San Juan Kayak Bioluminescence

June 28, 2018

Our first round of Bioluminescence Kayak Tours just wrapped up and we are eagerly awaiting the next. We operate these tours exclusively during the darkest phases of the moon to make sure we get to see the biomass at its absolute best. Paddling through the darkness on these trips and stirring up clouds of fairy dust, it’s easy to imagine that this must be a similar feeling Edison had when he first conjured light from seemingly nothing. But kayaking through the sparkling noctiluca, we are not the first to experience such magic. In fact, we are following in the footsteps of a long history of human interaction with an observation of bioluminescence.

Written accounts of bioluminescence go as far back as the fourth century, span to the present, and reach all the way into our imagination of the future. Early explorers and travelers wrote fantastic descriptions of the  “fiery sparks” and “luminous spirits” they witnessed from aboard ships at night. Indigenous peoples of Indonesia used bioluminescent fungi to light their way through forests while Roman scholars described making torches out of walking sticks and jellyfish slime. During the first and second world wars, soldiers marked their helmets with and consulted maps by the glow of rehydrated bioluminescent crustaceans. In 2008 Osamo Shimomura along with several other scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for isolating the green florescent protein (GFP) from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria (the discovery was made in 1962). Since then, the GFP has been widely used in contemporary bioscience. Fast forward to the future and bioluminescence illuminates our imagination of what tomorrow holds. Futuristic films such as Avatar are full of sparkling aquatic creatures, glowing animals that fly, and even glow-in-the-dark humans.

The Secret History of Bioluminescence

Come join us for our next round of night paddling under the stars! July tours are filling up fast so check out our calendar for the most up-to-date availabilities.

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