Sea Fire on the Outer Banks
An evening walk on the beaches these September nights can take you to another world. This has proven to be even more true this past week as many people stumbled upon the rare and ethereal occurrence that is bioluminescence. The word “bioluminescence,” which comes from “bio,” meaning life, and “lumin,” meaning light. This is produced by tiny organisms that are a type of dinoflagellates called Noct
They surprisingly do not get larger than 1 millimeter and will cast a beautiful blue-green glow in the ocean surf as the waves churn towards the shoreline. Noctiluca are harmless as they only feed on algae, plankton and bacteria. However, they do produce a good amount of ammonia which can be harmful to other sea life. Noctiluca chemically produce a beautiful glowing light in response to nearby movement in the water and also as a defense mechanism. Their alluring glow attracts larger predators which will consume the first predator. There are many factors that play into why these single celled little firefly like organisms give us this visual light show. Some of the factors will depend on the temperature of the water, nutrients, currents and whether or not the seas are calm.
So at the same time when you are relaxing to the peaceful sounds of incoming and receding tides, while the sand exfoliates your toes with each leisurely step forward, you also get a visual show – a colorful array of sea candles. This phenomenon natur