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Algal Blooms – The Original Crimson Tide

If the aurora borealis and aurora australis are the lights of the night sky, then algal blooms (“red tides”) are the lights of the sea.

Algal bloom off Patagonia on December 21, 2010.

Stirring Up A Bloom Off Patagonia, Image by NASA.

The above image is an aerial view of a bloom disturbed off the coast of Patagonia on December 21st, 2010, taken by NASA.

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. (Source: Wikipedia)

What makes this natural phenomenon particularly fascinating to me is the eerie glow that the “bloom” takes on at night. This glow is called bioluminescence.

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism (source: Wikipedia).

I’ve been studying bioluminescence this week to compliment my growing exposure to science and the environment of water.  Again, this all relates to my current manuscript.

There was a recent article covered by ABC’s World News Tonight on a “red tide” spotted off the coast of San Diego in September 2011.  Video here:

[tentblogger-youtube tQX3yK8aw3Y]

One of my favorite parts of studying Anthropology in school was learning about the ethnic, biological and folklore backgrounds of different cultural groups .I only wish my early ancestors were red tide-riding surfers like these guys!

Theoretically, if they had stumbled upon this strange nocturnal event, what do you think they would have made of it?  Did they think it was some strange act of sorcery?  The work of gods? What do you think?

Something else I learned this week is that this phenomenon of nature can also be found in some living organisms, like the algae floating in the ocean in the video above.  Can you find other organism that share this trait?  Take the quiz below to test your stuff!

[poll id='2']

So how’d you do?

Have you seen or taken photos of this phenomenon?  Drop me a line at and your photo could be featured in a follow-up post on this topic.  Please do not send photos that you did not take yourself, thank you.

For more strange phenomenon, check out my board, “Strange Phenomenon of Nature” , on Pinterest.  Before you re-pin, please consider directly pinning back to the original sources. I do not own any of the copyrights. Thank you.

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This entry was posted in: Lifestyle


Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has two decades of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at

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