2 Oct

Many years ago I used to swim at night under the Sierra 11 pier at Sub Base in Pearl Harbor. The brackish water was warm and always alive with bioluminescent creatures which flashed in the eddies created by my hands slowly parting the water. I had to swim quietly because there was usually at least one and sometimes up to three nuclear submarines moored there. Topside watches carry shotguns now but back then it was just .45 caliber pistols. Either case calls for stealth.

The swimming was not recreational, but it was fun. Every time I swam I was searching for an errant and poorly thrown Frisbee, one that didn’t clear the 181 feet between the finger pier at the east end of the loch and the road that paralleled the pier. That was hole number 15 of an eighteen hole disc golf course my friend John and I had mapped out around Sub Base. We usually snuck away from our boat while we were on the duty section, not on watch, but in the rotation. This practice was frowned upon but you had to be caught at it in order to be frowned at. Hence the stealth.

Clothes were shed and stowed on a metal shelf at the bottom of a long ladder that descended to the water from a trap door in the pier near the eastern end. Upon entering the water we would softly breast stroke our way west until we found our discs floating where they had drifted, blown by the trade winds down between the submarines and the pier wall. Luckily for us the pier had a huge overhang under which we could swim slowly, silently, and no illumination from stars, moon, or streetlights could find us.

All was dark save for the swirling whorls of living light that marked our passing.

This blog is like those silent sentinels of long ago. As I write I hope my passage is marked by the luminescence of minds flashing in the night. On these pages my movements will be captured and held forever, traces of a life swimming by.

It has been amazing and beautiful and sometimes dangerous journey, but I would not trade a moment of it.

In my mind’s eye I can still see the pinpoints of thousands of lives shining brightly as I glided among them.

Come swim with me.



9 Responses to “Luminescence”

  1. clairecroxton October 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    How beautiful! I was swimming among the submarines with you! There really is something spectacular about swimming in the warm waters of Hawaii at night–nuclear submarines and sharks notwithstanding.

    • dmmacilroy October 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      Hi Claire,

      Thanks for coming along and for the welcome comments. I hope to see you next to me on many more night swims.



  2. kelseamac October 3, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    I can feel it: the water, the stealth, the whirling. Thanks.

  3. Deborah the Closet Monster October 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    After reading a few of these entries, it looks like I’ll not only stop for a dip, but be staying for a while.

    The summer I was 18, I was assistant at a lab dedicated to researching orcinus orca. I was a lot less practical then, and a lot more inclined to interpret phenomenon as supernatural instead of simply superb and naturally occurring.

    I had the 2 a.m. shift one morning. I loved the quiet, but the start of the shift was rough for my still sleepy self. One morning, the water started shimmering shortly after my shift started. Naturally, I decided aliens were at play, which I was wise enough not to disclose when I explained what I’d seen to the island’s residents.

    • dmmacilroy October 5, 2011 at 6:11 pm #


      I used to sit transfixed at the viewport of the submarine I piloted as planktonic life forms streamed endlessly past during long transits. The sea is teeming with mysteries and magic. Where did you do your assistantship? I’d love to hear more about that 18th summer.

      Thanks for stopping and reading. Looking forward to visiting with you, too.



      • Deborah the Closet Monster October 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

        It as a place called Orcalab. I wrote about it many years ago here, but was thinking of revisiting it on my blog. I was thinking about it a couple of days ago in relation to how daughters branch off from their moms to create their own new families. I’d love to liken that to human beings, now that I’m a mom–although my child is hopefully sixteen or so years from himself branching off!

  4. dmmacilroy October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm #


    You’re quick on the draw. What a wonderful place to work. I’ll bet you have the seeds for an entire novel there.

    Have you ever read Easy Travel to Other Planets by Ted Mooney? You might enjoy the writing as well as the story.

    I’ve just gotten off of the mountain after a long, long night shift. Must apologize for not being more coherent. Love the shoes. I’m glad we’ve hooked up. Will be checking in with you frequently. Going to sleep now, have hit the wall and it has fallen on me.

    A hui hou,


  5. Chris October 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Doug, I found you through Deb of TMiYC. This is poetic. Thanks for the invitation. I think I shall join you.

    ~ Chris

    • dmmacilroy October 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      Nice to meet you. Thank you for swimming along. As soon as I get off work I’ll sidestroke over to your world and say hello again.



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