/ Water glowing in the dark
As a result of some miscalculations on Beinn Chabhair the other day I was compelled to spend a few hours bogtrotting in the dark.
I noticed a few times that when I would fall into some peat hag and make a scar, on the peat there would be really bright golden water droplets, which faded away after, say, a minute. The same effect was sometimes visible on my trousers.
Has anyone seen this phenomenon or knows the cause?
Bonus question; is what is now the Drovers’ Inn formerly the Inverarnan Hotel, or are they separate establishments?
It sounds like bioluminescence, quite common in the marine environment but I didn't think it was seen at all? in freshwater ecosystems.
It's been known as the Drover's for as long as I can remember.
It's been the Drovers Inn for over 300 years. There are other hotels in Inverarnan area and the Drovers is the most Northerly.
Yes, it’s the old Inverarnan Hotel, owned for many years (certainly through the ‘30s to the ‘60s) by the Girvan family, who also farmed in Glen Falloch. Through much of that time it was run by sisters, Hannah and Nancy, who feature in WHMurray’s books. It was the regular stopping-off spot for the characters who feature in his books, on their way back from Glencoe etc. Interestingly, it was run as a temperance establishment then, so it was high tea they had!
I'm not aware of any creature that this could be (I spend a lot of time in bogs for my work). Wikipedia suggests the only freshwater organisms that are bioluminescent live in New Zealand:
Heading into realms of speculation, it could be will-o'-the-wisp related. I've debated with colleagues whether this is a real phenomenon and it does seem possible. But there are fewer sightings over the last decades. Is this because we've destroyed all our wetlands, because people are out in the dark less, or because it's a make-believe ghost light and people are more rational now?
Another thought - did you have a head torch on? Was it just golden/brown peaty water drops catching its light?
Or peat oil catching the light?
Good point. Bog oil is probably the most likely if a head torch was involved.
Bioluminescence is virtually always a greeny colour like man-made luminous things, your golden colour wouldn't tally up with that. Marine bioluminesce is often really quite bright, visible for tens of metres.
I thought so, thanks. It was WH Murray I had in mind.
’You cannot damn and blast a man whose is eye is sparkling with delight at meeting you. I tried, but it was no use.’
I wonder if it was the DI before and they changed it because of the temperance? I can’t imagine the drovers of the 18th century having much truck with temperance.
I did not have a head torch on - that was one of the miscalculations - and there was no moon, or at least not one that was making any impression through the clouds. It wasn’t reflection of any light source, I’m sure of that.
Whatever it was was in the water droplets; you could see them roll and drop. The effect was like a planetarium, a set of fixed points in the dark, some occasionally moving.
I wish I’d stayed and investigated a bit more now, but it didn’t feel like a good time for research.
It was a definite golden colour. I was particularly struck by it because miscalculation one had been enjoying the company of some very hospitable Scots in the Tyndrum Inn the night before for rather too long, resulting in a 3.30 pm start up the hill. One of those was in Tyndrum to pan for gold and told me there was a long history of gold mining in the area. I did think for a moment that might have had something to do with it, but it’s hard to see how.
I saw a documentary about this once, seems you were lucky to get out alive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkness_Falls_(The_X-Files)
I've never seen bio-luminescence in freshwater but occasionally blue/green in ferry wakes and surf, it's a striking sight!
Did anyone else with you have a light source or were you just stumbling around in the pitch black night?
edit: could it have been bio luminescent flies mixed with the water by your stumbling and splashing, not sure you get them in Scotland and if so not sure how small?
Or the effect of moonlight on some kind of organic hydrocarbon sheen.
Where did you go wrong in meandering-about terms, anyway? Is quite a knobbly and rough hill from the Inverarnan side particularly. I'm up to 14 ascents but haven't been from that side for ages - have become fond of doing it (sometimes linked with An Caisteal) from Derrydaroch, and it's also surprisingly doable and good from Stronachlachar, not that very many people go at it from there. Nice hill in winter when the boggy bits firm up.
