Bioluminescence

At the moment there is a bloom of so called sea sparkle or bioluminescent phytoplankton or algae (dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans) in the surroundings of Kingston beach and Blackmans Bay. Once this information arrived at our ears we drove out to see it.

When those little cells are agitated, disturbed by waves or movement, a chemical reaction, due to the presence of the luciferase enzyme takes place and releases a tiny flash of light:

Dinoflagellate luciferin + O2 = oxidized dinoflagellate luciferin + H2O + light.

Being a bunch of scientist and an artist, the artist was the only one of us providing the right guess on what’s happening. Independent of this fact, the sight was impressive to the artistic and scientific eyes.

We had to wait until darkness for the bloom the be visible, at first it was just a few light flashes in the waves hitting the beach. A bit later when our friends arrived with their kayaks, we could spot the blue flashes around their paddles before we could make out the kayaks in the darkness. Once it was proper dark night, we went for a little swim. What we saw then was just impressive, every movement produced sparkles of white and blue lights, it was as if everything was animated. Swimming with goggles underwater felt like being materialised in a game of space invaders.

Unfortunately I failed in capturing this experience with my camera, but I managed to get an acceptable shot from Blackmans Bay Beach.

As if this was not enough for one night, we encountered a few little penguins on our way from the beach to the car.

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