Niched in the middle of the Indian Ocean, on one of the islands of Maldives, there is a beach that is illuminated by a strange blue glow that intensifies as soon as the waves stir.
Fascinating, almost unreal, the Glowing Ocean is a phenomenon which is photographed in your memory once you’ve experienced it: wet sand glowing up, like a carpet of thousands of blue garlands, sparkling in the dark night. Sometimes the sea makes its own spectacle by crashing fluorescent waves of light on the shore. A natural wonder as breathtaking as it is unpredictable.
Most famous in the Maldives, the bioluminescent ocean can also be spotted in Matsu Islands, Taiwan, Mission Bay, San Diego, Navarre Beach, Florida, Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica, Mosquito Bay, as well as Puerto Rico.
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What is the reason behind the splendid phenomenon of the Glowing Ocean?
Contrary to popular belief, the glow that you can find in these seas is not caused by fireflies but due to a type of Plankton known as the dinoflagellate. The microscopic organism does not produce luciferin (the reasons why fireflies glow), instead, they produce light by a chemical process called bioluminescence in the presence of oxygen and an enzyme called luciferase. Excited by the eddies of the waves, it catalyzes the oxidation of a derivative of chlorophyll (luciferin), emitting light photons as they pass. Result: Each microorganism produces flashes of 100 milliseconds.
Production of the bioluminescence
Opinions are divided on the reason behind the production of the bioluminescence by these microorganisms. Some researchers believe that it is a defense mechanism used by the minuscule living creature to eradicate predators in the ocean.
However, according to researchers at the San Diego Oceanographic Institute (United States), it is still unknown why they form. Probably under the effect of a subtle balance between water temperature and wind speed.