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Disappointed visitors miss Ortoire’s ‘glow’

By Richardson Dhalai Sunday, April 20 2014

Weeks after the soft blue glow of the Ortoire river, Mayaro propelled the watercourse into the national spotlight, the onset of rains, coupled with overcast skies, seems to have dampened the phenomena as visitors can no longer witness the nightly ecological wonder from the Mafeking river bridge.

For the past several weeks, the waters of Ortoire river have been emitting a bluish glow which according to an Institute of Marine Affairs report, has described the phenomena as bioluminescence, or “cold” light emitted as a result of a chemical reaction from single cell organisms called dinoflagellates (pryodinium bahamene), a type of plankton that has bloomed along parts of the Ortoire because of the favourable conditions caused by the mix of cold salt water flowing upriver during the high tide, and the warmer fresh water coming from the interior.

The luminescence of photosynthetic dinoflagellates is influenced by the intensity of the day’s sunlight. The tiny flashes of luminescence occur as a brief (0.1 sec) blue flash, when the organism is disturbed (as when the water is stirred). Each individual gives off this brief flash, and when the dinoflagellates are abundant, billions of individual flashes yield brilliant results. The brighter the sunlight the brighter the luminescence.

When Sunday Newsday visited the area on Thursday night, the district, which lies dormant during the daytime hours, suddenly sprang to life with the setting of the sun as from as early as 5 pm, vendors began to arrive to stake their claim to preferred spots along the river and upon the nearby bridge.

The news team witnessed vendors selling watermelons, crab (no doubt caught along the river banks), indian delicacies and both alcoholic and soft beverages.

A number of local residents, a few wearing face masks worn by divers atop their heads, were also observed sitting under the bridge awaiting the onset of night when they would ply their diving trade to encourage the river to emit its light. One person said a dive, whether from the bank or the bridge could cost between 40 and 50 dollars.

A number of pirogues, (open boats used for fishing), also docked at river banks to await the arrival of night and the large number of curious visitors to the river.

One boat owner, Dyllian Persad, also brought along his van, which he parked at the river’s edge and placed a generator and a string of two lights leading to the boat.

Persad said his boat was available to those persons who wished to go further upstream to view the phenomena adding the cost per person was $20 apiece while kids under age 11 were for free.

Another boat owner, who declined to give her name said she was charging ten dollars per person, inclusive of children.

By 6.45pm, under an overcast sky, the river’s banks were completely darkened, with only the lights from street lights and the boat’s lights lighting the river.

A large number of persons also crowded the pavements along the bridge, all gazing intently into the dark waters for signs of the river’s glow, but nothing happened even as the boat engines churned the waters.

San Fernando resident, Russel Supersad, who said he had made the trip to Mayaro with his nephew to view the river’s glow, expressed disappointment at not seeing the phenomena.

“I just come for the lime,” he said, adding, ‘one of my friends came on Monday and they said they saw the light right here by the bridge so I come to see if I could see it as well.”

“Maybe is all the rain,” he added.

By 7pm, a number of boats carrying passengers went upstream as curious persons continued to crowd the bridge.

At approximately 30 minutes later, the first boat returned. However, asked if they had seen the river’s glow, one man remarked that he had not see anything while a woman said she had seen a “small whitish light.”

“It look as if the light changing from blue to white,” she said, adding, “it may be coming to an end.”

Meanwhile, on its Facebook page, the Environmental Management Authority has advised against the dumping of garbage into the river saying, “So we’ve all been hearing about this spectacular site at the Ortoire River. Residents ask that garbage not be thrown into the river. Let’s enjoy this site without destroying our environment.”

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