Saturday, 7 April 2012

09:01 – Okay, this is really strange. When we did the first draft of the forensics lab book a few years ago, we recommended one of those small portable BLB fluorescent tube UV light sources. Since then, technology has moved on, and UV LED flashlights have become commonplace and inexpensive.

So, on March 23rd, I ordered this 9 LED 400 nM UV Ultra Violet Blacklight Flashlight 3AAA, 7301UV400 from an Amazon Marketplace vendor, for $3.59 with free shipping. (The price has since increased to $3.79.) I wasn’t expecting much, especially with shipping included in the $3.59. On the other hand, I think I mentioned that a couple of years ago I bought a package of 10 six-LED white flashlights at Lowes or Home Depot for $9.99. A buck each, including the AAA batteries, albeit cheap zinc-carbon ones.

When I got the confirming email from Amazon, I was surprised to see that it showed the expected arrival date as “Wednesday April 18, 2012 – Friday May 4, 2012”. I figured they must be back-ordered, but I really wasn’t in any hurry. Then, three days later on March 26th, I got email from Amazon saying that the product had shipped, but that the expected arrival date was still April 18th through May 4th. I wondered how it was possible to ship something on March 26th that would take three to five weeks or more to arrive. Slow boat from China?

Well, yes, as it turned out. Or at least a slow plane from China. The flashlight arrived yesterday, with a Par Avion label and customs sticker. It was shipped from Hong Kong. How in the hell can you ship anything from Hong Kong for $3.59 and not lose money on the deal?

The flashlight itself is of surprisingly good quality, at least on superficial examination. I was expecting plastic construction, but it’s made of machined metal, apparently aluminum. The switch is in the base, and seems solid. And the nine UV LEDs put out a lot of light. I suspect the 400 nM label is accurate, because the output is right on the edge between visible deep violet and invisible long wavelength UV. In the dark, ordinary white objects are lit in deep purple and fluorescent objects, including most white paper, fluoresce brilliantly. I suspect this unit would quite useful for scorpion hunting, as well as all the other things a UV light source is usually used for. For $3.59, I’m happy with it.