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Sparkling blue bioluminescent water brightens Tasmanian photographer’s day

Victoria Craw, March 16, 2017 5:50PM

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Reading level: orange

A sparkling blue glow in the water on a remote beach in Tasmania has been captured in photographs.

The electric blue water on the shores of Preservation Bay was snapped* by photographer Brett Chatwin.

While the images look photoshopped or the result of a chemical spill, the bright blue occurrence is entirely natural. It is called bioluminescence* and is caused by small sea creatures called phytoplankton, known as Noctiluca scintillans, or “sea sparkle” which thrive in calm, warm sea conditions.

Supplied Editorial brett chatwin media_cameraBioluminescence at Preservation Bay. Picture: Brett Chatwin

When the organisms* are left undisturbed they concentrate on the surface leading to the glittering effect.

Mr Chatwin said he saw the blue beach on Saturday night for the first time in the north west of the state.

“Not sure if it was a one off or it will return because it wasn’t present the following night,” he wrote on Facebook while also posting some breathtaking* images of the beach.

It’s not the first time a magical blue beach has been spotted in Tasmania.

Tasmania media_cameraBioluminescence at Rocky Cape, Tasmania. Picture: Leanne Marshall

In May 2015 photographer Jo Malcomson of Blackpaw Photograhy shared pictures of a similar sight at South Arm on the outskirts* of Hobart.

Marine biologist Michael Latz said blooms like this occur off the Australian, Californian and Caribbean coastlines.


Auroras: There are two auroras — the Southern Lights or aurora australis and the Northern Lights or aurora borealis. The Southern Lights can sometimes be seen in parts of Tasmania. The spectacular displays are caused by very small and fast particles hitting each other. They create brilliant light displays in shimmering green, blue and white.

Aurora Australis media_cameraThe Southern Lights in Tasmania. Picture: Sam McCormack

Morning Glory clouds: These are a rare phenomenon that are most often seen in Australia, near the Gulf of Carpentaria. The clouds are long and tubelike.

Morning Glory cloud over Australia. Picture: Mick Petroff MUST CREDIT media_cameraMorning Glory clouds over Australia. Picture: Mick Petroff

Water spouts: These are rotating* columns of water and spray formed by a whirlwind over the sea or a large body of water. They can be seen around the coast of Australia when the conditions are right.

MUST CREDIT: Other (see notes)... NO WEB TILL MIDNIGHT MUST CREDITShorty Westlin / Australian Weather Calendar 2014 May Waterspout makes a bayside splash (Waterspout over Bateman's Bay, as seen from Maloney's Beach, New South Wales, 1.13pm Sunday 18 November 2012) Waterspouts occur over water and look a lot like tornados, though they are usually smaller and much less intense. Not this one, however. The waterspout that captured the attention of Bateman's Bay at about 1pm on Sunday 18 November 2012 was large by comparison Picture: Notes) Other (see media_cameraWaterspout over Bateman’s Bay, New South Wales. Picture: supplied


snapped: photographed

bioluminescence: light given off by living creatures

organisms: living beings

breathtaking: amazing

outskirts: outer

rotating: spinning



Activity 1. Blue Beach

Read or listen to the article carefully then complete the following.

1. What is the main idea of this article?

2. In your own words, explain what causes the blue beach that Brett Chatwin photographed.

3. Four natural wonders are identified in the article. Write at least four statements to compare and contrast these events. For example: The Auroras, Water spouts and Morning Glory clouds all occur in the sky.

Extension: Interview

If you were lucky enough to interview a marine biologist about the blue beach, what would you ask him/her?

Write down four questions that would further your understanding of this natural wonder.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this task

Curriculum links: English, Science

Activity 2: More Natural Wonders

Research at least four more natural wonders.

Make a chart that includes:

— Name

— Where it can be seen

— Diagram

— Brief Explanation

Extension: A picture in words.

Pretend you came across any one of these ‘natural wonders’ like Brett Chatwin did. Unfortunately, you don’t have a camera with you. Explain what you saw. Use lots of adjectives to give a good description. You want the reader to get a mental picture of the natural wonder.

Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this task

Curriculum links: English, Science


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)

Description of the Senses Poem

Have a look at the photo of the phenomenal event occurring at Preservation Bay and create a poem of the senses imaging you are there witnessing the event.

I see …

I hear …

I smell …

I taste …

I touch …

I am at …


Up-level your poem by varying your openers and using connectives in your description to extend out your ideas.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write and VCOP







Extra Reading in reading level orange