Blue light sighted in sea



By Zaigham Ali Mirza

21 January 2006

DUBAI — An evening stroll on a strip of beach near Fujairah turned out to be once-in-a-lifetime experience for a Sri Lankan family, when the breaking waves glowed with an eerie blue light.

Seventeen-year-old Hassanain Anwar realised it was an unusual natural phenomenon and shot a video clip of the glowing waves.

"I saw there were no buildings or other sources of artificial light anywhere around, so it couldn't have been reflected light. The only explanation was that this was a case of natural luminescence," he told Khaleej Times.

The phenomenon was first spotted by a friend of Hassanain's father, but the group only saw it clearly enough after the twilight faded into night.

"He was the first one to see the glow and drew our attention to it, but we couldn't see it until it was a bit dark," Hassanain said.

Excited by the rare and unexplainable spectacle, the teenager pulled out his mobile phone and shot a video clip of the occurrence.

"My father's friend said it was too dark for the camera in the mobile phone to record it clearly, and he felt this thing was best viewed by the human eye. Luckily for me, the video is clearer than I had expected," he added.

The phenomenon, though not yet reported in the UAE, is unusual but not rare, according to local experts.

Marine biologists attribute the phenomenon of glowing waves to bioluminescence in a variety of marine fauna and flora.

According to a local biologist, the source of bioluminescence in the present case must be tiny plant like organism called dinoflagellates (phytoplanktons), a majority of which are plankton, and live in the sea. They live in the sea where they obtain energy from the sunlight during the day, and emit a bright blue light at night. The phenomenon was featured in the Leonardo Di Caprio's movie, The Beach.

Dr Reza Khan, Head of Dubai Municipality's Zoo section in Jumeirah, said that the phenomenon, also known as Red Tide, usually occurs following a spurt in the growth of a species of dinoflagellates, which depends on climatic conditions and marine environment.

"The phenomenon is not rare and has been reported before in Khor Dubai," he said, adding that the video clippings and photographs of the phenomenon he has seen were not taken locally.

Responding to a question on the toxic aspect of the phenomenon, Dr Khan said that some species of the unicellular organisms are known to be toxic and affect filter feeders such as shellfish. "To know if the bloom involves a toxic species, samples would have to be tested," he explained.

Human deaths due to consumption of shellfish in areas experiencing a red tide have been reported in many countries and a number of initiatives have been undertaken in these countries to prevent Red Tides.