Earth’s Oceans – Learnings & Celebrations

AC_logo_200Well, it’s down to the last month before the beginning of the Atlantic Cup Race! Things are heating up as the organizers of the race are excitedly putting all the pieces in place for the start of the competition in Charleston, South Carolina on May 28th.

There are some exciting new entrants that have been added since my last update, including Liz Shaw and Libby Greenhalgh – the first all-female team – which is a super exciting first for this race. Also, I have it on good source that there are even a few more competitors to be announced soon! So, stayed tuned for that or follow the Atlantic Cup on their Facebook page, as well as following us on our newly launched Atlantic Cup Kids Facebook page.

The quality and the size of this year’s field, is going to make it very difficult to pick which boat I want to vote for as my favorite. Once you review the entrants, I hope you’ll consider casting a vote for your favorite. Speaking from experience, I can tell you it’s a big boost to the sailors to have folks rooting for them in that way. You can easily cast your vote on the Atlantic Cup Kids Page.

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I’ll break down the competition more in my next update. In this one, I want to share a bit more about our live learning events that will take place at all three of the race harbors.

Charleston, South Carolina, where the race begins is providing us with a huge warm welcome for their Kid’s Day, which will be May 26th. We’ve got over 500 kids scheduled to visit us so far. This really charges me up – the idea of having 500 unique opportunities to engage young, growing minds to learn more about the ocean and how we co-exist with it more sustainably. After all, the ocean covers 75% of the surface of our planet. We are connected to it (and a part of it) at the most fundamental of levels.

So, in early May, I’ll be visiting John Miller, who is helping us round up the kids and classes through the Charleston School District. At that time, I will have a chance to visit and talk with some of the classes prior to the Kid’s Day event at the harbor.

Casco_300x78A couple of weeks ago, I made a similar visit to Portland, Maine and received a very enthusiastic response to our presentation and program. I met with a great group of dedicated local folks who call themselves “BayKeepers” and who are part of a wonderful group called “The Friends of Casco Bay.” Check out their site to learn more.

While in Portland, I also visited three schools. It’s not easy to keep your presentation on track when the kids are peppering you with more questions than you have time to answer! Many thanks to the teachers and students at Bayview, Ocean Avenue and Hall Schools for allowing me to spend time with them. With Kid’s Day 1 in Portland full to capacity, we’re looking for more local schools and kids programs to join us on Kids Day 2 where the highlight will be watching the inshore racing from Ft. Allen Park. Of all the places I’ve sailed and raced, this location promises to be one of the best ever for watching boats race. So, let me know if you are familiar with schools in any of the three cities that might want to come down to the harbor and join the fun.

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Our stay in New York City at the end of Leg One is going to be great too. We’ve got a lot of high school kids visiting us there which is challenging me to find more advanced math, science and engineering learning points with which to engage them. Fortunately, sailing is filled with so many opportunities to expand your knowledge and understanding. Anyone care to explain the trigonometry involved in celestial navigation? Or how about determining the working loads of various winches, blocks and lines? The list of things to learn is endless.

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Since much of our program is about the oceans, we’ve also uploaded a NEW Education Guide to the Atlantic Cup Kids Page – an updated version from Bodacious Dream Expeditions that we call “Ocean World.” There’s a wealth of information there about the amazing world of the ocean. It’s a great and fun read and we encourage you to share it (along with the other Guides on that same page) with the kids in your world.

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When I’m on the water, I have this wondrous experience of feeling more directly connected to points all around the world. A few bags of groceries and I can go anywhere I want. From Charleston to France is a couple weeks. From there to South Africa a month. Then there’s New Zealand, Japan, China, Russia, Italy, Germany, India, Indonesia, Alaska, Peru… and on and on you go. Where would you like to go if you were setting sail on an ocean adventure? Drop me a note at Dave@AtlanticCup.org and tell me your dream port-of-call.

So, that’s it for now. Come visit us at the Atlantic Cup Kids Facebook page. I recently posted a cool visual explanation of one of my favorite things… bioluminescence. And while you’re there, give us a LIKE if you haven’t already done so, so that as we move forward, we can keep you in the loop. … More exciting stuff coming soon.

franklin_16 - Cap’n Dave
with trusty Franklin by my side! (For those of you who’ve been asking where he’s been.)

