A Town's Famous Bioluminescent Bay Is Going Dark and No One Knows Why

For those who've seen it—and photographs don't do it justice—the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay is one of the world's most spectacular natural sights. Tiny plankton known as dinoflagellates light up the water like a glow stick at night. But since January, the glow has faded, throwing the entire Puerto Rican town into a panic.

Vieques is a small island about 10 miles from Puerto Rico's main island. All it is known for, really, is its bioluminescent bay, one of the most famous in the world. This is why tourists have flocked here to kayak at night. This is also why the dinoflagellates' sudden disappearance has the town in a tizzy.

For now, tours are being limited to just weekends to minimize human disturbance of the bay. Some also suspect disturbance from a dirt road nearby. Scientists have been studying the water, though factors like temperature, salinity, and pH appear to be fine. A leading theory is that shifts in the wind direction have pushed dinoflagellates out of the bay.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, bioluminescent bays have gone dark temporarily and returned. But others have not. There isn't a unifying theory explaining the appearance of dinoflagellates, but it's clear that something is afoot in Mosquito Bay. [New York Times]

Top photo: Bioluminescence in New Jersey, not Mosquito Bay via catalano82/Flickr. Here are some photos of bioluminescence in Mosquito Bay, but really, photographs don't do the phenomenon justice. You usually can only see bioluminescence when it's dark and something is moving in the water—pretty much the worst conditions for photography.