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October 31st, 2009 - Pumpkin Guts, Part II

On Friday night October 30th (& 31st) Jade, Josh, Alicia, Ted and I walked back out into the smashed pumpkin patch in the lightly wafting sleet and dim glow of the masked moon over the Springbrook Nature Center.
We came armed with a multitude of UV flashlights, and our ever-present curiosity. This was a follow-up hike to the one on the previous Friday night to see how the decay of 796 pumpkins from the facility's "Pumpkin Night in the Park" was progressing.

Things were jelling nicely. One question that was beginning to be answered was as to what effect the petroleum jelly applied to the carved pumpkin areas after the carving to "preserve" them was contributing to the UV reactivity.
The previous visit, after colder temperatures and after the pumpkins had been sitting smashed outside for a week, it was observed that the petroleum jelly wasn't directly responsible for much glow on its own. Most of the glowing was coming from mold growth on or in under the surface of the pumpkins themselves.
This week however, the areas with surplus Vaseline were glowing more brightly on their own and had mixed with the pumpkin juice and precipitation to create even more colors and brightly glowing areas. The colors ranged from oranges, pinks, and magentas to yellows, greens, blues and violets even beyond the incidental glow of the direct UV and the moonlit reflections.

Ahab sailing his tiny craft down the whale's enormous gullet.

Looking into Jack's head.

Bit of a skull fracture there.
Jade is a bio-chemist and commented on the weirdness of petroleum products actually molding themselves, or being a carrier for mold. They were definitely contributing to what was going on now, but were neither the source nor the result exclusively.
I was thinking yeah, that's weird that oils can mold, but then remembering back to my days working in photolabs when we would find some sort of tenacious algae growing in the bleach tank of the photo processing machine.
I remember thinking then, if you believe in reincarnation you must have done something pretty bad to come back as a lowlife slime growing in the bottom of a photo processor's bleach tank. Some thoughts are better just left alone.

This guy (or gal) seems a little perturbed that their face has caved in. However, it let in just enough air, light, moisture, bacteria, and god knows what else to create a intensely glowing tumor for us to enjoy. And a second childhood for the pumpkin head. Thank you, mold makers.

I call this one "Gag Reflex."

Things were getting pretty soupy at this point, what with the sleet blowing in, and us crunching and sclurching among the pumpkins. My boots and tripod legs were getting covered in pumpkin guts and Vaseline and were glowing almost as brightly as the pumpkins. I took a stick and poked and stirred up some pumpkin soup to see if it increased or reduced the amount of glowing. Seems like neither. It just mixed up the glowing pigments.
I seemed to be having the best results photographically by setting my camera on "P - mode" at f5.6 - 8, and "painting" the insides of the pumpkins with a single UV flashlight until the camera sensor decided it had enough light to close. Usually somewhere in the range of 5 - 15 seconds depending on the scene.
I think the next thing to do would be go out there before the snow and cold and gather up some samples of the different colored goos for observation under a video microscope.
I would be interested to see if things are crawling around on their own inside all of that.
All in all, some very interesting goo. Happy Halloween, everyone...
Like Ted says, "Who needs candles...!?"

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