P.S. And you can sign up for Kid-specific Mailings at the newsletter signup and by selecting AtCup KiDS News! We’ll start sending those closer to the race.

Grand Happenings & More FAQs

bermuda3_250What a beautiful night it was… followed today by an exciting morning on the sea! Under a lovely sunset last evening, after we finished off an amazing banquet of BBQ ribs, fresh corn on the cob and French fries, prepared by our very own Chef Pierce, we spent the night cruising in spectacular conditions with 15-20 knots of tailwinds pushing us along at a 10-knot average under a sky full of stars!

The night before, Monday was equally sweet and starry as well… but when it was over and the sun rose, we had a rather laughable morning when we discovered that the head (toilet) and holding tank were clogged and full! After seven fairly experienced mechanics made a few cautious attempts at unplugging the cranky system, it was heroic Jon Pond who finally (and carefully) stepped up and cracked the deck opening and let loose a geyser of ugly stuff! It’s a longer story than that, but one not really well-suited for recounting without some beers nearby… but let’s just say that next time you run into one of us, ask for the complete audio version.

tunaAfter our speedy night last night, sunrise this morning, found us about 130 miles out of Narragansett Bay. We were just crossing over the continental shelf when one of the fishing rods suddenly whined to life, signaling something hefty on the line! Bruce Dickinson and Dave Brayman took to the rod and pulled up a most beautiful White Marlin, probably about 3 feet long and 50 pounds. As Marlin is not a good eating fish, Bruce with great finesse, eased the hook out of the fish’s mouth and set her free. Not too much later, our luck was even better as they caught a beautiful 8-pound Yellowtail Tuna. This was the perfect size fish for a bit of morning sushi not to mention dinner tonight for the whole crew – all done with little or no waste… sustainability in its true definition.

dolphin_lgAs if that wasn’t enough action for one morning, soon we were blessed with a visit from a pod of dolphins… all swimming and cavorting… with one feller in particular who showed off with some great aerial skills.

Yay for the sea when it comes to life like that, leaving you once more humbled by the wondrous gifts it effortlessly brings forth!

Today is once again warm and beautiful and we’re sailing at a good pace that should have us into harbor just after sunset tonight. Here’s to hoping for an uneventful rest of the passage from Bermuda to Newport!

So let me return to my appointed task of answering some of those questions I am most frequently asked, that I began here in Monday’s post. Let’s start here.

:: Many folks have asked me… What was the most beautiful or memorable part of the journey?

This is rather difficult to pin down to one specific answer, so let me pick five things. Then again, depending on how long I’m given to ponder the question, those five choices will likely change. But for now…

biolumin_plankton_2001) You’ve often heard me tell of the beautiful bioluminescence I encountered at several points along the way that more than a few times left me awestruck. That certainly ranks in the top five.

2) 
Storms in the Southern Ocean, especially the cyclone that we outran elevated the raw force of that tempest to something of a spiritual level for me.

3) The first sighting of the snow-capped mountains of the South Island of New Zealand after the generous fishermen of Ocean Odyssey gave me additional fuel was inspiring.

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4) The colors of the sunset that same night still plays on the big screen in my mind, as perhaps the most majestic of the many sublime sunsets I witnessed.

5) I don’t think I’ll get over the sense that some mysterious symphony was being played out on the wings of the sea birds as they crisscrossed back and forth behind me, sewing up the wake I’d made through their ocean.

:: Another frequently asked question is… How can you be alone for that long?

I know that many people have different levels of comfort with being alone. Some work with people all day, every day and can’t wait to get home to the quiet of their house; others don’t feel comfortable being alone for even a few hours. For me, being alone is something that I have always been comfortable with and enjoyed. I’ve worked alone on construction projects, spent time traveling or driving across county… and of course, have spent a considerable time alone sailing on either Lake Michigan or the oceans.

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I think we all need occasional contact with other people and I’m no exception to that. I almost daily communicated through emails with friends and family and every few days, took a minute or two to make a phone call on the Iridium satellite phone. Still being alone has always come naturally for me and it has allowed me to build that contrasting view of life that allows me to better appreciate the times in my life when I’m wrapped in human company, as I am now on this brief trip.

