Thursday, April 02, 2009

Under a tropical night sky

I remember gliding down a channel in the Orinoco Delta.

It is pitch dark, the sort of dark you get where there are no cities, no towns, no street lighting. The native guide has switched off the powerful light he was using to spot the reflected eyes of wildlife hiding in the rain forest. The engine is switched off too, so we drift silently.

But it is not quiet, as there is the background sounds of the jungle from the crickets and croaks of the frogs.

Above the sky is clear and the stars are bright. I can make out Orion high above and search for other constellations, but it is a strange mix of the northern and southern, it is a tropical night sky.

The crescent moon is setting, a sliver slither that isn't bright enough to blot out the stars and the path of the Milky Way can be seen clearly.

I spot a satellite flying high above, a light that varys slowly as it tumbles. There's the glowing line of a meteorite and the flash flash of fire flies.

It is a magical moment that I will never forget.


Annie said...

Stars away from lights are truly amazing.

I love Orion's Belt. It's so easy to pick up in our southern night sky. Whenever my partner, Jim, and I have been apart because he's been away sailing, I've always walked outside in the evening, looked at Orion's Belt and thought of him, knowing that at some time that night he would do likewise.

JP said...

I had a funny feeling seeing the sun set yesterday and imagined it high above the Venezuela sky.

And yes, Orion is my favourite constellation too.

Carol Anne said...

I have Orion in winter and Scorpio in summer. The Milky Way always takes people by surprise the first time they're away from city lights ... I remember being totally unable to convince Pat that it wasn't clouds or smog.

bonnie said...

I've sort of got 3 things this makes me think of.

1. Any time I get out of this lightblasting city, I try to make sure to get outside at night to remind myself what stars look like. I was almost sorry I wasn't here during the big blackout a few years back - I think I was still working on the schooner then, and all the schooner people helped take people to Jersey, then came back & spent the night on the boat. They were astounded by the stars.

2. I had the best astronomy professor in college. He helped you remember the constellations by telling you stories about them. Most of us could find Orion by the belt. Dr. Sakimoto started with that. Then he showed us how Orion was fighting with Taurus the Bull - and then the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, became the Flies on the Bull's Back.

3. Again because of the story, I think that my favorite constellation is Maui's Fish-hook. You know it better as Scorpio, but to people who grew up in Hawaii and loved the stories, it's the very same magic fishhook that the demigod Maui used to fish the Hawaiian islands up out of the sea. If his brothers had just kept paddling the canoe, the eight major islands would have kept rising until they were one, but the brothers looked back and broke the spell. Maui then threw the magic fishhook up in the sky, and there it still sparkles to this day.

JP said...

I wish I knew the night sky better, so will try and look out for Scorpio next time I get a chance to see a really dark sky.

The night's sky at sea can be fantastic if the weather is good. I remember on the Arc doing night watches with my friend Tristan (the Natural Navigator) astronomy book in hand - great times and lots of shooting stars!

Katinka said...

Wonderful post. I really enjoy the way you wrote this, it feels as though we're there sitting in the boat right beside you watching the sky, feeling the soft tropical air and hearing the chorus of crickets and frogs.

JP said...

Its funny but when re-living memories for diary or blog like this often switch into present tense like here, as if am there experiencing all over again

It was a *wonderful* moment

Did you have similar night skies in PNG? I was wondering if you had similar memories