The sheltered lagoon found at the mouth of the Martha Brae River at Rock in Trelawny, Jamaica is home to a spectacular phenomenon popularly called Glistening Waters. This name is related to the fact that the water glows at nights when it is disturbed. The lagoon has been given various names. The bay itself is know as Oyster Bay and is bordered on the north by a peninsula called Bush Cay. Other names used to describe the area include: Phosphorescence Lagoon, Glistening Waters and Luminous Lagoon.
The Luminous Lagoon is a unique attraction in Jamaica and is considered by many to be to be the most spectacular of its kind in the world. A similar phenomenon occurs at Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico.
The spectacular greenish glow, seen at nights in the famous bay at Rock in Trelawny, is due to light emitted from unicellular (one celled) micro-organism living in the bay. At Glistening waters, tiny ‘fire algae’ (Pyrodinium) produces light through an internal chemical process. This process is called bioluminescence. Here, a living organism (bio) produces luminescence (light or glow). This involves a change of chemical energy to light energy. The light is produced in flashes only whenthe organisms are disturbed, such as: a boat moving through the water, humans agitating the water, movement of fish and other creatures, wave action or even rainfall.
The micro-organisms at Glistening Waters are marine organisms and thrive in the conditions exiting there. They are a type of dinoflagellate, that is, the organism has two flagella (‘tails’). The tails allows the organism to migrate ‘swim’ between layers of water. The specific species found at Glistening Waters is Pyrodinium bahamense and belong to a division of algae called Pyrrophyta or fire algae.
The use of the term phosphorescence to describe the phenomenon at Oyster Bay is incorrect. Phosphorescence is a form of fluorescence. This is where a material absorbs external energy and then reemits such energy, an example is the materials used to make watches glow in the dark.
The organisms responsible for the glow at Glistening Waters require the maintenance of a delicate balance between nutrients (provided by the mangroves), shelter from oceanic water, strong waves and currents and pollution in order to thrive. Development taking place and that are planned for in and around the greater Falmouth area could upset the balance and destroy the bioluminescence at Oyster Bay. It should be noted that bioluminescence bays in both Hawaii and the Bahamas were severely damaged because of human impacts.