Also, being alone gives me the chance to connect more peacefully with myself and to discover and experience without so much distraction, the various thoughts and feelings that rise up from within me. This trip certainly provided me ample opportunities for such experiences and reflections, which I hope before long to transcribe and share in longer book form.

:: I’ll finish for now, with this one… What was the scariest part of the circumnavigation?

This isn’t quite so easy question to answer either, because I think I know what most people want to hear for my answer. It’s only human nature to want to hear an amazing tale of a wild tempest that nearly takes your life. But for me that wasn’t the case. While there were indeed several amazing and ultra-challenging storms, which demanded some of the toughest heavy weather sailing I’ve encountered in my life, even during those times, I never felt scared.

Dave in Foulie

Strange as it may seem, those were the moments that I had sought out and prepared myself and Bodacious Dream to handle… and we did so with good fortune. Edgy? Very much so… and for days on end, I felt as though every sense in my body was pumping at 125 percent. Alert to every motion of the boat, every sound, even every change in the pitch of the wind, my mind and body processed huge amounts of sensory input to help me keep Bodacious Dream trimmed and sailing within the flow of an agitated ocean.

I’m sure to some all that seems like it would qualify as a recipe for scary, but remember, I was in a world I had grown fairly comfortable with and that I knew quite well. Take me out of that comfort zone and put me in some other world that I don’t know… and I can tell you a different story about being scared. Brain surgery, police and fire rescue, combat, raising kids even … would all scare me in more conventional ways, but being in the folds of the sea, while it can be very edgy, never pushed my scare button. I will admit though that I was on the edge of my seat for much of the voyage… as each moment out there is a one-of-a-kind roller coaster ride!

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Ok, well getting back to the present moment, I don’t want to miss the wonder and beauty of the last 100 miles of sailing with good friends on a friendly ocean day. Conditions on the East Coast will likely change dramatically in a couple of days as Tropical Storm “Arthur” builds and moves up the coast this weekend. It will be nice to be ashore for once, watching it instead of running from it.

- For now, DR signing off as part of the no longer odious and the very well fed crew of Bodacious IV under the stalwart leadership of Captain Tim Eades!

A Close Call in the Galapagos #2

It’s been quite the eventful 24 hours since I began my final preparations for leaving the amazing Galapagos IslandsBodacious Dream and I departed yesterday, Wednesday the 7th about 14:15 hours from Puerto Auyro on Santa Cruz Island, and headed west and then north around the western side of the island through the late afternoon and evening. No particular reason to go that way instead of the shorter, eastern way other than after so many weeks of sailing through vast oceans with vistas of only ocean and sky, I thought I’d like to sail along the shoreline for a while. That and the fact that Panama, my next destination, is only 935 miles away and I’m not feeling super rushed to get there! A short hop to be sure, compared to all the others!

Crossing the EquatorThe “Ballboy” and I cross the Equator … 0.29718S , 88.84146W

While my list of typical pre-departure “things to do” like closing out my bills, shopping for fresh food, clearing out of customs and immigration, packing and stowing things on the boat, checking the gear and the engine usually go on without too much fanfare, yesterday wasn’t to be such a day.

Santa Cruz, Galapagos
An overcast morning looking out on the harbor of
Puerto Auyro 

:: Early Wednesday morning, I met up with Peter and Diego who run Galapagos Ocean Yacht Services, who have not only been great hosts but a tremendous help in guiding me through the local bureaucratic requirements. Diego and I were headed out to Bodacious Dream to put the fuel onboard, which meant we had to have a water taxi come over and pick us and the fuel up and then take us out to the boat. That part went smoothly. After securing the fuel on board, we called for another water taxi to come take us back to shore.

While waiting for the taxi, we noticed something strange. It’s that kind of slow to dawn on you change in your visual field that suddenly causes you to wonder… “Hold on, wasn’t that boat over there before?”

Sure enough, we were moving… and Bodacious Dream had come adrift from it’s mooring! Yes, we were still tied to it – but we were both adrift! The mooring had broken its anchor which meant we were loose and drifting backwards towards the surf and shore that was less than 75 yards away – maybe less than five minutes away from the rocks!

Mooring Broken
Just before this, we were moored right between these two steely dudes! 

