Things Seen

by wjw on January 11, 2016

From the boat I saw the green flash for the second time in my life.  Rob, the chief engineer, told me that conditions looked about right, and so I paid special attention as the sun went down into the sea, and was rewarded by a moment of purest, brightest, emerald green.

The video doesn’t do it justice, really.  Once you’ve adjusted the camera so that it can properly film the sun, it tends to wash out anything that is less bright than the sun.

I kept looking for the rest of the week, but the western horizon was always covered with cloud.

I also got to relive the Seventies, and went on a black light dive.

This is a fairly new thing, and dive companies are charging a lot for it, but Rob and the rest of the Aggressor crew threw it in for free.  Maybe they just love psychedelia.

I was given an UV floodlight to strap to my wrist, and wore a special protective plate over my face mask.  We descended to the coral wall on white light, then shifted to UV and bounced along the reef looking at all the glowing critters.

Some coral glowed, some didn’t.  Little crabs and shrimp glowed, big fish didn’t.  I was impressed by one particular type of coral, circular and saucer-sized, made up of interlinked hexagons.  The hex borders glowed on color, the body of the hex another, and the tiny little polyp at the center of the coral glowed a beautiful green— a pure, piercing color reminiscent of the green flash, actually.

Check the video for cool stuff.  I’d advise full-screen.

I’m surprised I didn’t have to sign an extra waiver, as there was a modest amount of danger involved.  With the UV light on and the plate over my mask, I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t glowing.  Twice I ran head-first into a big barrel sponge, but sponges are fortunately on the soft side.  Once the surge mashed me against a coral formation I didn’t know was there.  I kicked stuff with my fins.  And on our return to the boat we ended up amid a big school of jacks, along with a couple sharks, that were hanging out with another group of divers and trying to pick off fish illuminated by their flashlights.  Fortunately the fish could see better than I could, and so I didn’t end up sticking my hand in a shark’s mouth, though I did sort of backhand a jack once as it came darting past.

I’m sure I did a certain amount of damage to the coral, so you don’t really want whole packs of divers doing this sort of thing.

It was certainly lovely and worth doing once, though it would have been mightily improved if I’d somehow been able to listen to Pink Floyd on a headset.

Kathryn January 15, 2016 at 10:45 am

I used to walk frequently on Pass-A-Grille Beach in Florida. I saw the green flash several times, especially around the winter soltice so your timing was good. The first time, a physicist was walking with our group and explained the science behind the green flash. It is beautiful and unexpected.

Mark Pais January 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm

I just finished Knight Moves (loved it and plan to read lots more) and followed the link to your blog. I saw the green flash while on business in Hawaii, in a car driving by the beach. I was looking, just in case, but it was still such a surprise that I almost didn’t believe my eyes. I have looked ever since any place I thought it might be visible but have never seen it since. Of course, Georgia is not a place one might expect to see the green flash.

wjw January 18, 2016 at 12:53 am

I’m told you can sometimes see it over land, but only rarely.

The best place, apparently, is from an airplane flying west right at sunset. If you time it right, you can keep the flash going for a long time.

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