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Okay, so what is the String of Pearls?!

Okay, so what is the String of Pearls?!

Photos can't do justice the other-worldly experience of the String of Pearls

So you just finished your first Roatan night dive and experienced the globally rare “string of pearls” phenomena.  The only thoughts that go through your mind are “have I entered the Matrix?” or “Who spiked my water?”.

Check out this cool TED Talk by bioluminescence specialist and Ocean Research and Conservation Association founder Edith Widder.

What you have seen can only be described as mind-altering and, possibly, life changing.

Imagine yourself in complete darkness.  Each flurry of movement sends “sparks” through the water.  The light gives you the sense of racing through the universe surrounded by a galaxy of stars.  You are already amazed at the experience – THEN the magic happens – your eyes begin to focus on the strings of sparkling lines of brilliant green lights that flash in concert throughout the water.

So what is it that you’re exactly seeing?

The legend of the “String of Pearls” has a many homegrown explanations.  The most common is simply that no one really knows what they are.  While that isn’t completely true, sometimes the marvel of the experience is simply more romantic without knowing the details.

The truth of the matter is that there is real romance involved. 

The real story behind the “String of Pearls” starts with a microscopic crustaceans


called Ostracods.  These tiny creatures emerge from the depth about an hour after sunset to begin their bioluminescent courting ritual which consists of males excreting strings of “vomit” blobs of bioluminescent mucus – all in the name of love… And the Ostracod chicks dig it!

Each of the strings produce an intricate series of vertically progressing flashes to attract non-luminescent females of the same species.  The displays typically consist of nine to 13 pulses, three bright, longer pulses followed by six to ten dimmer, quick pulses.  The length of each train of displays is typically 50 to 70 centimeters with each pulse lasting a second or less and ranging from millimeters to centimeters apart.

Divers who experience this amazing sight often struggle to describe what they just experienced but are aware that what they witnessed was uniquely Roatan.

Now you’re asking yourself… how can I see the “String of Pearls”? 

Every night dive will be a thrilling adventure but take a glance at the moon stages.  If you happen to be on the island when there is a new moon (ie. No moon), your chances just increased dramatically.  Check out more on our night diving at Sun Divers Roatan here.

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