5026_sc_moorings2Thankfully, Diego with his command of the native language was able to raise help from the water taxis as well as from the crew of one of the large steel research vessels next to us.
In short order, we were unhooked from the floating mooring and secured to another mooring, while others stood by scratching their heads and wondering how that happened! Had we been just a few minutes later to arrive, who knows WHAT might have happened.

As I counted my blessings and made my final preparations, I noticed the two 100-foot steel research vessels disconnect from the moorings they were attached to and instead set their own anchors! I guess if you’re that big a boat and you see a little 40 foot boat that weighs less than a 10th of what you do, break a mooring, you wouldn’t trust it either!

Once secured, Diego and I headed back to shore to finish up my to-do list, so that I could get underway as soon as possible. It was obvious to me by then that Bodacious Dream and I were both ready to leave the Galapagos!

:: So, now after having run steadily through the night, we are on our course toward Panama and the Panama Canal, which I expect will be quite an experience on its own.

3278_200_32.333568S_103Checking the log and distances, here are the interesting numbers for today! Panama is less than 900 miles away. Bodacious Dream has sailed over 40,000 miles since she was launched in Wellington, NZ in November 2011. I’ll have to do the math on the circumnavigation totals, but off the top of my head, I’d say it’s around 25,000 miles since Newport. As I write this, I am just north of the Equator. If my mental maps are correct, you can ONLY cross the equator in two oceans. This trip, I crossed going southbound in the Atlantic, and have just crossed going northbound in the Pacific!

:: I learned a lot in the Galapagos Islands. There was so much more to see that I just didn’t have time to do. In my next update, I will share with you some observations on the incredible wildlife I saw, but for now let me share with you here a bit of what life is like in the in the Galapagos Islands, and specifically in the town of Santa Cruz where I stayed.

I learned from locals that in the 1960’s there were only 600 people in the Galapagos. Since then, the population has risen to over 20,000. As Peter told me, it is famous now as an eco-tourist destination. You can see that the locals must struggle to both capture the tourism economy and to manage the growth that has come so quickly to the islands.

Santa Cruz, Galapagos
The Tourist’s Main Street

While walking along the newly built promenades, you see restaurants, jewelry shops, art galleries and the inevitable t-shirt shops. Just a few blocks away though are the older buildings with apartments and storefronts of a more local nature. All these buildings are built with concrete! Wood is scarce here and has to be imported from the mainland, while concrete can be made from the volcanic ash of the islands.

4852_sc_volleyball_550Volleyball and Socializing … 

The weather while I was there was hot and muggy, so many businesses observed siesta time by closing up for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and then reopening in the afternoon and evening. As they have for years long before the tourists showed up, it is a tradition for the locals to come down to the waterfront in the evening and to enjoy each other’s company in the town square. Every evening about 6 o’clock, the men began to gather at the volleyball court in the center of town for a pick-up game, while many of the families sat around the perimeter and watched, and the children played. It seemed to be quite the town event.

4770_sc_cafe_550Music and Talk in the Cafés …

:: By this point many of us touristas were wandering back to town from either a tour or a local hike, stopping by the small sidewalk café and enjoying a cold drink before heading our respective ways. In these impromptu gatherings, I heard a full range of languages… from German and French to Swedish, English (in several varieties) to Polish and Russian. I experienced so many great conversations through the few days I was there, but the one that I will share with you here sheds some light on one of the more memorable events in my circumnavigation.

If you remember, back in the Southern Ocean east of the southern tip of the African continent, I encountered a night with floating bioluminescent globes in the water – hundreds of them as I sailed through this area. Well, one of the folks I met at the sidewalk café was a scientist and captain of one of the sailing boats in the harbor, and they were conducting research for a magazine story. Somehow, we got onto the subject of the bioluminescence and he thought that what I had seen might have been bioluminescent squid that sometime float with surface currents.

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He told me of an experience they had one night while sailing. Apparently, there is only one type of seagull that feeds nocturnally and there are many of them around the Galapagos. (In fact, just last night, I had two of them flying around the boat and playing in the slipstream of the airflow off the sails.) Anyway, he described a night when they saw one of these bioluminescent squid flying through the air… obviously in the clutches of one of these nocturnal feeding gulls. Now wouldn’t THAT have been a sight to experience?

Sitting in the cafés at night, I was enthralled listening to scientists, researchers, and regular folks like you and me sharing with each other their own unique experiences and stories of the oceans and the earth.

