Bright blue lights glowing at the shores of Preservation Bay, Tasmania was recently seen by photographer Brett Chatwin. This phenomenon is uncommon and caused by a bioluminescent alga called noctiluca scintillan, or popularly known as "sea sparkle" when the organisms are feeling stressed.
"The whole bay was iridescent blue," Chatwin told the BBC. "I was gobsmacked. It was just an amazing sight." A similar incident also happened in Tasmania last year on March 13 at Port Sorell, but onlookers say there wasn't much sparkle as it did now. "I live in a beautiful part of the world," Chatwin said to 9news.com.au.
Botanist Gustaaf Hallegraeff at the University of Tasmania said that the glow happened as a result of the organisms' defense mechanism when the waters they are in felt disturbed. They can exhibit high concentrations of light due to their diet, environmental conditions, nutrient-rich waters, and pollution.
Sea sparkle often feeds on plankton, dinoflagellates, fish eggs, and bacteria found in coastlines or shallow waters because of the presence of sunlight which promotes the growth of the phytoplankton species. Due to its ghostly bloom, noctiluca scintillan is also known to many as "sea ghost" or "fire of sea."
It differs in colors at times highly depending on the diet the organism has fed on. Scientists note that they are more red and pinkish in color in waters near the North Sea, while the organism also exhibits color green due to the green-pigmented diet and vacuoles in the area.
Noctiluca scintillans are not toxic to humans in general, but they contain a mass of ammonia due to its phytoplankton diet. If they eat the planktons ravenously nearby, the sea sparkle may excrete high ammonia which will add toxins in the water that kill other marine and aquatic life forms.
The phenomenon can be found in any part of the world. Various reports show that the bioluminescent alga had also lit up the beaches of China, Maldives, and Australia among many others.