Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Sea’s Magic

You will never see the sea’s magic from the deck of a cruise ship. There are too many lights and it’s impossible to get close enough to the water.
The first time I saw the sea's luminescence was when I sailed for 12 days on an 1860s-style barquentine on the Indian Ocean.
One night, when there was no moon, I was on the bow gazing at the black ocean, when suddenly my eyes were alerted to the tiny glimmers of light which appeared and disappeared in the foam.
The tiny pinpricks of light reminded me of the millions of stars which seed the sky on a clear West Australian night.
It was like magic.
But it seems that for centuries men have puzzled over the cause of this phenomenon.
Long ago, men thought they were the sun's rays which had dived into the sea.
They said that at night the fiery spirits tried to escape the water and fly back to the heavens.
Some said the troubled sea created sparks like those emitted when a flint is struck upon a stone. Some said they were small fish or insects which were able to glow like the firefly.
Some said that sometimes the particles came alive and swirled together in a shining mist of colour which floated across the sea turning like a spinning top.
Some said this was an aurora.
Some said it was an illusion.

In my novel, Emma asks Charles:
“And what do you say?"
"I say it is a wonder. Each flash of light is from an animalcule, a minute organism. It only glows when turbulence disturbs it. The ship is causing it to shine."
He looked at her, but her eyes were fixed on the metallic sea. "Your tiny stars are no illusion, Emma. They are real. Millions upon millions of them. And perhaps as you suggest they lie in wait for ships to pass so they can come to life and dance together in the foam."

Read more about the sea’s magic in, ‘Sea Dust’. You can order a copy on my website at

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