Monday, June 30, 2008

picnic, lightning

It was light at first. We were off for a pleasant ride into the central lagoon of Turneffe Atoll. A stroll behind Blackbird Caye looking for crocodiles. As we made our way through the channel in the reef, we stopped. The channel marker wasn't going to be sufficient for this trip. It needed to be brighter. Hanging from the bow, we we wrapped it with reflective tape just in case.
Now it was time for a picnic. Not a walk in the park, but a picnic. The lagoon was calm and we made good time. We reached our destination in front of a fishing shack on the back of the island. Sitting a couple of hundred yards off shore, Alton dropped the anchor. Time to eat. We would dine on chicken, pasta, salad and banana bread that was still warm (Alton, who doesn't eat meat, had lobster tail instead). We enjoyed the peaceful rocking of the boat and good company while we dined and waited for night to come. Mosquitoes sensed our presence from shore and as the wind died they arrived. They wouldn't stay long. Darkness came early. Then thunder. Next was rain. Maybe it was a different order, but stay with me. All hell was about to break loose. Lightning raged around us, getting closer with each moment. At times the lightning was yellow. I've never seen such lightning before. Perhaps, I've never been quite so close to it. All we could do was sit, take our picture and hope that the camera would survive. Eventually the storms would give us a break and we began to work. It was croc searching time.

Thomas (whose last name is Rainwater, by the way) took his position at the bow with his spotlight (you can see some of the lightning still going behind him here). We were looking for the eye shine of a crocodile along the shore. We found one. We approached. It spooked and went under. Traveling just off of shore we scanned for eyes. Nothing. Then a huge reddish eye in the distance. We approached. It was massive. Getting into the water with a crocodile of this size would be suicide. It was just too big to be true. Fortunately, it really was too big to be true. It was a reflector. We moved on. Bouts of rain pelted us as we found several more eyes reflecting our spotlight back at us. One was a spider. The others were crocs, but each spooked. We weren't going to have a crocodile rodeo today.

Throughout the trip flying fish were startled by our presence . Their bodies skipped across the water around us. The the sound of their tails flicking in the water was punctuated by their bodies slapping into the water. As we approached the shallows, the sea was like a clear sky. Lights twinkled everywhere. Glowing organisms sparkled around us.

It was time to return to the dock. That meant leaving the "peaceful" lagoon to get outside of the reef. The waves were huge and we were airborne at times, unsure of when we would again be standing or sitting on the bottom of the boat. We had thought ahead. Despite the huge waves, the reflective tape that we had wrapped around the channel marker had managed to stay on. Our light reflected off of it and we knew where to pass through the reef. Alton brought us home. We drank to our "success."
(By the way, the title of this post is stolen from someone that stole it. "Picnic, lighting" is the title of a Billy Collins book and he borrowed it from Lolita -- "My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.")
A few of those photos aren't mine. Leslee Parr took the red eye , the picnic (no rain), and the photo of me with the light.

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