Blue Footed Boobie:: Over the next couple of days as I make my way towards Panama, I’m setting myself the task of writing down some of the amazing things I witnessed and learned while exploring the Galapagos Islands. I’ve got some great photos of the wild life too … and believe it or not, if you haven’t seen a blue-footed boobie, they actually do have blue feet! I can confirm that as fact!

So, as I make my way north, I’m hoping for gentle days of sailing and some better weather. It rained every morning in the Galapagos, and I can still see showers around me on the horizon here. The locals kept saying that the rains were unusual this time of year. Normally, it’s dry and getting a bit cooler by now as the sun makes its way towards the Tropic of Cancer. Actually, I suppose it’s not so curious but one of the consistently reoccurring stories from each place I’ve stopped on the voyage is that the weather systems are different this year. It’s a great and mysterious world we inhabit … full of telling signs and full of deep wisdom, if only we take the time to listen.

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and galloping) Franklin!

P.S. While I was in the Galapagos, While he was there, the Jamestown Press back in Rhode Island caught up with me and got the updated story on the circumnavigation.
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The Fellowship of the Sea

At the end of last week and with a huge sigh of relief, Bodacious Dream and I finally broke into the solid trade winds that blow up the western coast of South America! It was after another beautiful sunrise, that the winds began to stabilize and since then, we’ve been sailing a fairly steady and pleasant course at speeds right around 10 knots.

Bo loves this point of sail … an open beam reach where the wind is from the side of the boat and the waves are from behind! In the previous days though, while the wind had been from the side of the boat, the leftover waves from the earlier weather patterns had been hitting us on the bow making it bumpy and uncomfortable for days at a stretch. But right now, this is what “champagne sailing” is all about … it’s that Jimmy Buffet style of sailing!

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A song in the making … 18.58804S, 96.423916W

And speaking of Jimmy Buffet – while doing my regular rounds of the boat today, I captured this “still life” picture above titled … “a bucket, a sponge and my wool socks drying in the trade wind’s sun … and I thought, that’s GOT to be a Jimmy Buffet song in the making!” Go for it Jimmy … just remember me when the royalty checks start coming in!

Back home in the Midwest, it’s springtime and everyone’s working on their boats getting ready to put them in the water. One of the great traditions at my home yacht club,The Michigan City Yacht Club, is Cooper’s annual spring sock burning party – a time when you burn your winter socks and make the transition over to flip-flops. I’m not sure if the snow has melted enough this year for anyone to be burning their socks just yet, but in honor of my friends back home, I’m doing my part here – without the flames!

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The Waves of Night - 21.332942S_97.16551W

Right now, it’s the middle of the night; Bo is sailing smoothly and quickly and I just checked the log. We’ve sailed a over 5000 miles now since leaving New Zealand four weeks ago and have 500 miles left to go to the Galapagos Islands. I’m getting pretty excited to visit these famed islands and to see the many interesting animals and plants that exist there. At the same time, as you know, what we’re executing here is Plan B – as Plan A was to sail around Cape Horn. Naturally, I can’t help but wonder if that course might have worked out all right … but checking today’s weather down there shows 35-50 knot winds at the Horn and up the Eastern Seaboard of South America … so it seems like the course adjustment was a pretty wise decision.

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Eyes Forward Sailor – 19.02225S, 96.429072W

As each day goes by here, I move further and further north towards the Equator, which is just above the Galapagos Islands and each day, the temperature grows warmer. If you’re out of the wind, short sleeves and no socks is just fine. If you’re in the wind, a jacket works best. Earlier, I had to dig around to find the sunscreen. It had gotten buried since the last time I needed it. The air temperature was about 80 today. Even with 20 knots of wind, the wind chill temperature only takes it down into the middle 70’s! I haven’t been this warm sailing in quite a while!

I had a very special time on the water last night that I wanted to tell you about. After sunset, the wind and waves started going at it pretty good … and I decided to take a turn at the helm to test the balance of the boat. I wanted to see if the sails and the course were all working together and how much pressure I had to apply to the helm to keep the boat straight and on course. The point of that is to make sure that Otto (our auto-pilot) doesn’t have to work any harder than necessary. Happily, the helm felt JUST right … and the touch was feather-light – so, I relaxed and let my eyes and mind wander. The night was dark and moonless, and the soft, warm wind was tossing the clouds all about the sky. Then suddenly, a new round of bioluminescence erupted, sending sparks shooting out from the wake of the boat.