I have no idea what causes it, but I've also seen the effect you describe.
My second failing was not abandoning the project after being forced by a broken bridge to make a two-mile detour at the start. My third was to forget the compass. After that, everything went swimmingly until the lochan. Navigating by dead reckoning in the cloud, I arrived after what felt like longer than it should have done on a ridge. After some wandering I decided, correctly as it turned out, that I had aimed to the R of the summit rather than the left, and thus I turned left and eventually arrived at the - or a - cairn. At that point the light began to fail and the difficulties to accumulate. It didn’t really get dark until I found the lochan again, and after that I stumbled down the burn as far as the estate track, upon which I fell with some enthusiasm. Unfortunately at some moment I took a turning off this towards the river which turned out to be a dead end, blundered through some trees and a gate and met the river. At this point I imagine the non-broken bridge was a few hundred yards to the R, but I turned left and made my way eventually to Beinglas farm, where I was faced with a choice of the two-mile detour again, wading the river, or climbing the barriers and plank walking the broken bridge. Naturally I chose the last of these, ripping a hole in my arse in some barbed wire as I did it, and arrived back at the car at midnight. Not a very competent display.
Ive seen Luminescent in salt water while rowing out to a boat on the west coast of Ireland in the 60's. Every time the oars broke the surface it was a kaleidoscope of every colour. Never seen it like that before or since despite spending a fair bit of time in and on the water over the years.
> Whatever it was was in the water droplets; you could see them roll and drop. The effect was like a planetarium, a set of fixed points in the dark, some occasionally moving.
It sounds fascinating whatever it was.
> I did not have a head torch on - that was one of the miscalculations - and there was no moon, or at least not one that was making any impression through the clouds. It wasn’t reflection of any light source, I’m sure of that.
> Whatever it was was in the water droplets; you could see them roll and drop. The effect was like a planetarium, a set of fixed points in the dark, some occasionally moving.
> I wish I’d stayed and investigated a bit more now, but it didn’t feel like a good time for research.
> It was a definite golden colour. I was particularly struck by it because miscalculation one had been enjoying the company of some very hospitable Scots in the Tyndrum Inn the night before for rather too long, resulting in a 3.30 pm start up the hill. One of those was in Tyndrum to pan for gold and told me there was a long history of gold mining in the area. I did think for a moment that might have had something to do with it, but it’s hard to see how.
Ah! Maybe you were still feeling the effects of the night before.. j/k
It sounds like you had a proper little adventure though, so one to remember.
Sounds like a proper adventure. Is remarkable how often such things involve dodgy (or absent) bridges and darkness. Re the cairn up top, there are two bumps (both cairned, I think) a couple of minutes apart on that nice bit of summit ridge, with the southern one being the higher, ie the second one if coming up via the the path along the NW shoulder.
I didn’t want to hear that! Well, there it is, it’s ticked in my book. Given I traversed the ridge from one end to the other, chances are I stood in the right spot, and from what I could see at the time it looked like the pictures on walkhighlands.
i’m impressed you’ve been up fourteen times. I can’t match your expertise, but based on my outing I’d agree that tackling the hill with An Caisteal, in winter, or indeed starting from virtually any other point on the globe rather than the Drovers’ Inn would be preferable.
Today I walked for nine hours, most of it in pouring rain and the last two hours in the dark, forded two rivers and arrived back at Tyndrum to the news that the hotel has no drying or laundry facilities and that the road south has been cut by floods. I think I’ll have to designate tomorrow a drying day. This Munroing trip really isn’t going very well.
On the bright side, I had a glimpse into Coire Dubh Mor on the very northeast tip of Beinn Creachain, which I bet few people ever see. A fine high stony cup above an attractively symmetrical steep grassy hillside. Still, I think it’s time to inject some competence into proceedings.
> I didn’t want to hear that! Well, there it is, it’s ticked in my book. Given I traversed the ridge from one end to the other, chances are I stood in the right spot, and from what I could see at the time it looked like the pictures on walkhighlands.
