Friday January 10th will be a big night on the beach. That night, the low tide of the first full moon of 2020 will be met with points of light floating under the North-end ferry dock.
Bioluminescence, a much more common phenomenon than one might expect, will likely be on display from a few species that night. Some experts contend that up to ¾ of ocean animals have some type of luciferin molecule that combines with oxygen- in a chemical reaction called oxidation- and gives off photons of light. This light can then used for anything from camouflage to communication to luring prey and mates.
However, on this night, the dock pilings that sport an outer crust of creatures and teeming pools of seawater at their toes will also be lit by people willing enough to lean in close and look carefully. The same can be said of boulders a short walk up the shoreline. Those that observe will be rewarded with a sense of awe and wonder at the diversity of life and ways that animals live. For example, the flowing body of a nudibranch with feathery gills or the squishy movement of a color-changing octopus can only truly be appreciated by first-hand account.
This is all happening because the Vashon Nature Center, now leading the group of Vashon Beach Naturalists, is hosting the long-standing annual Moonlight Low Tide Beach Walk at the North-end. Luminaries will light the way and tea, cider and hot cocoa will be served by donation as usual. In fact, the entire event is run by visitor donations and volunteer Naturalists who have studied the intertidal animals and their relationships and are eager to share them.
After the winter solstice and holidays, this full moon community event is the perfect opportunity to reorient ourselves to exploring outdoors, just in time for the return of days’ light. For me, this annual event is a celebration of the diversity and tenacity of life concurring with the start of a new calendar year. This time though, it is at the turnover of a new decade, and amidst a degraded social climate and changing global climate. What better time to share an experience with your community and express gratitude for the richness and wonders of life found on our shores? It is the perfect antidote to hibernation.
The Moonlight Beach walk is 8-11pm on Friday January 10th at the North-end Ferry Beach. Parking is in the commuter parking lot. Visitors should dress for the weather and wet, bring a headlamp or two, and bring their own mug for hot refreshments.