The Nocturnal Glow

November 10, 2010 at 5:44 am (Uncategorized)

Llew called me on his way home from the ferry.

“You have to come see this.”


“Just come outside. I’m about a hundred metres down the beachfront, and this is… wow! Oh my god! I’ve never seen anything like this! Get out here – bring the camera.”

I scrambled out the door, expecting something lunar, but the blanket cloud cover meant no stars, and certainly no silvery moon. People were lining up along the promenade, facing the surf, some murmuring quietly among themselves, others pointing and exclaiming. I looked out. At first, nothing, but as I kept walking down toward Llew, something glowed then vanished to my left. I looked again. Suddenly a fluorescent blue ripple shot across the full length of a breaking wave. Lasers? I glanced at the apartments opposite. A trick, surely? Teenagers on a balcony somewhere? But no. I turned to watch the breaking waves, still disbelieving, and one by one, in came the next set, this bolt of electric blue zinging along the shore time after time. Slowly it dawned on me: the light was in the wave, of the wave. I got down to where Llew was standing mesmerised and we gaped at each other.

“What is it?” I said. “I don’t understand how this is happening – what is it?”

“Isn’t it amazing?” he said. “I mean, I’ve seen phosphorescence plenty of times, so have you, but I’ve never seen it breaking in the waves before.”

We gasped as another wave exploded into vivid colour in the dark ocean before us.

“It makes me want to go swimming,” I said. “To get in there with it. Actually, I thought I saw someone…”

“Someone is in there,” Llew said, pointing.

And sure enough, there was a lone surfer in the water just south of us, frolicking in the electric blue, a solitary dancer weaving in and out of the steady bursts of pure light.

Today I’ve learned that what we saw was also visible at Freshwater beach, north of here, and the phenomenon is called “bioluminescence.” Check out a photo of it here and read an explanation for its appearance here.



  1. socksinmypocket said,

    How incredible! What a wonderful thing to see – the pictures are amazing! I’ve seen phosphorescence on the beach triggered by people stepping on it, so a person running would leave glowing footprints, but this I’ve never seen! I’ll alert northern beaches friends in case they missed it.

    • doctordi said,

      It was really something else, socksinmypocket! I love phosphorescence, but this was truly in another league. It was beautiful and strange. I hope your friends caught it too!

  2. litlove said,

    Not likely to happen in the ditches of East Anglia, alas. But how lovely to witness.

    • doctordi said,

      Between the red dawn and the blue light, this has been a crazy couple of years in Sydney!

  3. Grad said,

    Wow. I’ve never seen anything like that and I’ve lived near an ocean (both Atlantic and Pacific) most of my adult life. It reminded me of the movie Cocoon for some reason. Wasn’t there some glowing pods from outer space at the bottom of a swimming pool? Anyway, very lovely.

    • Lilian Nattel said,

      I’ve never seen anything like that. Thank you for the magical moment, Di.

      • doctordi said,

        Nor me – but I knew it would be right up your alley, Lilian!

    • doctordi said,

      I completely understand the Cocoon thing, Graddikins! It was very much like something from outer space. I’ve never seen anything like this before either, but when I was searching for photos yesterday, I turned up several references to the same thing happening right here in the past few years, all of which we missed entirely. Crazy.

  4. davidrochester said,

    Oh, wow. Those photos are amazing. The neon sea. As if it weren’t mysterious enough on its own, with all that vasty deep.

    • doctordi said,

      Exactly! It’s perfectly awe-inspiring enough *without* the neon light show!!

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