as their Luciferins
first meet Luciferase.

There’s a flash of great light
that cascades into darkness.
An arresting display
signaling all who are near.

Maybe striking some fear
in the eyes of a grazer,
or a call out to those
who might soon interfere.

But to us, they were the light of the night.
As our wake made the life shine so bright.

A silver blue tapestry of enzymes in apogee, born in a kayaker’s dream.

In a bioluminescent bay.