It may look like an alien life-form has washed up on a beach, but this striking neon blue effect is a completely natural phenomenon.
The incredible image was taken by photographer Doug Perrine during a visit to Vaadhoo, one of the Raa Atoll islands in the Maldives.
It captures a natural chemical reaction called bioluminescence, which occurs when a micro-organism in the water is disturbed by oxygen.
Unfortunately, the Blue Neon waves, which were observable from the San Diego shoreline, have ceased, but that doesn’t make them any less of a natural wonder. The nocturnal opposite to the city’s “Red Tide”, the Neon waves were a spectacle of colour brought on by an over abundance of a certain kind of plankton. The “neon” effect which was evident in the surf, was the result of the bio-luminescence of the millions of dead plankton being washed ashore.
Natural phenomenon: Glowing blue water washes up on a beach in Vaadhoo, one of the Raa Atoll islands in the Maldives. The result of a chemical reaction called bioluminescence, it occurs when a micro-organism in sea water is disturbed by oxygen
Glittering or flashing seas have long been linked to marine microbes—and now scientists think they know how the life-forms create light.
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There’s a lot lurking beneath the ocean’s dark abyss, but light might be one of the most unexpected. In actuality, a large number of sea creatures are “bioluminescent,” which means they emit light from a chemical reaction occurring within them. Bioluminescence can be found in bacteria, fish, jellyfish, octopi, squid, and sea worms—and most of them are deep-sea dwellers.
However, the most commonly seen—and arguably the most awesome—bioluminescent marine organisms are dinoflaggelates. These one-celled protists, 90 percent of which are marine plankton, have a very striking feature: when disturbed by a predator or a wave, they give off a bright blue light. So when a dinoflaggelate population increases rapidly, or “blooms”, it creates a red tide. And when it is nighttime during an algal bloom and the ocean water is rough – watch out – because a neon blue wave will be glowing straight towards you!
While red tides cannot be predicted, there are a few locations around the world famous for glowing blue waves. In the United States, San Diego is the most common city where red tides take place, and surfers are graced with bright blue waves as often as every few years.
The Maldives archipelago in the Indian Ocean; Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico, Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia; Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica; Norfolk, Great Britain; Bali, Indonesia; and the Florida and southern California coast are all great hot spots to see, surf, and kayak through bioluminescent waves.
The phenomenon can happen anywhere in the world and at any time of the year, which adds to it’s inherit magic. The next time you are on vacation, taking a nice stroll along the beach at night, check out the crashing waves – they might just be glimmering a fluorescent blue.
It looks like something from the movie "Avatar": ocean waters that light up like neon glow sticks when they splash. Beaches across southern California have recently been alight with eerie, glowing waves. What could be causing such an otherworldly phenomenon?
A recent report by Discovery News has provided an answer. According to marine biologist Jorge Ribas, the glowing is caused by a massive red tide, or algae bloom, of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum. The microorganisms emit light in response to stress, such as when a wave crashes into the shore, a surfboard slashes through the surf, or a kayaker's paddle splashes the water. The result is a wickedly cool glowing ocean.
The phenomenon has been observed on a semi-regular basis since at least 1901 along the beaches around San Diego, Calif. By day the algal blooms give the water a soupy red coloration, which is why they're often referred to as a red tide. But unlike some forms of red tide that can be toxic to people and marine life, the glowing blooms occurring in San Diego waters are reportedly harmless.
For surfers who don't mind catching a wave in water teeming with a sludge of microorganisms, the glowing ocean offers the chance of a lifetime. Night swimmers also often delight in the opportunity to lounge in a bioluminescent sea. The organisms can also be present in wet beach sand, so even beach walkers can watch as the ground sparkles with every footstep.
Several videos posted on YouTube show the majestic effects of the phenomenon. Watch below as a surfer sets a wave aflame and a kayaker dazzles through calmer waters while the coastal city lights shine in the background.