National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

March-April, 2008 — One of the things I like about fishing out in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska is the isolation from the rest of the world. All we see in any direction is water — just open horizon; maybe we'll see another boat on the horizon, but that is as close to civilization as we get out here.

Along with this isolation comes the cleansing feeling of being in a place where there is no pollution, just water, seagulls, and sky. The sunrises and sunsets have always been set apart from the ones I see in the Lower 48, which vary in color from deep red to light pink, with very few shades of yellow. In the gulf, the sunsets have lots of yellow because there is no pollution in the atmosphere to pink it up.

Another totally cool part about being out here is the blue flash. The blue (or green) flash is an optical phenomenon that occurs as the sun is setting over a clear ocean horizon with no land and no clouds or atmospheric interference between your eyeball and the sun. Something happens to the light as it travels through all that atmosphere, and the instant after the sun drops completely out of sight below the horizon, a cone of brilliant blue or green light shoots upward from where the sun has just disappeared.

I have seen the blue flash a number of times. The first time was in 2001, when I saw it on the sunrise, which is very rare because one does not know when and where to focus their gaze. It was a beautifully clear morning, and George and I were up in the wheelhouse watching the glorious shades of yellow intensify in the sky, when this crazy tower of green shot out from the horizon — an instant later the sun peeked up in its place.

Well, this season there were no yellow sunrises or sunsets, and there were definitely no blue or green flashes going on in the Gulf of Alaska. The sky was a deep pink at sunrise and sunset, and on the evenings when I had perfect conditions to view the illusive blue flash, I was duped every time. The sky was just too polluted to manufacture such a highly sensitive optical phenomenon.

Brett told me about a guy who asked him about the blue flash. When Brett told him he had seen it with his own eyes, the guy couldn't believe it was real. He had tried to see it on the Oregon coast on many occasions. He determined it was all a big lie someone conjured up for some reason. I guess he was simply looking through a polluted atmosphere, just as I am doing this year in the Gulf of Alaska.

I wonder what has polluted this clear, pure sky? Could it have been all those forest fires we had this fall? But those were back in October, and over 3,000 miles away from here. Maybe a volcano erupted somewhere? Maybe it's China and their new coal-powered industrial machine?

Whatever it is, I hope it's temporary. If it's getting to the point where our planet is so polluted that we can't even take a clean breath in the middle of the open ocean, I think it really might be time to take a close look at where we are headed.

Air mask, anyone?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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