National Geographic : 1960 Jul
Sea-water Shower Turns a Man Into a Faceless Specter Twenty bucketfuls (left) caused research biologist Luis R. Almod6var to glow like a ghost. Millions of lu minescent organisms cling ing to his hair and shirt emit shimmering light. To catch the eerie result, Dr. Zahl used black-and white film with a 5,000 ASA rating and a fast F1.4 lens. He kept the shutter open for 50 seconds. For some reason, the au thor reports, micro-organ isms failed to glow during a previous attempt when wa ter was pumped over the man. Rosado, who were father and son. We sailed out on the bay one night when conditions were once more ideal: no moon, a quiet sea, and intense phosphorescence. While I held the flashlight, Almod6var, already in swimming trunks and a T shirt, pulled a diving mask down over his eyes and nose, then, as I directed, perched himself on the bow of the boat. Daniel and Pedro took standing positions on the gunwales, one on each side of him. Each held a bucket attached to an eight-foot rope. Glowing Bay Water Creates a Portrait With all lights doused, I yelled, "Start!" Daniel threw his bucket overboard with a splash and drew up a load of shining wa ter. Hoisting it over Almod6var's head, he began slowly to pour. Where the stream struck our subject's pate, it burst into flaming brightness and splashed down, still on fire, over his shoulders, arms, and torso. Working in relays, the men flooded Almod6var with 128 the glittering fluid. With each bucketful a little more light was registered on the film of my open-shuttered camera (opposite). Finally, after 20 buckets, I closed the shut ter, crossed my fingers, and called a halt. Almod6var took off the mask and cleared his throat. Each cough brought forth a cloud of luminosity-some of the thousands of Pyrodinium cells that had trickled into his mouth during the deluge. His hair, too, for a few minutes continued to sparkle as if strewn with diamond dust. When these stars died, Almod6var was again a normal, non fire-breathing man. Later, as we made ready to go back to Parguera, I caught sight of a silver crescent low in the sky. It was the first-quarter moon, betokening an end to my work on Puerto Rico's Phosphorescent Bay. Now, with the queen of the heavens flooding the earth with her radiance, Pyrodinium's fire would seem to fade a little. But it would return when the nights grew black again.