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Where in the World are You?...Mosquito Bay; Vieques, Puerto Rico
Mosquito Bay; Vieques, Puerto Rico
Yes, as a matter of fact that picture is of a woman in a kayak and yes that is water in which she is paddling that kayak.
When I first stumbled across pictures of this unique phenomenon I thought it was some sort of trick photography or possibly Photoshopped, it wasn’t until I experienced it with my own two eyes that I finally believed in what I was seeing. The process at work in this large body of water that is partially protected from certain forces of nature is not nearly as unique as I had initially thought, turns out it is fairly common but not in such a concentrated area. As it turns out, this location has been certified as the brightest of its type ever recorded.
When the options of trick photography or Photoshop are eliminated one may then choose to believe that what they are looking at is some sort of magic trick. However, there is absolutely no magic involved here, just a biological production and emission of light by a group of flagellate protists when agitated. As was previously mentioned, the process at work here is far from rare, what makes it rare is the three-quarters of a million of these for every one gallon of water. When agitated by swimmers or by boats, these half-animals, half-plant organisms emit a flash of light, creating the effect in the picture above.
When the region was initial discovered by a leader in European colonialism they initially believe the lights in the water to be the work of the devil. In an effort to reduce the influence of said devil, large boulders were put in place to block seawater from entering this partially protected body of water; instead of ending the effect this decision actually preserved the process for us to experience all these years later.
The first colonial to discover this location was later forced out by an alternate colonial power, one that still holds great sway in the region. Toward the end of the last century and the beginning of the current one, this power was challenged in the location where this body of water is located. It seems this powerful nation was using the location as test facility for the detonation of explosive ordnance, which evidently was not particularly popular with the local residents. After this nation was forced out, the majority of the island was set aside a nature preserve, including the body of water of which I am speaking (sort of). Apparently this protection did not come soon enough; it has been written that the glow currently emitted by these organisms is merely ten percent of its original strength. So again, I ask you…Where in the World are You?
Mosquito Bay on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, is an ecological treasure of this relatively unknown Caribbean island. The bioluminescence effect created when microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates become agitated by outside interference, such as a swimmer or kayaker, and emit the neon blue glow seen in the picture above. The effect is far from rare, dinoflagellates are actually quite common, but thing that makes Mosquito Bay unique is the amount of dinoflagellates found in the water of the bay. Current measurements of the waters of the bay put the amount of dinoflagellates at around 720,000 for every gallon of water in the bay.
When the Spanish first ventured into Puerto Rico and discovered Bahia Mosquito, Mosquito Bay, they believed the bioluminescence effect to be the work of the devil. In their zeal to rid the world of all things evil, they dumped huge boulders in the mouth of the bay hoping to mitigate the effects of the dinoflagellates; the result was the exact opposite of the intended effect, and actually concentrated the effect. How much longer it will last seems to be the subject of some disagreement, due to pollution and other forces the effect is but ten percent of the original strength.
The island of Puerto Rico is currently a commonwealth of the United States, making Vieques part of the United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In the years after World War Two and during the Cold War, the United States Navy used a portion of the island as a weapons testing range. In 1999, a civilian naval employee was killed by an errant bomb while manning his guard post at the facility, leading to protests against the continued presence of the Navy and the use of Vieques as a testing facility. In 2003, the United States Navy abandoned its facility on Vieques and much of the land that had been used as a weapons testing range was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge.
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