Imagine going on vacation and taking a night time walk on the beach and seeing water that glows. The idea seems mystical—maybe as enigmatic as the Northern Lights. It’s hard to fully comprehend what it must be like to witness such a display firsthand.
How can such a beautiful, luminous, mysterious occurrence happen? It’s not as rare as you might think. In the continental U.S., pools of bioluminescence can be found on both coasts. Various species of phytoplankton are known to bio luminesce, and their lights can be seen in oceans all around the world. A bioluminescent organism is one that lights up by virtue of a biochemical process. The light emitted doesn’t produce heat, and colors of bioluminescence vary by organism. Green and blue are common, but many organisms produce other colors of light.
In astronaut Jim Lovell’s book, “Apollo 13,” he tells an amazing story about a flight he was on while stationed on an aircraft carrier. It was almost dark and he was a long distance from the carrier when all his instruments stopped working. He was literally flying blind, with hours before a sliver of a moon would rise. He tried everything to get his instruments back. How could he ever land on an aircraft carrier in the dark with no lights and no instruments and no radio?
Lovell said he saw the sea begin to glow. He instantly realized that this was the plankton stirred up in the wake of the ship. All he had to do was follow the glow and he’d be home in no time. The closer he got, the brighter the sea became and soon, the froth churned up by the gigantic propellers was glowing almost as bright as a full moon, bright enough so that he could gauge the proper height to land.
We regard this natural phenomenon with curiosity and delight. Below are some videos for you: