Thursday, July 7, 2011

Things that glow

One of my absolute favorite things about summertime in the South is the lightning bugs. We had them in Southern California, too - they were called fireflies there - but I don't think they came out at night en masse like they do down here.

Last weekend I was in D.C. celebrating the fourth. We were on the way to a cookout when we drove by an empty lot between houses that was completely alight with the incandescent insects. I love phosphorescence in all of its forms, and that's what this post is all about.

Also handy because then I don't have to talk about my job search or the fact that J currently lives hundreds of miles away...
Synchronized fireflies (ahem, lightning bugs) in the Smokey Mountains of north Tennessee and North Carolina.
I originally saw this piece in Southern Living yesterday in the dentist's office (heh) but since I couldn't find that article online, here's the phenomenon covered in the New York Times.

Basically, a whole slew of male lightning bugs blink in unison in order to attract females. Apparently it's like a symphony of lights. Not sure if it impresses their women, but I would love to see this. The NYT piece covers the bugs in Elkmont, Tenn., during the first two weeks in June.

The Dismalites of Dismal's Canyon outside of Phil Campbell, Ala.

Dismal's Canyon is also where they filmed the backdrop for When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth on the Discovery channel

I actually have seen the dismalites before. We had a group trip in 2009 to see them and enjoy the canyon for a weekend. They have campsites as well as a couple of lovely cabins and a swimming hole. The canyon (and the dismalites) are the major attractions, though.

You go on a guided tour after dark in the summertime to see the tiny bioluminescent worms. Gajillions (this is an official count) of Dismalites light up the sides of the cave walls like a starry sky.

image via

Also, Dismal's Canyon is home to Burr's Hideout - apparently where Aaron Burr hid out for days after he shot Alexander Hamilton. Lots of old graffiti on the rocks too. Definitely worth a visit.

Cave graffiti at Dismal's dating from 1936

Phosphorescent plankton on the beach at Dauphin Island, Ala.
I've been fortunate enough to see this one, too, as a part of a field studies class I took my senior year of high school to Dauphin Island Sea Lab. My friend, Dustin of Spawning is Imminent (why can't I find your blog anymore, Dustin? Please explain this to me) was lucky enough to study there for a summer in college.

At any rate, it was amazing - standing in the complete dark and kicking up the sand in the surf. The entire area surrounding your toes lighting up as you disrupt the plankton.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island and quite remote - not very many city lights. So serene, and the glowing sand makes the experience otherworldly. I'd love to go back. No photos, unfortunately.

This completes my shortlist of favorite things that glow. I have no idea why I found it necessary to write this post.

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