Blue Voyage Gets Its Night Magic from Phosphorescence: In Turkey it is called Yakamoz (means “phosphorescence”)

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Yakamoz at the beach (courtesy of www.lafsozluk.com)

Yakamoz at a beach (courtesy of www.lafsozluk.com)

After my four blog posts about the Blue Voyage, regarding hedonism, culture and food, nature, and history, I felt obliged to write about this extraordinary phenomenon, called Yakamoz (Phosphorescence) that I am totally in love with.

I love the word Yakamoz and what it represents. It looks like I was not the only one who loves this word. The story goes that German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations ran a competition, entitled “The most beautiful ABC of the world” (“Das schönste ABC der Welt”), in 2007. Sixty countries submitted 2500 words. Yakamoz took the first place, followed by the Chinese word “hu lu” meaning snore, and the African Baganda tribe’s word “volongoto” meaning chaotic. 

However, the meaning of the word that made yakamoz win the first prize was not correct. The definition of “Yakamoz” for the competition was written as the ‘reflection of the moon in water.’ The jury selected Yakamoz because it can express in a single word, what can only be expressed in other languages using many words. The definition is incorrect, but the reason is still true.

It is not the reflection of the moon in water. The light comes from within the sea. It is the light given by bioluminescences in the water. Those tiny creatures, millions of bioluminescent phytoplankton, give this amazing light if you disturb the sea a little when there is no light– including no moon light.

Yakamoz means “phosphorescence”, emission of light by bioluminescent planktons. It’s origin is Greek – diakamós. One example of biolumnescent planktons is Noctiluca Miliaris or Noctiluca Scintillans also known as the Sea Sparkle. They are the fire flies or the stars in the water. They are so small that thousands of them can fit in a single drop of water. When they are disturbed, they create a wonderful luminescent effect.

Noctiluca Miliaris

Noctiluca Miliaris

For the fishermen without any technology to find fish, yakamoz is their guide. They follow the yakamoz paths created by schools of fish.

When I first heard the word, yakamoz, I was only seven. At one of her visits to our house, one of my mother’s relatives, a beautiful lady, was talking about how she went swimming at night at Avsa Island in the southern Marmara Sea. She said she always chose the nights without any moon light. She said when she stood up after swimming in the sea, she had her entire body glowing with soft blue-white tiny lights. And she told us that it was called yakamoz. I pictured this beautiful lady coming off the sea all glowing like a sea goddess.

I am one of the lucky people who encountered yakamoz on three occasions. All of them when we were on a Blue Voyage in Turkey. I still dream about those moments and will go back again and again on those beautiful wooden gulet yachts just to see yakamoz at night.

I literally arranged some of our blue voyage trips to be during the new moon phase so that everything around us is dark and you can see those sparkling luminescence better.

Every night, I would lower a bucket into the sea and move it around on the surface (Once, I lost the bucket!). My goal was to cause disturbance; otherwise we would never know if we had yakamoz. If I disturb just a few, the rest of the water will light up. The minute I see sparkles, we are all in the water. One of my friends did not even bother to change into her bathing suit, she jumped in with jeans and t-shirt.

In the water, just wave your arms. If you have long hair, just move your hair around. Those little creatures become like tiny stars on your arms or in your hair. They make you glow. You form “yakamoz angels” just like snow angels. Definitely better than the snow angels. The sea is warm, outside night temperature is like lemonade. You cannot take your eyes off this phenomenon. It is more than beautiful. It is magical. It is surreal.

Every time it happened, I was so enticed by the whole thing that I kept forgetting to take pictures, except one which does not do any justice for yakamoz. Because, all I wanted was to be in the water. The minute we see the sparkles, everybody on the boat would jump in the water. Next time, I am sure to keep myself on the boat just to take pictures.

blue voyage phosphoresence yakamoz

Stirring the sea at night, first signs of yakamoz (phosphoresence) (my only picture)

If you ever experience it once, I am sure you will see why the word yakamoz is so beautiful. How much can you squeeze so much beauty and emotion into one word?

Since I do not have my own pictures (promise to take them next time), please visit your favorite search engines and look at the beautiful images. And just imagine how it would feel to live the yakamoz moment.

You can also watch the video taped in the Puget Sound: Swimming in the Phosphorescent Plankton in the Puget Sound.

Or watch the whale scene in the movie, Life of Pi.

And if you ever go on a Blue Voyage during the new moon phase, keep stirring the water with a stick or a bucket, you may get your own wish come true.  You will see the magic of yakamoz (phospherescence).

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