If not for the accessibility of information on the internet, such phenomenon like the one captured by Taiwanese photographer Will Ho will cause you to think of silly things such as the weird, bizarre and even supernatural. Thankfully, we know they are just planktons. Apparently these kinds of planktons under stress create a visual marvel that does not look stressful at all. In fact their blue glow creates magical astral-like patterns on the sea shore.
The natural phenomenon was captured by Ho, who posted pictures of what he thought was ‘blue sand’. The incredible appearance of the Maldives beach was actually being caused by a huge tide of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum.
Bioluminescence is a type of luminescence, or “cold light” emitted by living organisms. It is a kind of chemiluminescence in which light energy is created and subsequently released, caused by a chemical reaction. Organisms capable of this are fireflies, anglerfish, and other creatures that produce the chemicals luciferin and luciferase.
Bioluminescence is common to some animal groups, especially in the sea; in fungi and bacteria; and in numerous terrestrial invertebrates including insects. It is believed that most deep-sea animals produce light this way. Most sea originating bioluminescence light-emission is either blue or green light, such as the one captured by Ho.
During some days of respite in the Maldives Islands, Ho came across this incredible stretch of shoreline blanketed in what must have been millions of bioluminescent phytoplankton. Although the occurrence and its chemical mechanisms are not a mystery, scientists have only recently begun to understand the phenomenon more.
Imagine what Ho must have thought when he came across this sea of luminous blue color. Luckily for us, he had his camera and took these incredible images we can marvel at. What appears as absolutely fantastic in pictures must have been truly breathtaking in person.
See more of this bioluminescent phytoplankton as photographed by Ho in the Maldives over on his Flickr page here.