Sounded like you did get to the main top from your earlier post, given that you aimed right of the summit then turned left.
Have been on all seven of those Munros quite a bit (all in double figures and my favourite of them, Cruach Ardrain, is up to 30), and doing them in nonstandard combinations is good fun as the ground between the 2:2:3 groups is rough and interesting. All seven in a day is a very good outing although I'm starting to feel I probably don't now have it in me again.
> On the bright side, I had a glimpse into Coire Dubh Mor on the very northeast tip of Beinn Creachain, which I bet few people ever see.
That's a good bit of country too. The round of Chreachain-Achaladair-Mhanach from the Lyon dam is another day that's well worth doing.
> This Munroing trip really isn’t going very well.
Keep plugging away - sounds to me like you're doing OK.
Well at least I’ve managed to discover a self/service laundrette!
Blimey - looked at the map; from the far end of Loch Lyon is a hike. Fine country as you say though.
> Blimey - looked at the map; from the far end of Loch Lyon is a hike. Fine country as you say though.
Is certainly a hike if you go right round the loch - I once went up Beinn Mhanach from that side with a pal and managed to persuade him that doing a full lap round the southern side of the loch to get back to the car was a good idea. Not sure either of us was so convinced a couple of hours later when we still had a fair way to go.
Oh, re that Chreachain-Achaladair-Mhanach circuit from the dam, I did it on a fine June day a decade ago in 7hr50, of which 80 minutes was lounging, so a longish day but not mega.
Yes, actually looking more closely it’s maybe not as bad as I thought, and probably better than trying to score all 3 from Achallader.
How it was ever regularly possible to drive up to the farm I can’t think - there’s a reasonably deep 20 yard river crossing in the way for a start, and a few other sumps.
> there are some bioluminescent fungi which grow on decaying wood & other substrates,
also freshwater/terrestrial bacteria: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioluminescent_bacteria
> Yes, actually looking more closely it’s maybe not as bad as I thought, and probably better than trying to score all 3 from Achallader.
Chreachain is quite a long way from anywhere - is one of those Munros that never seems to get mentioned in remote-hill discussions but is actually quite far in (Carn an Righ is another). It could well be that starting from the Lyon dam is the quickest way to it (although you've got to get to the dam first, of course). On that June 2010 day from the dam, I got to the top in just under 2hr50, of which about 20 minutes were spent sitting about here and there, so 2hr30 walking time. I've also got timing notes from a Nov 2015 day when I went in from the standard A82 side and got to the top in 3hr20 via Beinn Achaladair and with half an hour off en route, so probably not much difference overall.
If you're just planning to visit the various hills once, then Chreachain from the east also frees up Achaladair/Dothaidh options from the west - that's a better pairing than Dothaidh/Dorain, especially if you press on almost past Beinn Achaladair then cut back to go up its N ridge - the shapely one that's in loads of photos but is hardly ever visited.
> How it was ever regularly possible to drive up to the farm I can’t think - there’s a reasonably deep 20 yard river crossing in the way for a start, and a few other sumps.
That river crossing can be awkward/annoying but it's just beyond where the old farm car park used to be, so driving to the old start was always straightforward. Incidentally, I know a good first-hand ghost story about the ruined castle beside the farm B&B.
> Chreachain is quite a long way from anywhere
Is it that far from Achallader Farm? It is literally half a life time ago now but Beinn a Chreachain was my first munro after I had moved to Glasgow to start university. We mainly went out to a winter climb on Meall Buidhe, which my first UK roped winter climb, so a day of firsts. But after the climb we walked on up to the top of Chreachain to bag the summit. It was either October or at latest early November and very snowy with well frozen turf. Perhaps I was just a ridiculously over-excited "yoof", so overjoyed that I had organised my life enough to escape the West Midlands and get me winter climbing in the Highlands, that I didn't notice the walk but overall I don't remember it seeming that big a day out. We definitely got back in time to spend a long evening in the Bridge of Orchy hotel. No memory of what we did on the Sunday though, which may be connected.
