This Tasmanian Bay Lights up with Blue Algae and Here's Why

Bioluminescence / © Brett Chatwin
Bioluminescence / © Brett Chatwin
Photo of Kelly Hawke
21 April 2017

Visitors to Preservation Bay in north-west Tasmania are being treated to some serious sea sparkle, thanks to this rare bioluminescence event which is lighting up the coastline.

The glowing neon blue water recently seen at Preservation Bay in Tasmania is caused by billions of single-celled organisms called noctiluca scintillans, according to University of Tasmania Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff.

“It is a single cell organism called noctiluca scintillans which literally means ‘night light’,” Professor Hallegraeff told Culture Trip.

“The mechanisms of bioluminescence have evolved in our planet and it’s a way of protection. The same way that fireflies attract a mate, this plankton flashes as an animal approaches. Similar to a burglar alarm,” he said.

This amazing blue spectacle is something to be appreciated, especially as it’s rare for all the elements to line up and for people to be able to see it.

“This organism is very unpredictable and is sensitive to turbulence. It can be in full view one night, and then if a storm hits it’s gone the next,” Professor Hallegraeff said.

The conditions must be perfect for people to see this neon blue phenomenon as it is only luminescent at night and there needs to be a dark, moonless night with very calm water conditions.

A post shared by Brett Chatwin (@brett.chatwin) on

Professor Hallegraeff hopes to monitor the ‘night light’ organism closely so that it can become a tourist attraction for those visiting Tasmania.

“When people become interested in nature and appreciate it, it makes me happy.”

For those wanting to get to Tasmania to see this natural night light, he recommends coming in the warmer months and visiting Preservation Bay in the north-east, or South Arm in the state’s south.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"