Letters From The Field

Have pen, will travel. Sending letters.

Sea Lightning: Tears, stars and breath

A letter from Croatia. In which is discovered some marvellous mystery from the depth of the sea.

Croatian Adria, autumn of 2008


the darkness of a clear summer night has fallen now over the sea in front of my little cabin’s porthole. Only minutes ago everyone retired into their booths aboard. We’re anchoring at the small village of Vrulje, right in front of ‘Ante’s Conoba’. To be honest, there are not really that much houses here anyway. Actually, even though this is the largest island of the picturesque archipelago in the Croatian Adria, the few villages are not permanently inhabited all year round. Only a couple of small fields are spotting the craggy ground here and there, some olive groves offering a bit of shadow. It looks like most of the villagers seem to be fishermen actually.


Well, our friend Ante here by all means is picture-book-fisherman for sure. And so is his his son – not shy to lend us a helping hand mooring our 43-feet “Katarina” when we arrived, welcoming us right away to a leafy bower at a veranda, no ten metres away from our boat. As soon as we were taking seat, he already had conjured a bottle of some (really delicious) homemade herb liqueur, spreading the catch of the day right in front of us – asking what we would like to have for dinner. Oh, I’m telling you that was the best mixed seafood plate we ever saw! Fresh from sea, fresh from grill, with fresh garlic and red wine … ah, I’m becoming hungry again just by writing these lines. But how could I even be still hungry after they were hosting and feeding us the whole evening.


So, I was just finishing today’s journal entry and preparing for my ever-swaying bunk, when suddenly a mysterious sizzling noise was breaking the silence of the night. An almost electric crackle rising everywhere around the ship. Inside the ship, outside. I rushed back into the salon … looking right into the startled faces of the rest of the crew emerging from their cabins. Here, close to the mast the crackling sound even seemed to increase. Puzzled we were looking at each other in bewilderment. Until a cry from the deck above released us from that lethargic astonishment: “Come up here, you’ve got to see this!” – A calling we were following immediately, of course, soon gathered under the stars. “I was just going for … um, having a … well, when I noticed – this.” one of my fellow sailors said, pointing down into the water. Following his gesture, we finally found out that the source of this strange sizzling noise in the night did not come from the ship. Looking closer and long enough into the dark water, it became clear that the crackling went along with glimmering spots and flashes. Like the reflection of shooting stars on the water’s surface – flashing and burning up again. Only, this was no reflection, this was something down there in the sea. A gleam occasionally forming downright ‘light-carpets’ underwater. Some kind of luminescent algae or microorganisms, it seems, were producing this light spectacle and the mysterious background noise. “It even get’s more impressive once you add …um, er – phosphate into the water.” our friend noted. Hunched over the railing, we were following this breath-taking show – sea lightning all around us.



I think already now this will stay one of the most remarkable episodes of this sailing trip through the picturesque scenery of Croatia’s Kornati island. There are only few other sailboats around here that time of the year. Season’s actually almost over and the dreaded Bora winds are already brewing at the horizon, but the it’s easy to forget this in the still warm days of late autumn, overlooking the archipelago’s rocky isles which look just like a flooded small mountain chain, only the summits still protruding from the water. It is moments like this you really can’t but agree with George Bernard Shaw’s “On the last day of Creation, God wanted to crown his work and thus he created Kornati from tears, stars and breath.”


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This entry was posted on January 29, 2017 by in Adventure and tagged , , , , .

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