> Incidentally, I know a good first-hand ghost story about the ruined castle beside the farm B&B.
Go on then - i'm a sucker for a good creepy tale.
Toby - It's just a middling-long day perhaps - but if you walk in to Chreachain first with the intention of coming back over the tops, if can feel quite a long approach to a first summit.
Re the spooky story, Felix Aitken who ran the B&B in the 1980s and 90s hadn't been there long, maybe a year at most, when one evening she was in her kitchen and noticed a flickering in the yard. She looked outside and there was either a bonfire or the ruined castle - which is kind of in the yard - was on fire. Can't quite recall - it's more than 30 years since she told me the story - but I think the latter. There were also people around, in old Highland dress. I don't think Felix was alarmed, but she did think it was odd - more so next morning when there was no trace of any fire. She then mentioned it to the farmer who - if memory serves me correctly - said something like "Oh, so you've seen that, have you?" - in the sense of it not being an unknown phenomenon. Others will know the local history better than I do, but I think the castle had some connection with the planning of the Glen Coe massacre, and there was then retribution involving it being set on fire. Odd, anyway - and Felix was sure she saw what she saw. (I stayed there quite a few times and never saw anything odd.)
A couple of elements of your tale remind me of when my climbing partner & I were based at Roybridge but decided to climb near Bridge of Orchy so as to make the final drive home shorter. On the walk in to Coire an Dothaidh the snow was a touch unconsolidated, a fact brought home to us when I turned to my partner to find him swept by a mini-avalanche 5 metres below me. We made it to the line in the book, and I swam up the snow ramp, only to find the 'ice' was slush. Retreat plus my partner needing to see for himself took a while, but we had time to make something of the day by bagging the munro, Beinn an Dothaidh. I only had the OS Tourists Map, whose rightward edge corresponded to the 330 easting, but I could see the high point of the munro on it. Up we went, between cliffs to the left and burn to the right, until in the mist we found a point with down all around. Congratulating ourselves on our navigation in poor conditions we descended, only to find on returning home that the true summit was off the map.
The short journey home didn't work out either; there was an accident a few miles south, necessitating a huge detour via Oban.
So, you started off to do a Munro in late afternoon with no map, no compass and a stinking hangover. Good stuff, it's what epics are made of.
It strikes me that not being too far from gold bearing rock and that hill being made of mica schist, I think, the peat may have contained very small particles of iron pyrites which could have produced some sort of optical effect, maybe. Either that or it was real gold...
Another thought is that you were no more than 10 miles or so from a nuclear arms dump, but then again if that was causing water to glow in the dark we'd probably have heard about it before.
How was your head at the time? You weren't just hallucinating by any chance? I've had hangovers like that.
> Bioluminescence is virtually always a greeny colour like man-made luminous things, your golden colour wouldn't tally up with that. Marine bioluminesce is often really quite bright, visible for tens of metres.
That's true about the color. I've only seen greeny colors.
I go to Martha's Vineyard most summers and bioluminescent foot prints or in the breaking waves are visible for a long way off. Swimming out into sea gooseberries at night, every stroke of your arms leaves a bioluminescent wave in the water is brilliant. It was actually how I met my now wife.
I've seen snow glowing green when breaking through the surface on two occasions in Snowdonia. I read it was probably due to bioluminescent fungi but can't remember the details.
You seem to know this area well, Dave - given it’s been raining for a week and all the rivers are up, any ideas for a Munro which doesn’t involve either river-wading or bog-snorkelling?
I was surprisingly unhungover, considering. And to be fair I did have a map!
Nigel - good tale; touch wood, in my case the road seems to have reopened.
I think you might have nice weather tomorrow, make the most of it. Rain again on Friday. Tomorrow night might be a good time to sample a few drams.
> You seem to know this area well, Dave - given it’s been raining for a week and all the rivers are up, any ideas for a Munro which doesn’t involve either river-wading or bog-snorkelling?
