Spectacular Photograph Captures Bioluminescent Plankton And Aurora At The Same Time


Stephen Luntz

Stephen has a science degree with a major in physics, an arts degree with majors in English Literature and History and Philosophy of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication.

Freelance Writer

66 Spectacular Photograph Captures Bioluminescent Plankton And Aurora At The Same Time

Alison Painter. Tasmanian beaches have been lit up with a spectacular display of bioluminescence.

Tasmania is not exactly lacking in natural beauty, but sometimes it just seems to be showing off. Last week, four photographers were attempting to capture the Aurora Australis when they came across something even more rare, and arguably more spectacular.

The beach at South Arm, a peninsula south of Hobart, was lit up with bioluminescent plankton. The dinoflagellates Noctiluca scintillans, also known as Sea Sparkles, appear after rains wash nutrients into the oceans or estuaries, but they seldom frequent the same place on any sort of regular basis. The density of the plankton varies between blooms, and experienced observers are describing this as one of the most spectacular shows they have seen.


Credit: Jonathan Esling

The single-cell organisms only light up when disturbed, but even gentle waves, or a rock thrown into the water, can achieve the desired effect. It is thought that the lights are a form of self-defense, attracting species that feed on plankton-eaters.

Most blooms occur in isolated places, but some of the affected beaches are only a few minutes drive from Hobart. Moreover, Tasmania has more than its fair share of spectacularly talented nature photographers, so the rest of the world has been treated to some stunning views of what we are missing out on.

 Credit: Paul Fleming


So far, the display has been impressive every night for a week in succession, although different beaches have had the best of it each night. A Facebook page has been created to help locals find the most promising beaches and to allow them to share their photos

Credit: Leoni Williams

Credit: Fiona Gumboots





Credit: Matt Holz

Top image Credit: Alison Painter 


  • tag
  • bioluminescence,

  • tasmania,

  • plankton,

  • dinoflagellates,

  • Noctiluca scintillans