“Fire in the water”

Because I was raised in a traditional fishing community and went to fish as a child, I often took for granted what others consider magical.  But there was one such phenomenon is what we call locally “Fire in the water”, that never lost its appeal. And although it was something which was beautiful, fishermen tended not to be happy about it.  As I heard one man describe it “It might be good for the soul, but it’s bad for the pocket”
I always associated Fire in the water with dirt in the water and generally settled and warm weather. When it occured in the night time, its basically as if any agitation in the river creates a natural light source.  Nets stood out, a fish in a net coming towards the boat could be seen from several yards away and as a boat traveled through the water, the waves tumbling off the bow, or the propeller wash, glow with this mysterious light.
I have to admit that I he first time I saw it I thought it was magic, and I can clearly remember hanging over the bow of the punt, allowing the bow wave with this watery starlight wash through my hands. The most amazing example I can think of was seeing a strong ebb tide wash over a fishing weir and between the poles and the submerged net, the whole scene was over 100 yards in length. But as I depended more and more on fishing it became a bit of a drag. Fire in the water meant the fish could clearly see the nets from a long way off floating through the running tide. The only opportunity however was when the river slowed and then finally stopped on the low or high waters. If there was fire in the water the punts tended to haul up their nets and go home after the tide began to run again.
via: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/pictures/120319-
Fire in the water is actually a natural phenomenon caused by phytoplankton which floated in the river at times and which emit a bright blue light after they become agitated. This agitation could be caused by waves, walking along the shoreline, punts travelling through the water, or worse when it came to fishing by drifting nets.
Now the actual process which light up these phytoplankton is that they have channels to allow protons to pass through their bodies. Any movement cause protons to stir, creating electrical pulses, which trigger chemical reactions. These reactions, in turn, activate a protein called luciferase, which creates the blue light. Another name for it is Bioluminescence.
The process can be seen from the shore line too, waves passing over rocks or seaweed is a likely spot, even the tide running over a rope or a buoy. And apparently it is now becoming a tourist draw. People who have never seen the phenomenon are travelling the world in an effort to witness it.  There are top destinations, people who are marketing this in Ireland, and websites dedicated to its research.  U tube has a few vids too such as this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTCB_p3slY

Although in the past, that comment we started with about this being bad for your pocket may have been true, perhaps in the current climate it might actually be the reverse? If anyone knows of any local person using this as a tourism stream you might let me know.  Id like to link it in to the story.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
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