The Totally Sparkling Bolivar Beach Report

A Dazzling Display of Dinoflagellates …it was LIT y’all!
By J. Lee Austin
Spring breakers were treated to something special last week when a cute little dinoflagellate named Noctiluca scintillans (aka Sea Sparkle) went into full bloom and lit up the otherwise dark night beach waves in a breathtaking display of luminescent beauty. Words cannot fully describe it of course, but as we know, that ain’t gonna stop an intrepid keyboard pecker like yours truly from trying to.

The effervescent effect was simply hypnotic. As the waves curled over the sandbar, they would come alive with an iridescent blue bright glow that would expand in both directions, eliciting gasps and wows from the astonished throng. The whole scene was literally and figuratively alive and electric, as hundreds of wave watchers hit the beach and marveled at the magic of one of Mother Nature’s greatest nocturnal shows …

Hat tip to for that great pic, which is way better than mine. Walking in the shallows brought forth sparkling footprints that had to be seen to be believed. For even more fun, the light show could be brought home in a bottle. A gentle shake in a dark room made for a mystical toy that would bedazzle adults and kids alike.

The wonder and amazement was felt by all. Okay maybe not all. There was the curmudgeonly Sharkman, who, once he realized that the algae bloom had squelched his fishing business, got his seaside grump on. Turns out the tiny glowing organism responsible for all the hoopla and circumstance was surreptitiously consuming all manner of other micro critters and massively depleting oxygen levels in the water to the point that all the other fish would have no part of it, splitting to Yucatan or some other place with actually oxygenated waters. It’s enough to make a charter shark fisherman spit & cuss.

Also called the “red tide” for it’s rusty ugly water discoloration seen by day, the phenomenon is a bit of a menace to other sea life, feeding on hapless other microfellas like bacteria, copepods and diatoms. Interestingly Noctiluca is not eaten by any other animals and as such is essentially a “dead end” in the food chain. Good thing it provides such incredible entertainment. Otherwise, well-meaning but otherwise wacked-out climate nutbrains would probably be trying to exterminate the species with low altitude chemtrails.

As luck would have it, the unflappable raconteur John Lyman was in town during the spectacle and managed to provide his unique perspective to the proceedings, what with his background and experience as a world famous marine biologist and all. Ok, so, not world famous. More like county famous.

Anyways, to make a long story longer we are both famous beyond repair in our own minds, so putting our pinheads together we came up with the brilliant idea to put the amazing Noctiluca under the microscope …

All credit to the University of Tasmania in Australia for the photograph, which I borrowed since I haven’t figured out how to make such micro-art with my scope … yet. These relatively large (250 micron), spherical, gelatinous, single-celled organisms are jam-packed with thousands of granules containing luciferin and luciferase, the chemicals executing the stunning reaction of bioluminescence.

This beauty is triggered by such merry mechanical stimuli as wave action, stomping your foot and shaking your booty … er, bottle. Parenthetically Lucifer is Latin for “light-bearer” … not to be confused with the Netflix fallen angel that leaves Hell for Los Angeles in order to help California Keystone cops solve various and assorted non-luminescent murders.

So, while you may have missed the Micro Lit Spectacle, you have not missed the biggest event of the season, the annual Texas Crab Festival. Crabfest, now in its 39th year, is not just fun for the whole family, it’s a fantastic way to give something back to the community and help all manner of folks on the peninsula.

Since its inception in 2013, TCF Charities has raised over $530,000 to help Bolivar residents of all ages. Crabfest proceeds and patron donations directly fund youth scholarships and camps, locals schools, volunteer fire departments, many service organizations and outreach initiatives. As a lifelong cycler, the annual Christmas Bike Drive is an event gonna be near and dear to my heart. Last year these crabby angels donated 18 bicycles to the kid locals. Santa got nuttin’ on them!

So mark your calendar for May 10-12 and join the fun. To make it even more special, it’s Mother’s Day weekend. Tom Osten, the Chairman of this wonderful event, is still looking for volunteers to help with things like manning the gates. Vendor booths are still available … check with [email protected].

If spring is any indication, this summer could be one for the books.

Y’all saddle up and git down here!
~~ j ~~

“You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.”
~~ Aristophanes

[J. Lee Austin: Mar-22-2024]

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