top of page

Dinoflagellates, Fireflies of the Sea: Fear of Failure, Chapter 14

Bioluminescence is lighting up the waves off California Coast

It looks like someone broke a giant glowstick into the ocean waters. (SLO Trib 9-29-2022)

Waves off the California coast are glowing a bright neon blue this month thanks to an annual blooming of bioluminescent marine organisms with the ability to emit light from specific chemical reactions. Some people say the bioluminescence is even making the sand light up.

Marine animals use bioluminosity to communicate, lure their next meal or ward off predators.

Humans see bioluminescence triggered by a physical disturbance such as crashing waves or a moving boat hull that causes the animal to light up the water, but these animals also light up in response to an attack or to attract a mate.

Here is the scuba diving account where I tried to hunt lobster in the luminescent waters off Corona Del Mar after dark thirty:

As I became adept at my x-ray technician job the learning stress diminished, and my mind wondered about activities, I could do when I wasn't working. I called up different friends I met during my scuba diving courses and arranged a couple of dives off the coast.

I remember one night's dive distinctly. It was dark, and there was no moon in the sky. We were diving down only thirty feet to catch lobster. After paddling out the appropriate distance, we turned on our underwater flashlights to find lobster but as soon as my mask hit the water a visually overwhelming flash of light blinded my vision. The brightness in my face mask diminished at a slower pace, but if I accelerated past a certain velocity, the turbulence picked up, causing the bright blue swirls. It was like chewing popping bubble gum candy in your mouth, the faster I moved my mask, the more brilliant the glow.

I saw the same blue light coming off my fingers as if they were on fire with a green flame. Every time I moved my head the face mask disturbed the water flow, and the green fluorescence emanating from my face mask blinded me. We could not see past the fluorescence created by the algae, so we swam back to shore and went home. The event was magical, and memorable, although nonproductive regarding seafood catch.





Recent Posts
bottom of page