For those who aren’t aware, bioluminescence is a truly amazing and visually stunning natural phenomenon in which a living organism produces and emits light. This is because of a chemical reaction where their internal chemical energy is converted into light energy. An excellent example of this is the sparkle that can be witnessed from fireflies, which is a result of a chemical reaction in their glowing abdomens.
Considered one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, bioluminescence is known to occur widely in both marine invertebrates and vertebrates, some fungi, microorganisms like bacteria, and terrestrial arthropods. Because of this, there are very few parts of the world where bioluminescence can potentially be viewed – with the continent of Australia being a perfect example.
One of the most famous locations in Australia – Jervis Bay – plays host to an annual array of bioluminescence.
When bioluminescence arrives in Jervis Bay, it’s been known to be seen in several locations. Some common locations that showcase this immaculate natural phenomenon are Barfluer Beach (north of Plantation Point), Blenheim Beach, the Scottish Rocks, Orion Beach, and Callala Bay.
As bioluminescence can only be viewed at a few locations around the world, if one is to witness it, it is crucial to first have the knowledge of where exactly this phenomenon has occurred. Bioluminescence is also very difficult to capture in a photograph, with the strength and brilliance of its appearance relying greatly upon the weather conditions – particularly the proper temperature and wind.
Is Jervis Bay Always Bioluminescent?
Jervis Bay is not always bioluminescent, as it is highly dependent on adequate weather conditions. Noctiluca, or bioluminescent algae, is most commonly seen in the warmer months of the year in Jervis Bay, but under the right conditions, can be seen year-round.
This rare Algae usually returns every year between May and August, so although the season for sighting this rare occurrence has now passed you can expect to see it again next year. It’s best to keep watch with the local newspaper in Jervis Bay as to when the next sighting could be expected to be seen.
Why Does The Water Glow At Jervis Bay?
Commonly, this gorgeous glow in Jervis Bay is caused by microscopic bioluminescent algae, known as Noctiluca. This alga is so tiny, that thousands of them can fit within a singular drop of water. This alga does not glow during the day, so it’s important for travellers to expect a nighttime visit to a beach in Jervis Bay if they are wanting to visit it.
What Weather Conditions Are Required For Bioluminescence To Occur?
The specific algae, Noctiluca, is found all year round, but at some points, with far too low of numbers to actually produce these stunning displays of light. However, after a good rainstorm (or even monsoon season), nutrient runoff will occur in the main bodies of water.
This runoff acts as a natural fertilizer, which stimulates the growth and bloom of phytoplankton. Generally, after a large storm season, the following days or weeks will bring calmer, sunnier, and warmer weather. It is in the evenings after these beautiful sunny days, that it is common that bioluminescent glows can be witnessed.
It’s also important to note that a gentle sea breeze is required in order to concentrate the algae against the shoreline, where bioluminescence is often seen. Stronger, more volatile winds will create far too much turbulence on the water’s surface, which will, in turn, sink and disperse the phytoplankton.
What Time Of Year Does Bioluminescence Occur?
As the exact times of the year when the bioluminescence occurs change, it is approximated that the most optimal times of the year when it will occur is between the months of May to August. However, as previously mentioned, with pristine conditions, bioluminescence can occur at any time of the year.
With the occurrence of bioluminescence being so rare it makes it difficult to plan a trip around coming to see it as it’s not guaranteed. If you are wanting to simply go to Jervis Bay and explore this small yet beautiful community then there is much to explore.
How Long Does The Bioluminescent Water Last?
The lasting effect and visuals of bioluminescence are slightly unpredictable. Scientists have stated that previous events of bioluminescence in water have lasted anywhere from one week, to well over a month. Occasionally, bioluminescence will reoccur in the same areas on an annual basis, while other times, it will not be viewed for years at a time.
What Does Bioluminescent Water Look Like?
Noctiluca will emit a definite and vibrant flash of neon light, which is often very blue or greenish in colour. So, those looking to view or capture this natural phenomenon on camera should look for clear signs of light coming from the water.
Generally, this phenomenon will only be viewed close to the shoreline, where the algae conglomerates. Interestingly enough, phytoplankton cells that are left behind on the beaches from crashing waves will glitter briefly on their own – giving another telltale sign for onlookers to look out for.
It’s also worth mentioning that one can spot Noctiluca during the day, making them aware of which specific spot to return to in the evening. Noctiluca floats along the surface of the water and will concentrate if left entirely undisturbed.
During the day hours, thick blooms of the algae appear as a soft pink-coloured haze. This haze is commonly referred to as the “red tide”, which is oftentimes so thick that the bottom cannot be seen, even in the shallowest of waters.
What Safety Precautions Should One Take Around Bioluminescent Water?
While briefly holding bioluminescent water in your hands or walking into the water barefoot will not harm a person, it is very important to avoid swimming or diving into this water. This is because it can be very dangerous and harmful to ingest Noctiluca – including getting it in the eyes, face, or mouth. Therefore, it’s best to watch this phenomenon from the shore, as opposed to entering the water itself.
How Can You Appropriately Photograph Bioluminescent Water?
Capturing a photograph of this incredible phenomenon on camera is notoriously difficult, as there is a necessity for extremely low-light conditions for the natural light to occur. Generally, a camera with adjustable settings, like a digital single-lens reflex camera, is recommended to produce the best photographs.
However, in widespread or dense blooms, any camera set on a long exposure setting will produce decent-quality photos – even on an iPhone.
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