Luminous Worlds

CreditsVarious Contributors

FROM A CHILDHOOD INTEREST IN THE OCEAN TO A CAREER OF ADVENTURE, DAVID GRUBER, A MARINE BIOLOGIST AND EXPERT IN THE STUDY OF BIOLUMINESCENT AND BIOFLUORESCENT MARINE LIFE, HAS TRAVELLED THE GLOBE TO RESEARCH, OBSERVE, AND ULTIMATELY CONSERVE THESE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES AND THEIR HABITATS.

...The work was analysing the night feeding behaviours of certain fish. For three months, each day I would catch fish, attach light markers to them, and then at night I would follow them to see where they'd go and record their behaviour. I'd be swimming around at night – mainly in the shallows, snorkelling and free diving – shadowing these fish into the reef. By the end of the night, when it was time to head home, I would pop my head above the water and see this tiny speck of an island in the distance. Following these fish would take me kilometres offshore with a long swim back. Every night as I swam back I'd turn my light off and become enveloped in bioluminescence, primarily sparked by tiny microscopic animals called dinoflagellates. They light up your hands and it almost looks like sparkles when you're swimming. This ignited my curiosity for animals that glow.

On the island, I was living in a tent on the sand, simply collecting rainwater to drink. Our work didn't involve scuba, only snorkelling, so I had ample time to work on my free diving skills. I was mentored by a local conch fisherman, perhaps only seventeen years old, who could hold his breath for about five minutes at a time, and would travel between the islands in a small dug-out canoe. I ended up learning an incredible amount about the reef, about navigation by the stars and more thanks to this Belizean boy. That was one of my first experiences of being comfortable in the water and navigating at night whilst using low-tech equipment. Diving in the day and at night are two completely different experiences. There is a changing of the guard that occurs at twilight and a new set of coral reef residents emerge. It is one of my favourite times to be underwater. ...

Above image and words by David Gruber. Image shows biofluorescent seahorses.

This feature includes four articles:

The First Enlightenment – Words by Laurie Ramsell.
Night Dive – Words by David Gruber & Rachel Taylor & photography by David Gruber & Elias Carlson
Technology, Humanity and Bioluminescence – Words by Daniel Taylor & illustration by Grace Helmer.