The water in Tasmania's Preservation Bay turned a radiant, igneous shade of blue on Saturday as a result of bioluminescent plankton in the bay.
Photographers rushed to get a photo of the ethereal water. "Was lucky enough to capture some Bioluminesence on Saturday night at Preservation Bay which is 10 mins away from home," wrote local photographer Brett Chatwin on Facebook.
Wow! This is the first time we've had the "Sea Sparkle" up in our neck of the woods, but boy does it delight and leave you in awe! @leannemarshall caught this "splash" of bioliminescence at Rocky Cape last night 😍. We're going to spend the next few days sharing some of our favourite and wonderful captures of this natural phenomenon. If you happened to get a shot of this, don't forget to tag #tasmaniasnorthwest 😁 Fun fact we learnt today, "Most bioluminescent organisms – including Noctiluca – have an inbuilt biological clock that tells them when it is night or day, and they will not flash during daytime, even if put into a dark room."
Noctiluca scintillans, more commonly known as the sea sparkle, belongs to a category of plankton called dinoflagellates, most commonly seen in brackish waters in Australia, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and California.
The sea sparkles' diet consists of other plankton, fish eggs, bacteria and algae. In nutrient-rich water, sea sparkle populations can explode with ample food to eat – and they eat so much and so quickly that they have been less-than-affectionately nicknamed "the vacuum of the sea" by fishermen.
Please do not adjust your devices, this stunning image from @brett.chatwin is authentic! Recently it was @tasmaniasnorthwest's turn for an evening light show like no other, when the waters of Preservation Bay near the town of Penguin started to shimmer and glow. Commonly known as Sea Sparkles, this distinctive and beautiful bioluminescent blue glow occurs when the microalgae 'noctiluca scintillans' is disturbed. The resulting light show occurs when waves either crash or gently lap the shore — or when little and big kids let their excitement get the better of them on the water's edge! And we reckon the moody skies overhead only add to the other-worldly feel of the shot. Just stunning, Brett — thanks for letting us share your image.
When threatened by predators or disturbed by waves, sea sparkles and their fellow dinoflagellates give off a bioluminescent glow.
The glow is not toxic or dangerous to humans, but large populations can increase ammonia levels in the water due to their excretions, which can harm other marine life. Other dinoflagellates such as alexandrium (which glows a menacing red) or polyedrum (which glows a light blue) release toxins that can accumulate in the bodies of shellfish.
To say I was excited to finally see some #bioluminescence was an understatement 😱💙#discovertasmania #cradlecoasttasmania #instatasmania #tasmania #tasmaniagram #tassiegram #fujifilm_xseries #fujifilmxt10 #aussiephotos #thisistassie #SeeAustralia #Australia_shotz #tassiepics #ig_discover_australia #tasmaniasnorthernexposure #tassieshots #rockycape
Sea sparkle bioluminescence has become a common sight on Tasmania's East Coast, according to Dr. Christopher Bolch of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science. However, Preservation Bay is in North West Tasmania, the opposite side of the island.
"We are seeing more incidents, more of the year and further south," Bolch told The Advocate. "That's likely due to gradually warming waters from the East Coast of Australia that are sticking around down south for longer."
The next night, the bioluminescence disappeared and has yet to return. "Not sure if it was a one off or it will return because it wasnt present the following night," wrote Chatwin.