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Aussie oceans filled with glowing blue algae are a sight to behold

Recently, Avatar fans were once again disappointed by news that the first of the four(!) planned sequels to the blockbuster has been further delayed beyond 2018.

For those of you who are super keen to get back to Pandora, you may consider popping on a flight down to Tasmania.

Local Tassie newspaper The Advocate reports that a bloom of bright blue algae has appeared on beaches near the wonderfully-named town of Penguin.

The algae, technically known as “bioluminescent phytoplankton” or colloquially as “sea sparkle”, thrives in calm and warm sea conditions.

Photographer Brett Chatwin told The Advocate that he has been taking nature photographs of the north-west coast of Tassie for 10 years and he’d never seen the phenomenon.

He added that he used a digital SLR camera to capture the glowing waves and that it was difficult, but possible to capture similar shots using a smartphone camera.

Dr Christopher Bolch of the Institue of Marine and Antarctic Science explained that sea sparkle (Noctiluca scintillans) had been spotted on the coast since the 1980s and that the appearance was connected to gradually warming waters from the east coast of Australia.

The plankton turns blue when it is threatened and if it dies releases a small quantity of ammonia that may smell unpleasant. It poses no danger to humans, although swimming in it may cause a dermatological reaction, Bolch cautioned.

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Tasmania isn’t the only part of Australia to experience ethereal coloured water recently.

Earlier this month, The Age reported that Port Melbourne’s Westgate Park lakes had turned pink. The change in colour was due to unnaturally high salt concentration and recent hot weather.

As is the case in Tasmania, an expert asserted that the pink lakes are the result of a “natural interaction” and not dangerous to humans. However, as with the bright blue waves, it’s best that you don’t go swimming in it.

Mother nature, you freaky.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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