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Glowing plankton create ‘electric blue waves’ of light along Pacific coast

Surfer rides glowing bioluminescence waves off San Diego, California
WATCH: A surfer in San Diego, California, caught some stunning bioluminescence waves on April 27.

Nature is putting on a light show amid coronavirus lockdowns on the west coast, where glowing algae has turned a nighttime visit to the beach into a breathtaking display of glowing sea life.

Surfers and beach visitors have captured truly stunning footage of glowing blue lights in the water off California and western Mexico, where bio-luminescent algae is illuminating the waves after dark.

READ MORE: Massive, deep-sea ‘entity’ leaves ocean scientists ‘blown away’

Cameron Franco of San Diego, Calif., captured footage of a surfer riding the blue-lit waves near Sunset Cliffs on Monday. His video shows the surfer paddling across the water on a surfboard ringed in light, before catching a glowing wave and riding it with the sunset in the background.

California photographer Patrick Coyne recorded another video of dolphins swimming through the bio-luminescent algae last week. His video shows two dolphins swimming just below the surface of the dark water, their bodies glowing blue and their tails kicking up streams of light.

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Coyne described witnessing the dolphins as “truly one of the most magical nights of my life” on Instagram.

Glowing waves were also spotted rolling up onto Puerto Marques beach in Acapulco, Mexico, last week.

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The breathtaking sights are made possible by dinoflagellates, a tiny species of bio-luminescent plankton. The organisms have massed together in large numbers along the west coast this month, making it much easier to see them when they start flashing en masse.

The single-celled algae produce two chemicals that light up their bodies when they’re startled, in what biologist Rebecca Helm described on Twitter as “luminous little panic attacks.”

A young girl points to Bioluminescent waves glowing off the coast of Redondo Beach, CA, Monday, April 27, 2020.
A young girl points to Bioluminescent waves glowing off the coast of Redondo Beach, CA, Monday, April 27, 2020. Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The bloom is known as a “red tide” because of the way it looks during the day, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The phenomenon is also famous for producing “electric blue waves” after dark.

“We don’t know how long the current red tide will last, as previous events have lasted anywhere from one week to a month or more,” the institution wrote on Facebook.

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It says that the best way to see the light show is to “head to a dark beach at least two hours after sunset.”

…While practising social distancing, of course.