From today’s Green Blog on the New York Times website a note in honor of Columbus Day (and doctoral student discoveries) click the image above to go to the story:
…At 10 p.m. on Oct. 11, 1492, Christopher Columbus saw a glimmer in the distance as he stood on the deck of the Santa María. The faraway flash was “so small a body that he could not affirm it to be land,” Columbus wrote, referring to himself in the third person.
He called over two of his crew members, but the light was so faint that only one man could discern it. Staring harder, Columbus wrote, he “again perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a wax candle moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land.”
This mysterious light has long captivated historians and scientists, with some attributing it to canoes, fires onshore or even Columbus’s imagination. In 1935, the naturalist Lionel Ruttledge Crawshay suggested that the light emanated from luminous worms in the genus Odontosyllis, commonly known as fireworms. Like clockwork, these bioluminescent creatures swim in a circular mating dance before the twice-monthly quarter moon.