Friday, September 13, 2013

Moonbows and other Originals

How do you pronounce this word:  "Caribbean"?  Do you say ka-RIB-bee-un  or KA-rib-BEE-un? And where did this name come from anyway?

The name of the ocean comes from the Carib (accent on the first syllable) indians.  So if you pronounce the name of the ocean as KA-rib-BEE-un, then you would be correct.  Caribs were the original Dominicans before Europeans arrived.  

The Caribs were excellent boat builders and sailors which accounted for their proliferation on Caribbean islands.  On Dominica, the Caribs put up a valiant effort against the invasion of the Europeans, delaying colonization on Dominica for longer than on neighboring islands.  Despite their efforts, they succumbed to smallpox and other European diseases to which they had no immunity.

Some Caribs were able to hide in the dense mountainous forests of Dominica's northeast, and even today there exists an autonomous Carib Territory spanning 3,700 acres granted by the British in 1903.  Supposedly, these 3,000 Caribs who live in this territory today are the only remaining full-blood Caribs among all of the Caribbean islands.

Here is a photo of the ocean from Dominica's Carib Territory:

Changing subjects....Have you ever seen a rainbow?  Of course you have!  I bet at least 80% of the people in the world have seen at least one rainbow (perhaps those who live in desert areas where precipitation is very low have never seen one).  

OK.  Now what about a moonbow? Have you seen one of those?  Aha!  I bet you haven't, have you?

A moonbow happens when a bow is formed as sunlight reflected off the moon's surface becomes refracted in clouds, mist or rain.  A moonbow is quite rare since certain conditions need to be just right:

1.  There should be a full moon so that the light is bright enough to make the bow visible.
2.  The moon must be low in the sky--preferably lower than 42 degrees. This means that it often happens at moon set (just before sunrise) when few people are watching.
3.  There has to be rain, mist or clouds opposite the moon to refract the light.

A moonbow is also possible in winter months when darkness falls earlier while the rising moon is still at a low angle.

When I first saw a moonbow, I was riding my bicycle back to my sister's home in Massacre, Dominica about two hours after sunset.  I looked out over the ocean and thought my eyes were deceiving me!  Was that a very faint rainbow I could see in the ocean mist far out to sea?

When a moonbow appears, the light is so faint that it is hard for the human eye to detect the colors in a moonbow.  For this reason, a moonbow often appears white.  But the colors are really there!  In long exposure photographs, moonbows show their true colors.

As I stared at the moonbow, my eyes began to water, and I found that I could almost detect the colors of the moonbow better out of the corner of my eye.  

When I got home, I immediately surfed the web to learn more about moonbows.  One website said that they often happened out over the ocean when the moon's orbit was closest to the Earth. 

And guess what?  That night in November of 2008 when I saw the moonbow over Dominica's ocean was indeed the very night that the moon was closest to Earth!


Here is a photo of a moonbow (not my own photo since my camera couldn't pick up the colors of the one in Dominica): 

Of course, moonbows are not originally from Dominica, but you can't deny that they are definitely unique.  And my first (original) unforgettable moonbow was sighted in magical Dominica.

Finally, have you ever wondered where the phrase "jungle gym" came from?  So have I.  I think it has something to do with the climb up Dominica's Morne Diablotin--the island's highest peak.

The climb up Morne Diablotin leaves no time for warming up.  From the first footfall into the damp, pungent black detritus of decomposing leaves that make up the jungle soil, you are climbing at a steep enough angle to make your thighs burn.  And it doesn't get any easier.

If you are lucky, to take your mind off your painfully thumping heart, you might see the national bird--the purple sisserou parrot--winging its way through the canopy.  It is a bird so honored that it sits smack in the middle of Dominica's flag.  Here is a photo of one (not my own photo, since I never saw one in the wild):

Just when you think you've got it made, Morne Diablotin's summit packs a little surprise--a muddy, up and over, swooping and ducking game of Twister with vines and tree branches that goes on for at least an hour.  Morne Diablotin's wretchedly fun mud-sloshing contortionist's paradise must be the reason the mountain got its devilish moniker.  If there ever was an original "jungle gym,"  the summit of Morne Diablotin is one!  

Here I am negotiating the jungle gym.  Don't I look like I'm having fun?

The view from the top was definitely worth the hard work! Take a look: 

So there you have it!  Three "originals" -- the Caribs, a moonbow and a jungle gym.  All of them to be enjoyed on Dominica--the Nature Island.

Come back next week for another interesting and informative article about Dominica!

Thanks for visiting Kolin's Travels.  :)


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