Posted by: kellietris | October 4, 2011

Pleasuring the Plankton

This morning I experienced something brand new in the ocean.

Six of us gathered in Falmouth for what we thought would be the last ocean swim of the year. It was a drizzly morning, about 55 degrees, and the water was 60F. It was warmer than we expected, so we’re probably going to sneak in another ocean dip later this week. The coolest part though, was the bioluminescent plankton!!!!


Bioluminescent Flagellate!

I’ve seen it happen in the wake of boats in Casco Bay before, and I know that there are entire bays of bioluminescence in places like Vieques, but I’ve never swum through it. Tiny phytoplankton living in the water get agitated by the movement of the water and release a quick burst of light (science geek Kellie wants to go into the mechanism of this but she’ll spare you). Evolutionarily, the idea is that if the plankton light up when something tries to eat it, the light may attract an even bigger predator to eat the threat. Pretty smart if you ask me.

The effect when swimming is amazing. Just gliding through the water, your head makes them light up, and they streak past your goggles as you look down into the otherwise black ocean. Then every time you take a stroke, a trail of shiny sparkles follows your hand forward and then through your pull. Needless to say I probably swam slower because I was watching all the shininess! I stopped for a minute after swimming for about ten and just played around… when I lifted a leg or an arm out of the water there was a split second when my skin was sparkly too 🙂

We got in the water at 5:45 this morning; sunrise wasn’t until 6:40 and it was a cloudy, gross morning weather-wise, so it was pitch black when we set off except for our lantern and a few houses on shore. As soon as the clouds started to lighten up, the sparkles faded and were gone by the time I finished my swim. I’m not sure if we didn’t see the plankton before because they weren’t there, or because it was always light out, but that was definitely worth getting up early for! We celebrated the near-end of the open water swim season with coffee, donuts, and mimosas on the rocks (actual rocks, not ice rocks!). Jokes were made about the plankton we swallowed (‘I’m going to turn off the lights in the bathroom later and see if my pee lights up!’) and what the plankton were actually doing (‘every light is a tiny plankton orgasm! we’re pleasuring the plankton!!) and it went downhill from there. What more can you expect from six crazy sightly hypothermic swimmers at 630AM?

Post-Swim! Thanks to Jim for the photo!

In other news, I took 16 minutes off my half marathon PR on Sunday, finishing in 2 hours and 7 minutes, at 9:54 per mile. Tomorrow’s goal is going down the stairs without support! Baby steps, right?

The other goal is more frequent blog posts. I’ve discovered I don’t have to write a book every time I post!


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