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Squalls a Coming - 22.536945S, 97.197512W

As I described in an earlier post on bioluminescence, these moments with the sea alight with glowing phosphorescent are extraordinary and unforgettable. As I watched the luminous trails spin and drift, I looked over the horizon and found a bright shining star … and I set my course to it. Soon enough that star moved away, and I found another star to follow … and before too long my everyday perception of time … just slipped away.

There I was steering my ship through warm trade winds and focusing my course on a single star. Minutes passed; I don’t know how many. But in the course of those few brief moments, I gradually felt myself drawn into some larger world. I felt as if I were a part of some weather-worn fraternity of sailors going back thousands and thousands of years, who had all done just what I was doing now … and in this moment, I was one of them!

As I gazed into the heavens, my thoughts drifted farther off, as I imagined myself steering Bodacious Dream straight across the universe! And then I thought … I AM doing that … in fact, that’s ALL I’m doing … and I wondered if perhaps somewhere out there beyond the stars, there was another world and another sailor who at that very moment was focusing his or her course on our star and on the soft glow of Earth that is home to all the dreams that we have ever dreamed.

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The Universe … straight ahead … 20.26899S, 96.582191W

I’ll leave it at that … before I lose the roll of the waves and the fellowship of the sea.

Stay tuned for more coming soon! Ok?

Here we go … sailing the trades—without any darn socks!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and the suddenly mystical) Franklin

6.11366S, 94.40054W
6.11366S, 94.40054W 

The Wonder & Science of Bioluminescence

4.16.14 – The boisterous conversation between sky and sea that was supposed to last 12 hours lasted 36 instead and dealt us winds up to 35 knots … making for some fun times. While we are now riding along towards the trade winds, we’re also pushing into the waves of the previous outburst. The cloud cover has been thick, which has prevented us from viewing either the sun or the eclipse of the full moon. This morning however, I was treated to a most wonderful sunrise. 

So, while we enjoy the sunshine and mid-70’s temperatures and continue to sort our way towards the Galapagos Islands, we wanted to share our experience of the amazing bio-illumination phenomena that we’ve witnessed several times on this voyage. So, read on to get the story … first my own experience … followed by Tegan Mortimer’s terrific scientific explanation. So that said, let’s get illuminated!

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:: The Wonder of Bioluminescence

Dave RearickDave Rearick: One afternoon right around New Year’s, not long after leaving Cape Town, I crossed paths with a fishing boat – a traditional colorful wooden boat painted in bright greens, yellows and reds. As our two courses passed, the captain contacted me and we spoke for a few moments over the radio; I found his English was excellent with a smooth, lyrical accent to it. We talked of the beautiful weather and seeing that I was sailing east and away from Africa, he asked me where I was headed. New Zealand I told him … and alone! He marveled at that and wished me great luck, explaining that I should have good weather since it was now summer, and then he told me to watch for the bioluminescence which he assured me I would find very beautiful. With that, we said our goodbyes – he headed off to another fishing ground and I proceeded on my way east.

Up to that point, my direct experience with bioluminescence had been memorable but limited. But a few nights after I left the fisherman, I stepped into a world of bioluminescence that was unlike any I even knew existed. Let me tell you, that fisherman knew of what he spoke.

Bioluminescent PlanktonThe experience of sailing through a floating forest of bioluminescence steals away any words you might offer up to describe it.

It is all just so simple and elegant; a photograph would be impossible – though still we try. If I could draw you a picture, I would … but I know even that would fall short.

As I stood and looked forward, Bodacious Dream sailed along, rising up and bumping her way over the tops of small waves, sending out splashes of a wake to either side, which appeared to be lit indirectly from a light beam located directly underneath the boat – but of course there was no light down there. The glowing white froth of the wake glowed bright, artificial and surreal. As if that wasn’t enough on its own, looking back behind the boat provided an intoxicating view.

Bodacious Dream has two rudders, one on each side of the boat approximately 5 feet to each side of the centerline. From the centerline, the hydro-generator drops into the water from the stern of the boat. Standing near the mast of the boat and looking aft, the entire wake of the boat was fully aglow … tossing dancing sparks glittering across the water. Like I said, it was as if Bo had this bright swimming pool light underneath her pointing aft, beyond the transom.

