like a pulse of electricity zapping the surf
May 1, 2020 9:07 AM   Subscribe

With each wave that crashed on shore, an bright blue flash lit up the whitewash on the dark beach – like a pulse of electricity zapping the surf just off shore (OC Register). The bioluminescent waves (Youtube) that have been putting on surprise shows at select beaches is a mesmerizing sight (LA Times), a rare phenom that has been moving around Southern California’s coastline (Smithsonian) and drawing fans when word spreads that a red tide – a funky copper color during the day (Surfer) – is turning the waves neon after the sun goes down. Glowing Dolphins After Sunset! (Facebook)
posted by not_the_water (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Worth mentioning that all those OC beach pictures you say over the weekend can somewhat be directly tied to this phenomenon. 10's of thousands of people went to the beaches during the day, and very of many of them stayed late to get their Instagram pictures I'm sure are linked all through these articles.
posted by sideshow at 9:43 AM on May 1

Wow, the dolphins video is truly exceptional
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:02 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]

Prehistoric people must have tripped the fuck out on a regular basis. No wonder polytheism was invented.
posted by rhizome at 10:23 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I grew up in that area, but I never saw anything like that.

The closest that I saw was seeing an electric blue light in the water as waves hit the pilings on the Huntington Beach pier.
posted by dfm500 at 11:24 AM on May 1

I was lucky enough to see this happen one night at Wilson's Promontory; extra lucky because I had a head full of Hofmann's finest at the time.

As well as seeing the special-effects breakers, we left glowing blue footprints in the wet sand.

It was glorious.
posted by flabdablet at 11:58 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]

I saw these in college a few times, from the cliffs over La Jolla Shores. It's mind-blowingly beautiful. Videos don't do it justice.
posted by potrzebie at 12:49 PM on May 1

I saw the dolphins on imgur and was blown away. So very much wish a trip to see this was practical.
posted by Mitheral at 1:01 PM on May 1

They're so fascinating. I bought some a few months ago and kind of love them. The videos were great!
posted by heyho at 1:24 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]

Heyho - how long do the PyroFarms dinos live? My daughter called me a couple of nights back VERY excited after swimming in the glowing blue, so I'd like to get her some if they'd survive longer than a lightstick does.

A marine scientist friend, Mary Silver, warned us there's a very very potent toxin produced by the dinoflagellates: don't eat anything (fish, shellfish) that might be eating them, or if you do, feed some to a cat or dog first and wait 30-45 minutes to check!
posted by anadem at 1:48 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how long they live, anadem, and I'm not finding that on the site, but it's easy to make the colony bloom just by adding the nutrients shipped with the first batch. I bought mine in mid Feb, and they're going strong.

Be sure and read (or have her read) the instructions online because they're important and my shipment didn't come with a good quick-start guide. (You want to wait a week or so before feeding, for example.) Beyond that, it's dead simple to maintain. And the site is clear that these are nontoxic.
posted by heyho at 2:10 PM on May 1

Had one of these blooms when I lived in San Diego back in the mid to late 90s. During this period my friends and I had taken up night body boarding off La Jolla. Was lucky enough to surf in it one night and it was perhaps the most magical thing I have ever seen. As the waves pulled up towards you the motion would agitate some of the bloom and you would get these small flashes of light just in front of you as you raced across the wave head first. It was like flying through the stars.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 2:47 PM on May 1 [6 favorites]

My housebound kids were terrified to leave to drive 4 miles to the beach to watch the other night. Once the waves came into view, they shrieked with delight. “It was worth leaving the house”. It really is magical.
PS now the sand is covered with small smelly dead fish. We can’t have anything nice, now can we?
posted by gryphonlover at 3:34 PM on May 1

I like, freakin' *SQUEEEEEEE*d when I saw the dolphins!
posted by notsnot at 3:39 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

One of the most magical experiences of my life was when I got in a boat at two o'clock in the morning to row out into the middle of the bay from Friday Harbor Marine Labs to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids were pretty cool but when I looked down I noticed that every stroke of the oars and every bit of turbulence coming off the stern of the boat produced a mirrored light show underwater. I hung out in that boat until almost 5:00 AM just rowing around in circles and alternating looking at the sky and looking down at the glowing waves.
posted by deadbilly at 5:11 PM on May 1 [6 favorites]

don't eat anything (fish, shellfish) that might be eating them, or if you do, feed some to a cat or dog first and wait 30-45 minutes to check!

A child or an elderly person would make a more suitable indicator.

But if all you have are cats or dogs, make sure it's a kitten or puppy.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:37 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]

I've never seen these as dramatic as they are now. I've seen them in the wake of a small motorboat at night, and a few times in the wet sand when you scoop up a handful, or even in footprints. It's a really neat thing to see.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:41 PM on May 1

I've also surfed in this at night, sometimes with a head full of something, and it's totally wild. I've also seen blooms so bright that you could practically read a book from the beach from the light.

Even when a bloom isn't happening you'll usually see some in the sand or water at night.

I've also noticed there are some variety luminous fungi, lichen and likely bacteria in the wetter forests of the Pacific Northwest. You'll sometimes see sparkles in your footsteps in the moss if it's really dark out and patches of lichen and mushrooms will very, very dimly glow.

It's a lot more subtle than red tide blooms but it's there.
posted by loquacious at 7:58 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]

luminous fungi

that one tiny mushroom growing out from the underside of a rotting shelf of damp wood, casting a perfect little half circle of glow onto the moss below like a reading lamp for beetles... lovely.
posted by flabdablet at 8:38 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]

don't eat anything (fish, shellfish) that might be eating them, or if you do, feed some to a cat or dog first and wait 30-45 minutes to check!

What?! That seems like a bizarre recommendation. Don't poison animals either.
posted by tavella at 7:32 PM on May 2

if all you have are cats or dogs, make sure it's a kitten or puppy

I am intrigued by your modest proposal and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by flabdablet at 7:41 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

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