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An eerie blue glow illuminates the Washington coastline, as the photos show.  What caused it?


A photographer captured an eerie blue light shining on the waves off the Washington coast, as the photos show.

Matt Nichols also filmed a video showing how the light reflected off the whites of the waves. He posted the photos and video to the PNW Bioluminescence Facebook group.

“I am delighted to announce that the bioluminescence season has started!” Nichols wrote. “After all these beautiful days, I had a hunch that it could be here, and of course, I found some blue and glowing waves… Hopefully this is the start of a very active bioluminescent season!

Nichols took the photos Sunday morning at Kalaloch Beach 4 in Forks, he told McClatchy News. He said the glow is called “bioluminescence,” which is “the emission of light by a living organism,” according to Discovery Sea Kayaks on San Juan Island.

The bioluminescent organism that causes the blue glow near San Juan Island “is a marine dinoflagellate … called Noctiluca,” the company said.

Nichols said the glow he saw was probably also from dinoflagellate algae.

“I believe it could reach Puget Sound, but light pollution can interfere with the experience,” Nichols said. “Algae thrives in warmer, calmer conditions, which is why I expected them to be present after this record-breaking series of clear, warm days.”

According to the National Ocean Service, “generally bioluminescence is used to warn or evade predators, to attract or detect prey and to communicate between members of the same species.”

Nichols first encountered the phenomenon last summer at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park while taking photos of the stars.

“I tried over and over again to find them and finally learned what conditions were necessary for them to be visible,” he told McClatchy.

To see bioluminescence on waves off the Washington coast, there must be little or no light pollution, Nichols said. The best time to look is during a new moon or “after the moon has gone down, in the darkest part of the night.”



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