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Outdoors: Bright and blue bay

Grand Traverse Bay
Grand Traverse Bay

“June is bustin’ out all over," the company rejoices in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel.”

And Nettie adds that “June makes the bay look bright and blue.”

After a dreary winter of gazing at ice or grey waves under grey clouds, the blue of Grand Traverse Bay is remarkable.

And maybe Nettie was to something.

In his book "The Bird in the Waterfall," Jerry Dennis wrote, “Lake Michigan, though it appears in many shades of blue, is not blue at all. The shades of blue are only apparent color, loaned to it by reflections on the surface and from the separation of light in its depths.”

He explained that water reflects its surroundings and that when sun shines on a lake or bay, light in red end of the spectrum is absorbed in shallow water, but light from the blue end of the spectrum penetrates much deeper.

How deep depends on the angle of the sun.

In June, the sun is high in the sky, in contrast to winter when the sun appears near the horizon and its meager light often is obscured by fog and clouds.

So this time of year, in clear, deep water, almost all of the colors of the spectrum are absorbed.

But not blue light. When the sun is at a certain angle to the water, blue light is scattered and reflected and is simply glorious.

“Just because it’s June, June, June.”

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.