The green flash

I think we all can agree that nature is really awesome. From tiny little critters to majestic creatures of the sea and everything in between, planet ocean is simply magnificent and there is really no place like it! But you know what’s even more awesome? Human knowledge being passed down from generation to generation, from one whisper to another, so much knowledge. An endless well of knowing and telling, it’s a tale as old as time and yet, we often like to think that whatever we experience is a first time ever in the existence of humans. It is not, it’s just that we often choose not to listen.

I give you a real-life example that happened just this past week. As you may or may not know, I’ve been working offshore for about a week now and was just home for the night. The weather took a turn for the worse, meaning lots of waves, little of work that could have been done, so we took shelter and thankfully we were docking at hour home port, so home to my beautiful puppy I went (this really has nothing to do with the blog, I just wanted an opportunity to show her off and let me tell you, this madam is not the least bit impressed by anything I do, other than snuggling and playing and feeding her…)

My puppy not being impressed by my life choices

Anyways, back to the blog, this past week has granted us weather like you only read in travel magazines, lots of sunshine, few clouds, and seas so calm, so quiet, so tranquil, simply breathtaking. There was many hours where I would just sit and look out, marveling at this beautiful planet we call home. Here is a small snapshot of my workplace, there were dolphins around but they were too quick to get into the shot…

Calm seas – complete with steel toe-cap shoes, because safety is sexy!

On one of the nights, as the whole crew and myself watched the beautiful sunset, my captain asked me if I ever had seen the green flash. Intrigued, I asked him what this was about, and he told me that just as the sun sets, the second where daylight disappears, you will see a green flash, just for a tiny second but that it was magnificent if you saw it. I looked at my captain in disbelief, and contemplated carefully what he said. So, I stood on the bridge and watched the daylight disappear (which in case you wonder, just because the sun sets, doesn’t mean daylight disappears, it just means that the angle of the light will change, until darkness takes over). I must have watched for a good hour and a half and was completely frozen by the time night took over and I went back inside, troubled by what my captain had said.

I did not see any green light, all I saw was light blue turn into pink, red, yellow, orange, and then dark blue. There was no green flash and I watched carefully! My crew members made a lot of fun of me that night, teasing me that obviously the captain was pulling my leg and that there was no such thing as a green flash. But being me, and a budding researcher, I couldn’t just take one argument over another, I had to see it, I had to experience it, I had to know for sure. Also, little side not, while I didn’t see a green flash that night, I saw lots of dolphins joining our cruise at night, there must have been at least twenty and every time they surfaced, bioluminiscent sparks would illuminate the water for split seconds, it was a spectacle like no other!

The next day, as the sun was setting, and the crew – still not believing that the green flash existed – came out on deck to witness the sunset, I was determined to see the green flash for myself. My captain came close to me on the bridge and told me to wait until he said go, and then to use my binoculars and look at the horizon, where the sun met the ocean, and not blink – even once – while doing so. And I know, it sounds like a horrible idea – someone would say that I’d be blinding myself doing just that, but in life you will have to make a choice, either go for it, or forever wonder what if…

I patiently waited for what seemed forever for the sun to go down, meanwhile enjoying the view, looking for dolphins, whales, and seals (who we’ve encountered plenty of that day, so many and with such a marvelous display, I still can’t believe that this is part of my job!). Anyways, so there I was waiting and being teased relentlessly by everyone around me. But my captain stood next to me, not faced by anything the crew had said, and just as the right moment came, he told me to look through my binoculars, not blink, and focus on the spot where the sun would disappear.

Doing as told, I held my breath, and starred through my binoculars, making sure I had good balance, as the boat was moving quite quickly and cutting through some waves. And there, in a millisecond of amazement, I saw a green flash appear, right before the sun disappeared for the day. Not believing what I saw, I screamed in excitement, beside myself for having seen the green flash. The crew, at first reluctant to believe me, started second guessing themselves (none of them had binoculars on them and so didn’t have a chance to see it for themselves), but I did. And I will forever cherish that moment, when what you see before your eyes is simply natural beauty.

It is also in that moment that I realized something else about myself. On any other day, I may have not listened to my captain, seeing that there were so many of the crew ignoring his soft-spoken words. On any other day, I may have chosen to take his word for gold and just accepted what he said to be true. On any other day, I may have agreed with the crew that this was utter nonsense. But the thing is, part of being a researcher is to find a golden nugget, a small little thing, the tiniest inkling of something, and follow it until you uncover something you may have not known about before. That’s not to say that you’re uncovering something completely new, but that you’re uncovering¬† something you just didn’t know before and that’s what the beauty of research is about.

Research is not for everyone, it requires a lot of failure, a lot of reading and writing, and re-writing, a lot of doubt, a lot of nay-sayers that you’re trying to proof wrong. It requires conviction and a strong attitude and most importantly (and often ignored) it requires A LOT of patience.

During the long hours offshore, we speak about anything and everything and one topic that had come up, was if in a different life, what I would choose to do. The fact is, I wouldn’t choose anything different than I have chosen the first time around. I am and do what I do, because of the choices that were made for me when I was younger and subsequently the choices I have made ever since I could decide on my own and that is something that I am actually really proud of.

So, whatever that green flash is in your life, don’t give up on it, go for it, throw everything at it, because these are the memories you make, the moments that define you, and the moments that will help you to make sense of it all when you’re sitting in the dark.

Sun setting in west Cork

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