Life lived OUtside

The Kerby's Nursery E-Newsletter

October 21, 2021

Light the Night

You never know when an amazing experience will strike. As I told you last week, we had to cancel our inaugural family backpacking trip. We were struggling with where to go instead, when I suggested the east coast and the Kennedy Space Center. It was somewhere we've been wanting to take the girls, so once we settled on that location, within ninety minutes, Kim had booked a hotel on the beach, passes for the space center, a few dinner reservations and the tour that really blew our minds.

You would think that the experience I'm going to tell you about was the space center. After all, for a good portion of my life, I told people that I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Seeing the Saturn rockets and the Atlantis shuttle along with the stories of bravery and adventure of so many of the astronauts, did make that visit truly memorable.

But no. Our amazing experience occurred on a flimsy kayak after the sun set. Kim had heard about Bioluminescent Tours where there is supposed to be glow-in-the-dark plankton. Growing up crabbing in Tampa Bay, I remember plenty of glowing jellyfish that we would stumble upon after dark, but I was skeptical about a sea of glowing plankton.

So, we boarded kayaks and with guide Jaden in the lead, we headed out into the murky shallow water at Manatee Cove on the Indian River, unsure of what we were about to see. It was still twilight when we set off, but right off the bat as we entered the main river, we saw a small pod of dolphins playing. OK. That's pretty fun. Then as the sun's reach weakened and the last rays vanished something amazing happened. The water, when disturbed, began to have a faint glow to it. The guide got pretty excited saying that it never glows brightly until well after dark.

We continued on our way, following the bank, trying to keep up with the other kayaks in our group as true darkness fell. It was a cloud-filled night with few stars and no moon to brighten the sky. Most nights that wouldn't be a good thing, but on this particular night, it was just right. Not thirty minutes after the water first began to glow, it became amazingly bioluminescent. Everywhere you touched the water it glowed a blue-green-turquoise, fading quickly back to darkness. Every paddle, every hand, every drip of water caused a burst of fiery phytoplankton.

And then the coolest thing happened. Paddling along, schools of mullet fled our path, and as they did, they too created bursts of light that looked like spells from a wand in Harry Potter zipping this way and that.

Even the prow of the boat created a glowing wake as it silently sluiced the water. The kayaks we were in were clear so that you could see through them. That didn't matter much since it was dark, but still, the glow underneath was mesmerizing. The aquamarine at the prow transformed as it reached us and made us feel like we were the Millennium Falcon going into hyper-space, or at least that was Abby's description of it.

If you ever get over to the east coast, I urge you to take a paddle after dark. While outer space reveals the vast nature of the universe, these infinitesimal creatures show that amazing things can come in really tiny packages, just glowing away in the darkness of the sea. It's a sight and an experience we will never forget.

Happy Gardening,

The Kerby's Nursery Family

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