Mobile, Alabama is a coastal city, but it’s also an historic city with a storied past of over three hundred years. Some myths are legends, and some legends are real and mysterious. I’ve coined the term mystorical for such things as the jubilees that occur along Mobile Bay.
Isn’t it a bit prescient and mystorical of the early Spanish explorers to identify Mobile Bay on their maps as Bahia del Espiritu Santo (Bay of the Holy Spirit). There is something about Mobile Bay that sets it apart from others. That’s why I set my mystery around jubilees. While I’ve been told its happened elsewhere in North America, Mobile Bay is the only place the jubilee phenomenon repeats regularly and has been studied and documented.
For those of you that haven’t read Body Wave, jubilees occur mainly in the summer months in the early morning hours before sunrise and are marked by a rush of sea life rushing to the shore. The sea life is stunned, and not dead, from a sudden drop of oxygen. Crab, shrimp, flounder, and even eels by the thousands are easily caught with buckets and nets. You can read the Wikipedia version for more background. In any case, a harvest is reaped from the shallows for the lucky residents that spot it.
Jubilees are unpredictable but there are some guidelines if you want to catch one as it happens. Some myths say it comes with a cool eastern breeze. Other claim it strikes right after a full moon. The day before a jubilee the weather must be overcast or cloudy, and most of all the bay’s surface must be calm and slick like the picture at the top of this post. Others add, the tide must be rising. In any case, there are people that track these conditions as soon as June arrives hoping to catch a mess of fish.
In Body Wave, Reece Carson and Dot Dearwood are talking about a spat of recent jubilees. I centered a mystery around a past jubilee in which a young girl is found drowned amongst the fish, and she’s wearing flowers in her hair like a bridesmaid. Here is a brief excerpt of conversation.
“Cher, what do you make of her comment about the jubilee?” Dot asked.
I shrugged. “It would be pretty hard to forget a dead body floating up during one.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I met Abigail during a jubilee in Fairhope when we were young girls.
Both of us have worried that the oil spill murdered our traditions and beloved Gulf of Mexico;
I’m afraid the jubilees won’t ever be the same.”
“Well, something bizarre is happening to Mobile Bay,” I said and turned on Spring Hill
Avenue. “We’ve never had three jubilees in a month before, and biologists are flooding in here to
take water samples. So far, the water is clear of contamination.”
“I’ve always thought jubilees made Mobile Bay mysterious and magical.”
“A jubilee means sea life is asphyxiated, Dot. When they enter shallow water, they’re
starving for oxygen. It’s science, not magic.”
“Says you,” Dot said. “Don’t guess you know jubilees occur in only two places on Earth?”
She sounded smug, so I decided to upset her. “Why don’t you spill the secrets about what
happened to that girl? Julia told me where the body is buried.”
Oh, for those of you wondering: Toyko Bay in Japan is the second place where jubilees are reported to occur regularly.