August 28, 2011
I joined my friends from the Sacramento Paddle Pushers at Tomales Bay last night for a great paddle in the dark to experience the bioluminescence. To say the least, a surreal experience! And no, the homemade brownies we had before we launched were not "special" brownies, for if they were, I might still be there.
Waiting for the wind to die down, we launched from the Southwest corner of Tomales Bay at Inverness a short while after sunset. Under a continuous thickening ceiling of fog, we paddle North up the shoreline a few miles looking and waiting for the Biolum to reveal itself. There was no wind, no moon, or star light. The only light pollution was coming from homes along the shoreline, moored vessels and the lumens we used for navigation. At some point we darkened all the beacons and glow sticks we were using as identifiers to keep the small group together and found ourselves in the middle of this natural phenomenon.
For me and others, the best way to describe this is “sparkles”. Imagine a small light placed under you kayak. When you sweep or stir your paddle, or create a bow wake, the light would illuminate the air bubbles in the water, but there is no light and what you are seeing are not bubbles! The “sparkles” one see’s are chemical reactions which originate from single-cell algae (dinoflagellates) which often number in the many hundreds per liter.
If one sits, and lets the water calm around them, looking into the depths you see what appears to be the reflection of a clear starry night overhead with stars twinkling off and on in a 3D image. At times my mind was finding it hard to comprehend. The fog was so low that when taking pictures with a flash, the camera would focus on only the fog, making it look like it was snowing. There was no light hitting the water yet it looked like the reflection of a clear starry night overhead.
A fantastic experience and we are lucky to have the Tomales Bay bioluminescence as an ongoing occurrence in our backyard. Thank you to Lynn and the Sacramento Paddle Pusher for letting me participate.