Promoting Intertidal Sciences, Conservation & Education Studies | blog | 27th June | Dr Mike Kent

The evening of Tuesday, 26th June was exceptionally tranquil. The sea, usually agitated by Atlantic rollers, was sufficiently calm for yachts to be moored in Hayle Bay. The sun was setting between Newlands Island and Pentire Point, with the light changing in intensity and hue with every passing moment. I was overwhelmed by the raw beauty of it all. It’s at moments like this you know there is more to life than meets the eye. With a sense of being at peace, free from physical and mental storms, I simply stared enjoying the experience and silently praising the Lord for His creation of which I am an insignificant but loved part.

I’d gone to New Polzeath to photograph the movements of the Celtic sea slug (Onchidella celtica). With my camera occupied in time-lapse photography, I was lucky to find Chris Pooley photographing the sunset. He kindly sent me the image above to use in this Blog.

The Celtic sea slug emerges from its crevice refuge to feed on an ebb tide, to graze on microscopic algae on the surface of rocks. They graze mainly in the evening because this is when the accumulated growth of microscopic algae is at its peak. Algae use energy from sunlight to photosynthesize organic matter from carbon dioxide, water and nutrients. Therefore, algal growth and subsequently the slugs’ growth is dependent on energy from the sun.

When I was at school, only a ‘few’ years ago, science textbooks proclaimed that sunlight is the prime source of the energy that flows through all food webs on earth. Subsequent discoveries have proven that not to be true. Deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems, beyond the reach of sunlight, are driven by chemical energy rather than light energy: microbes, tolerant of extremely high temperatures and high pressure, are the primary producers using energy released from extremely hot mineral-laden fluid to chemosynthesize organic matter.

Being able to prove an old ‘fact’ incorrect or incomplete and in need of modification or replacement is not a sign of weakness in science. It is its strength. It enables scientific knowledge to grow and move towards greater truth about our material universe and how it works.

Although science is extremely effective in improving our understanding of the physical world, what it is made of and how it works, it does little to explain why my body filled up with a sense of awe and wonder when immersed in the raw beauty of God’s creation on a tranquil evening in June. As the Psalmist stated

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens…

… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, that you have established;

 What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Psalm 8 vs 1 and 3-4