Well, if you want to have a truly memorable night – go spend the weekend at the Darling Marine Center! My marine biology class took a field trip down last weekend to collect some specimens, do some plankton tows, and explore the intertidal zone. All of these activities were interesting and fun, but even the most exciting dimmed in the glow of Friday night. Literally. It was glowing.
As night fell and the campfire was coaxed into a blaze, rumors were whispered of bioluminescent plankton. A short walk down to the dock carried jokes of someone being thrown into the water for the entertainment of the others. In the end, pebbles were collected to take the place of the human sacrifice. Once on the dock all lights, cell phones, headlamps, were extinguished and the first pebble thrown. At first I could not see the glow of the disturbed plankton. It took a moment for my eyes to focus on the water and by that time the glow had subsided. But a quick succession of more pebbles allowed for amazement and excitement to build.
It was quickly apparent that more throwable items were needed and we all set off to collect more. I realized that a bigger splash would cause a better illumination and thus searched for the biggest rocks I could carry. Coming back with four about the size of half a basketball, I handed them off to others until we could all throw one in at the same time. “Counting down…. three… two… one!” *SPLASH* “Oooooohh!!… We need more rocks!” This was repeated several times, much to the dismay of the sacrificed rocks.
The excitement of seeing the bioluminescence carried on for quite some time (science nerds are easily entertained). At some point in the midst of all this, someone turned around and happened to look Northward and realized that the water wasn’t the only thing glowing. The Northern Lights were also begging for attention tonight! None of us in the current group had ever seen the Aurora Borealis before so for a few minutes we were cautiously excited. Until someone came to confirm that the slightly greenish, vertically oriented column of light was indeed the famous phenomena. The elation amplified as we moved from the bioluminescence to the Northern Lights, and back again.
“This is why!” I said. “When someone ask’s me why I moved to Maine for school, I’m going to tell them – THIS is why!”
The whole evening reminded me that if you want to see things that you have never seen before – you must go where you have never gone.