by Anne Batty
“He who has been fortunate enough to behold it is enabled to see closely into his own heart.”
An old Scottish legend
Mention the green flash in mixed company and eyebrows might raise, ethereal sounds may be emitted and some might even think you’ve gone off the deep end. Many people have never heard of it, some say it is just an optical illusion, while others don’t believe it exists at all.
These varied reactions are often based on a skepticism that has arisen because many beach lovers spend a lifetime looking for, while never actually seeing this phenomenon. But evidences of the green flash were recorded as early as 2500 BC when diagrams of the sun, painted blue at the top and green at the bottom, were discovered by archaeologists on Egyptian pillars. Then published accounts in W. Swan’s writings in 1865 and in Jules Verne’s writings in 1882 again supported such sightings.
It was the astronomers, however, who finally put the skepticism aside. Agreeing that the green flash is an atmospheric event, they noted that just as the sun slips over the horizon on a clear night it can send up a spark of green, flaring up for only an instant than disappearing faster than one can speak.
But this explanation hasn’t been enough for some. Objections have arisen about green being complementary to red, enabling the eye to naturally see green after being exposed to the brilliant red of the sun.
Astronomers have again refuted that argument, however, further explaining that the green flash phenomenon is also viewable at sunrise when there is no red in the sun at all.
Putting technical arguments aside, upon hearing about this occurrence and the evidence supporting it, this writer hoped to some day be lucky enough to see it. Each time I walked the beaches of San Clemente at sunset, I scanned the horizon looking for the flash. Then on one particularly clear fall evening, while walking from Poche Beach along Beach Road, I finally saw it. It was an unexpected, indescribably unforgettable experience. Unlike the Scottish legend, I didn’t “see closely into my heart,” but the experience touched me nonetheless.
If you have never heard of nor believed in this most lovely of visions, I would encourage you to put doubts aside and open up to the experience. In my humble opinion, like sand, waves and sunsets, the green flash is something every beach lover should want to see. It is one of those things worth the wait, an experience that might even make a believer of you.
SIGHTING THE FLASH
- Make sure it is a clear day with no clouds, haze nor red in the sky.
- Wait until the sun is just ready to drop below the horizon then watch without blinking or glancing away.
- Viewing precautions are advised as the setting sun can be too bright for constant staring.
- Look away from the brightness, then look back and watch intently at the last second.
- The flash will be an emerald glow that flickers candlelike then flattens out.
- A more rarely seen phenomenon occurs when the green flash fades into a blue bar for about half a second before it disappears (something this writer has not yet had the privilege of seeing).
- Finally … savor the moment.