Australia’s Mysterious Bio-luminescent Lake

About two years ago a hauntingly beautiful phenomenon illuminated the Gippsland Lakes in Australia. This phenomenon created some breathtaking, unforgettable and unique scenes. The cause of this mystery is an unusually high concentration of so called Noctiluca scintillans, a bio-luminescent microorganism, caused a bright ethereal blue glow in the water. Australian photographer Phil Hart documented this mystery shooting some wonderful photos.

Taken on the 1st January 2009, from Camp Cooinda on Banksia Peninsula on the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria (© Phil Hart Photography).

Noctiluca scintillans are a species of dinoflagellate that feed on algae, plankton and bacteria. These scintillans are also known as “sea sparkles”, “sea fires”, “sea ghosts” and many other symbolic names. In December 2008, a high concentration of blue-green algae called Synechococcus caused a higher-than-usual population of Noctiluca scintillans in the Australian Gippsland Lakes.

Throwing sand and stones into the lake cause the defense system of the Noctiluca scintillans to glow wonderfully (© Phil Hart Photography).

When the photographer embarked on his annual journey to the lakes, he discovered a blue luminescence in the water unlike anything he had ever seen before. Scintillans uses its bio-luminescence like a sort of defense mechanism, lighting up when a possible predator is coming near. This is a very clever defense system because the ghostly blue glow attracts even larger predators to eat the first predator, keeping the Noctiluca scintillans safe to glow another day.

Bioluminescence in waves lapping at a beach in this 1.5 hour exposure on the Gippsland Lakes (© Phil Hart Photography).

Phil Hart used the working of the Noctiluca scintillans defense mechanism to make some great and intriguing photographs using a long exposure on his camera. he created splashes in the water to light up and spread the bio-luminescent organisms around. In other photos sand and pebbles were thrown into the water to activate the glow making photos with a fast lens.
The photographer expressed that it’s highly unusual to see this concentration of bio-luminescent organisms anywhere in the world. The magical event definitely is a breathtaking display of nature’s unexpected and mystical beauty.

Like a scene from a science fiction movie, Hart and his friends splash in the water to light up and spread the bio-luminescent organisms around (© Phil Hart Photography).

The magical sea sparkles mark the border between the lake and the shore (© Phil Hart Photography).

Bio-luminescence (Phosphorescence) in the Gippsland Lakes with moonlight rising over the lakes (© Phil Hart Photography).


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  7 comments for “Australia’s Mysterious Bio-luminescent Lake

  1. March 14, 2011 at 02:12

    Really beautiful pictures of that strange phenomenon.
    I am allright. Thank you very much.

  2. March 14, 2011 at 10:46

    Sometimes it becomes so obvious why certain places and phenomenon have been considered sacred or divine. This is one of those.

  3. Les
    March 16, 2011 at 01:46

    What an amazing occurence. I have seen green and some red phosphorescents in the Chesapeake Bay, but nearly as intense as this.

  4. March 23, 2011 at 14:08


  5. Juan Laporta
    March 24, 2011 at 21:23

    Brilliant and mysterious effect, I’d like to see this myself, would be a great experience!

  6. March 30, 2011 at 21:20

    Wow, simply stunning. I’d love to see this personally!

  7. Squidlips
    July 5, 2012 at 23:35

    I have just seen the very same thing at my beach in Aspendale last night.
    It was a calm night with no moon and we were watching the waves light up as they lapped on the shore.
    Our dogs feet were glowing as he ran through it.
    Unbelievable and surreal experience- if only we had a camera!

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