Leaving the foredeck and walking toward the stern and looking over the edge, revealed an entirely different and no less spectacular show.

A couple of feet below the water, off the slender tip of each rudder, there were these luminous streamers – not unlike what you might see flying from the top of tent poles at Renaissance Fairs … long, slender and snaking back and forth in the wind. Looking further under the water, you could see they glowed white-green and extended back for maybe 12 or 15 feet beyond the boat. Wavering back and forth, the ends subdividing into three or four strips, each waving independently and criss-crossing back and forth over each other. Off the centerline and close to the hydro-generator, a plume of glowing white bubbles rose up, not as sleek and mesmerizing as the streamers, but giving a round and ruddy glow to the surrounding waters. The water above, below and all around the rudders and hydro was clear, with all their outer edges carefully defined and illuminated by thous delicate refracted light.

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While on one hand, this was something I could have sat and watched for hours, on the other, something about it felt almost indecently beautiful – like something SO beautiful that you felt you shouldn’t stare at it, least it lose its genius and grow too quickly mundane to human eyes. As I continued to stare at it, I felt it expressed something so beyond the eyes of man, that I couldn’t help wonder what other surprises waited for us … out there over the horizon and beyond the stars.

And in the middle of that, I recalled what my fisherman friend had said to me, “Ahh yes … and you will surely enjoy the bioluminescence. It is so beautiful at night. Be safe my friend and have a good journey.” Yes indeed, my friend! Thank you!

 - Dave
34.1974S, 109.2991W

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:: Tegan’s  Science Notes #7 – The Science of Bioluminescence

Tegan MortimerAs Dave’s story reaffirms, bioluminescence is a truly spectacular phenomenon! Phrases like “a sea of stars” are used to describe what it looks like and that is completely accurate. If you’ve ever seen a firefly or lightning bug, you’ve seen bioluminescence!

But what is it actually? Bioluminescence is the ability for some animals to create light through a chemical process called “chemiluminescence.” Two chemicals are required for this reaction: “luciferin” and either “luciferase” or “photoprotein.” Luciferase is an enzyme that interacts with oxidized (oxygen-added) luciferin in a chemical reaction that results in the creation of light. Some animals create luciferin themselves and some acquire it by eating other animals or by having a symbiotic relationship with a luciferin-creating organism. Bioluminescent shrimp have a symbiotic relationship with luciferin-creating bacteria that lives in their guts. The shrimp gets light and in trade the bacteria get somewhere to live. That’s a symbiotic relationship: everybody wins!

AnglerfishI mentioned fireflies, but most bioluminescent organisms live in the ocean, especially in the deep sea where it is completely dark. The most famous bioluminescent animal of the deep sea is probably the anglerfish, (pictured to the left) which has a bioluminescent lure that hangs directly above its tooth-filled mouth, just waiting for smaller prey to be attracted to the anglerfish’s glowing light.

So what is Dave seeing? It’s definitely NOT thousands of anglerfish under Bodacious Dream! What Dave is seeing is bioluminescent “plankton.” There are many different types of plankton, both “phytoplankton” (little plants) and “zooplankton” (little animals) can be bioluminescent but two types: “copepods” and “dinoflagellates” are the most commonly seen. Unlike the anglerfish that uses its bioluminescence to attract prey, these tiny planktons use bioluminescence to avoid getting eaten. When they are disturbed, either by a predator, or a human diver, or even by a boat like Bodacious Dream moving through the water, they emit a light, which is thought to startle and repel whatever might have been planning on eating the plankton.

Scientists think that some species of sharks and whales put the plankton’s defensive bioluminescence to use in helping the larger creatures to hunt. Sperm whales for example will go to an area with large amounts of bioluminescent plankton. When the plankton’s predators (fish or squid) approach, the plankton’s light alerts the whale who is then able to more easily catch the fish. Neat trick!

- Tegan 

:: For more exciting science insights and opportunities, please check out our BDX Explorer Guides or stop by our Citizen Science Resources page, where you can also find all of Tegan’s previous Science Notes, Also, we welcome your input or participation to our BDX Learning and Discovery efforts. You can always reach us at …  <oceanexplorer@bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com>

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