In terms of Tyndrum-ish things, Eunaich/Chochuill from Castles near Dalmally is a decent round and doesn't have burn problems. Bit of a shame to go up the western one on a cloudy day however as it has a famously good view of Cruachan and beyond. Beinn a' Chleibh by itself (ie without Lui) from the track system to the west is also quite a good outing - you used to be able to drive quite far in along that track no problem (almost to Tulloch Lodge? - unsure of names just now as I'm away in Keswick). The people who do the Lui/Chleibh thing from the north via the river crossing and the bog beyond are a bit mad (I've done this several times). Better to pick off Chleibh by itself and then do the Lui/Oss/Dubhchraig circuit from Cononish.
I'm also fan of Ben Challum by its NW ridge although that does involve a burn crossing after you leave the glen track. From the top you can then just amble over the S Top and down the standard way, then back along the WHW. You can get parked in a big gravelly bit along the track just before the wigwams/cafe.
Lots of good Corbetts in that area too - shedloads round Tyndrum/Auch/BoO. Have a good time whatever you do.
Yes, one thing I have definitely ruled out is Ben Lui from the north. I drove down Glen Lochay today and you wouldn’t want to cross that river just now!
Achallader, btw, as it happens I am reading John Prebble’s Glencoe and I think the order of events was that the Macdonalds burned it a few years earlier on their way home from Killiecrankie via a spot of reiving in Glen Lyon. It was then the scene of a meeting in 1691 which was the run-up to the oath-swearing which was the pretext for the massacre, and then as you say Campbell of Glenlyon stayed there on his way to Glencoe.
So today I confine myself to the yak route up Cruach Ardair - in daylight yet - and blow me if less than one mile in there isn’t a missing bridge!
Sometimes I almost think the landowners in these parts might have other priorities than catering to walkers who are no doubt in the mass inconsiderate and tight-wadded.
Still, pasbury was right - cleared up in the afternoon - and now I propose to take his advice.
> So today I confine myself to the yak route up Cruach Ardair - in daylight yet - and blow me if less than one mile in there isn’t a missing bridge!
Slower to clear in the Lakes (nice now - lovely moon over the Moot Hall on the way back from the Chinese). Went up Hen Comb from Mosedale earlier and it was like some total water experience - rain sweeping down continually and the valley path just squelch for much of the way. Was with a 74-year-old Cumbrian pal with 14 rounds of Wainwrights who hardly ever baulks at conditions but even he didn't take much persuading that carrying on round via Blake Fell etc wouldn't be much fun.
Cruach Ardrain is dryish if you start via the track system from the E end of Crianlarich - the initial bit of open glen can be gloopy but the steeper slopes leading up on to the ridges are pretty good.
Years ago I used to spend a lot of time on moorland in the dark. But only once I have I seen a phenomenon similar to your experience.
One November night I was following my friend across moorland in North Yorkshire, when I noticed where he walked on bare peat left 'glowing' footprints. I thought it was a reflection off the moon until I realised there was no moon. Touching the footprints we got the luminescence onto our hands and it easily transferred onto clothes too. The colour was very, very pale and was more blue than green if my memory was correct. The luminescence was limited to an area of only about 5 sq.m.
I wrote to professor Dr P J Herring who worked in Southampton Oceanography centre (Yes his name is real!), in Southampton University who had just written a magazine article about bioluminescence.
He'd had two similar letters from correspondents who both noticed luminous footprints or boots in peaty areas.
He said he could think of only one bacteria, which was a marine bacteria, and one fungi which would glow steadily and said He didn't know of any bacteria which would glow in acid based peat, but clearly that was what we were seeing -luminescent bacteria and glowed because we had disturbed it.
Its quite amazing to think there are still things out there which haven't yet been 'discovered'.
Eight-year-old Griff Near has become one of the youngest people to climb the 15 highest mountains in Wales in under 24 hours. He's also one of the youngest we've ever interviewed!