Imagine dancing in water flashing neon blue. Imagine seeing your skin glow brilliant blue like the Na'vi (blue-skinned people) in the film Avatar. This isn't science fiction: this is Sea Sparkles.
These fiery flashes and glitters in the sea have enchanted humanity for centuries, from pre-Christian Chinese nautical adventure stories and the Frech philosopher René Descartes noting their sparkle, to Jesuit priests attributing it to spirits of the sun, to Benjamin Franklin speculating on their origin. They've been used by navies to track ships, land aircraft, and sink submarines. And you can see them around Tasmania: let the Glow Show be your guide to learning where, when, and how to see this amazing phenomenon.
The blue glow of Sea Sparkles is a natural process called bioluminescence, which is made by a chemical reaction inside the bodies of living organisms, in this case, tiny single-celled algae-like creatures called dinoflagellates. Their scientific name, Noctiluca scintillans, is Latin for sparkling night-light. They occur frequently around Tasmania, where they are considered an introduced marine pest that threatens the salmon farming industry and native marine life.
Intriguingly, Noctiluca is carnivorous. This means that this single-celled alga eats multicellular animals like fish fry and plankton. This would be the terrestrial equivalent of grass eating the cows!