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Friday, May 8, 2020

Red Tide, Bioluminescent Rage

Red Tide, Bioluminescent Rage

By Eric Harris

After more than a month of crushing boredom and perceived infringements upon civil liberties, a large plume of phytoplankton has unexpectedly joined the Orange County, Calif. beach closure protests with an outbreak of bioluminescent rage. Thanks, Gavin.

As much as this writer would like to believe the ocean is angry because of local politics, the source of the ocean’s alien glow is actually a red tide. Red tides are concentrated accumulations of microorganisms that literally turn the tide red. Some, but not all, red tides exhibit bioluminescence. This particular red tide is unusually patriotic.  When the organisms are disturbed, the microscopic dinoflagellates Lingulodinium polyedra, emit an electric blue flash. Red tide, white waves, blue glow. America, baby!

While everything has been canceled because of Governor Newsom’s “Safer at Home” Order, visiting the beach and catching a rare natural phenomenon is arguably among the more interesting Things To Do in LA. Finding bioluminescent waves is easy. Head out to a known beach with easy night parking. Do you see electric blue flashes? No? Travel south until you find blue waves. You can also find hot spots by consulting Instagram or other social media platforms.

TTDILA tips. The waves glow blue in response to water disturbances. If you do not see breaking waves, try another location. For a small, yet satisfying, splash of blue, throw a rock! Bioluminescent waves can provide a killer backdrop for pictures. Social distancing means not asking strangers for help with pictures —don’t be embarrassed to employ your trusty selfie stick. Also, phone cameras do not work well for dark, fast moving water. Consider using a dedicated camera and tripod for best photographic results. Many primo beaches across Southern California are closed, so check with your local authorities regarding beach access. Or simply hit South Orange County (Dana Point, San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach) or San Diego County. 

For more information on red tides, click here.