Saturday, March 05, 2011

We Visited Important Historical Sites

Mystery Woman in Old San Juan

It was a hot day. A hot day of trudging the tourist infested streets of old San Juan Puerto Rico. Things got interesting when a cool woman in a dark outfit walked into my life.

Actually, she was with me the whole time. Later we took the three kids to a place for some milk shakes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


It is good for making caverns:

It also provides just the right setting for a radio telescope:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Modes of Transport

The trip to Bio Bay was so complex it made me feel like I was escaping from behind the iron curtain.

First, we took the rental car to a marina to catch a power catamaran for the crossing. Just to get out of the resort there was one guard and gate for the garage and another for the entrance to the resort. The boat was fast and rough; spray would wash over the front windows and across the top of the vessel. Some passengers felt a bit ill from the violence of the passage.

The crew, in keeping with wife and eldest daughter's observations about young Puerto Rican men, were were attractive and friendly. Also, they plied us with all the free rum drinks we wanted. As one of them said, "This is Puerto Rico, land of rum. If you want tequila, you are in the wrong country!"

After the crossing, we had a pleasant van ride to the restaurant. Along the way we enjoyed the scenery, including that of the feral horses that Vieques is famous for. The meal was served quickly since our orders had been called ahead.

The next mode of transport was by yellow school bus. I was really amazed by what a bus can do. Much of this leg was on narrow--tree branches brushing against both sides of the bus at the same time--and very steep, potholed and muddy.

Finally, there was an electric open top pontoon boat that took us out into the bay.

Returning, it was the same thing in reverse order: Yellow bus, van, high speed cat and then rental car and gate houses.

These nine changes in transport rivaled last year's whole trip to India: Car to airport, Plane ride to New Delhi, Van around Delhi, to Agra and on to Jaipur, Plane ride to Mangalore, Van around Mangalore then to Kapu and on to Udupi and finally Goa, Plane ride to Bombay, Van around Bombay, Plane to USA, Car ride home = 10! A three week trip had only one more transport change than this half-day outing.

Light, Very Distant and Very Close.

On Tuesday we went to Puerto Mosquito on Vieques to see the bio-luminescent display there. So far on the visit to Puerto Rico, it had been mostly cloudy and I was hoping for this to continue since the Moon was slightly more than half full. As it turned-out, the skies were totally clear, but the Moon didn't rise until sometime after we left.

Our guide was an expert on astronomy--at least that part of it involving the names of principle stars and constellations. He had a bright green laser-pointer with which he could point out features in the sky. My red laser pointer only creates a bright dot where the light hits something solid. The guide's would create a beam that seemed to go-off into infinity. I suspect that the higher frequency of his light (green v. red) caused it to have an higher incidence of scatter, also it was most likely more powerful than a usual pointer. In any case it allowed for a planetarium-like experience, which was helped by the very dark skies.

The only light seen from the water was from when a fish would dart about and from where the water was disturbed by the electric pontoon boat we were on. Even as the mechanism of this light is known--dinoflagellates, it was nonetheless quite magical. It got better though; we were able to get out of the boat and swim around in the bay. It was a chilly evening and the water too was cool, but the discomfort was well-worth it. Any movement however small, would cause a glow in the wake of the movement. The guides forced us to wear life-belts, which is totally understandable, but somewhat disappointing from an aesthetic stand-point. It turned-out to be beneficial in a couple of ways: The best bio-luminescent effects were from slow movements and this would be difficult given the need to remain floating. Rapid movements create a kind of milky cloud of blue-green light, slow movements create a much clearer light--sort of like champagne, where the tiny bubbles are illuminated from within and light-up the rest of the fluid. The best technique was to knife your fingers forward, just under the surface of the water. Light and bubbles would form at the tips of each finger and spread in a wake behind each one.

The best effect was from lying still, just floating. What would happen is that one would see small dots of light on your skin. If I recall correctly, these would occur both in and out of the water--so it might be droplets of water on the skin and air bubbles on the skin under water. Possibly, what I saw were individual Noctilucales, which can be 1-2 mm in diameter. Either way, they had the same brightness and apparent size as the stars above. It was odd, contemplating one dot of light coming from an incomprehensibly violent and large object which emitted the light I just saw many centuries before I was born and another dot, much the same in appearance but coming from a little single-celled organism on my arm.

All three of the girls were similarly entranced by the swim and were reluctant to get out when called.