Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lights at night

Sometime in 1976 or 1977 I was doing field research in rainforests of El Junque on Puerto Rico and four of us drove to the southern shore of the island. The trip took us to Ponce on the Caribbean shore. We stayed in a rustic guest house and I remember a great dinner of local fish. But the highlight of our time away was a night trip on a boat into a bay that was full of bioluminescent plankton. At the time there was a single operator but it seems to have turned into a big tourist attraction. The patterns of light in the water were magical and the experience was made more memorable because it was my first experience of semi-tropical nights.

Many years later my husband and I joined a sea kayak paddle in the waters of Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia on a very dark August night. All of the boats were equipped with a single light which faced both forward and backward. It was so calm that we did not need to keep the boats together. The outlines of the boats were lost as soon as they were a few feet away. All that was left was the light. I remember being entranced by the sight of the lights dancing across the bay. My husband and I have night kayaked many times near our home but we have always been alone so have not been able to reproduce the magic of that group paddle.

I was reminded of those two events when I saw the photos of a new project in the Netherlands.  Daan Roosegaarde has used glow in the dark paint and some LED lights to create a pattern on a kilometre long section of bike path. The pattern references the swirling stars of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Follow some of the links in this article to see some or Roosegarde's other ideas about how to light public spaces.

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