It was a typical weather day, as we coasted the coasts of Japan. Aided by the warm and globally renowned, Kuro Shio currents we made our way through the waters. The Japanese coasts have always boasted to be rich in Marine life and it is hence no surprise that the populous in that area earn their living, predominantly by fishing.
As the CS Sacha, a Handysize bulk carrier ship, cautiously navigated through the array of tiny Japanese islands on her way to Kashima Ko, an encounter of a very special kind is what I am about to narrate to you….
I arrived on the bridge at the usual time and took over from the third officer just before midnight. As I wished the handing over crew a good night’s sleep, I ascertained the navigational situation around me. All seemed normal and it felt like I was in for a routine 12-4 morning watch. Or so I thought!
Meteorology, ecology and astronomy have always tweaked my interest, so bridge watch keeping has never been boring as being a watch keeper requires a certain amount of attention to be paid to the above.
I have, only too happily, complied with this requirement and can say with some amount of pride that I have made good use of what was taught to me in observing, predicting and forecasting, fairly accurately. This was to be another delightful instance.
My watch usually starts with a stroll through the bridge wings which lets me determine the state of the weather, visibility and gives me a clear view past the crane arrangement which is along the Fore and Aft center line of the ship..
It seemed rather humid that night, I was guessing close to 25 degrees and the dry-bulb thermometer confirmed the same.
Considering the fact that it was warm waters due to the Kuro Shio, I was hoping I’d get to see a little something I had read about in the ‘Mariners handbook’. It’s called BIO LUMINESCENCE.
This phenomenon, amazing though it is, is regionally bound and to add to that, it requires very specific conditions to combine with other requirements so as to display the desired outcome. The synopsis of the prevalent weather conditions and our geographical location certainly made me hopeful.
So let me start by what we are looking for. The most familiar simile I could use is the ‘blue whale sequence’ in
the movie- “Life of Pi”. This was the scene with the glowing organisms in the water.
I had observed instances of these before but they were a pale comparison to the depiction in the movie. I had begun to wonder if the movie was indeed an over exaggeration after all. My doubt was to be cleared that night!
To factually break down the phenomenon, these are microbial organisms called plankton. They constitute food for whales and other, vegan marine life. Tiny that they are, their abundance throughout the ocean enables them to feed even the giants of the sea and still have surplus. It is only under the earlier described climatic conditions, that they are able to produce the phenomenon of Bio Luminescence.
In warm waters, these tiny beings produce a faint glow of blue or green. This is not so easily distinguishable. But when agitated they tend to shine vigorously. This could be brought about by the breaking of waves in algae rich waters.
But we had something better- The rigid steel hull of our ship, steaming through the ocean waters!
I, hopefully, kept scanning the surrounding waters every now and then, to observe any such instance and I did catch a few glimpses of “Blue Lightning”, as I called it, streaking away from the ships frame. But these were nothing out of the ordinary yet.
The moon was in hiding that night. This gave the watery light show a dark backdrop, making it more conspicuous.
The microbial activity gradually began to intensify and when we were well into the night’s watch, I could see them clearly- Tiny blue lights, gleaming against the deep dark ocean. They came in shoals around our ship and filled the surrounding waters with a dazzling display of brilliant blue light-lets.
Just like the stars in the night sky twinkle against its black canvas, these minuscule lights shone through the water. It was a display of filmy proportions, yes comparable even to that scene in the movie.
I tried explaining to my look-out the dazzling phenomenon he was witnessing but sadly, it barely seemed to draw his attention.
As the waters sparkled in their blue magnificence I worshiped the mighty Creator, the source of all art and beauty, for making a mundane thing, like the waters of the ocean, come alive and in its microbial light-show, take my breath away.
“I wish you were here”, was all I could think of as I saw nature’s beauty at its brilliant best.
Though another had witnessed it with me, I alone could be a benefactor of its wonder.
How I missed my love at this time, knowing fully how her eyes would have sparkled at this sight. The experience, as enchanting as it was, would have been so much more spectacular if I had the one I love to share it with me. Being a lone observer, however, is one of the many occupational hazards I’ve come to accept.
It was this thought that made me think of why God created Adam and blessed him with an intelligence comparable to His own. The world in all its creative beauty, its secret wonders and showy majesty was in itself a spectacle to behold. And though other beings were a part of it just as much, none could comprehend its nitty-gritty magnificence.
And so, maybe, the Creator longed for someone with a like vision, a similar understanding and He delighted in the company of man (Imagine that) just because it allowed Him to share with another a simple joy, a resplendent beauty!
What a wonder that the God of creation created us to be His friends! I’ll end with that food for thought…