Seeing Dolphins Swim in Glow-in-the-Dark Waters Is Beyond Stunning

BBC’s Attenborough’s Life That Glows is an absolutely gorgeous look at the mysterious creatures around the world that have bioluminescent powers. It details the lives of fireflies, glow worms, fungi, fish, squid, plankton, and other creatures, and shows how they use their glow-in-the-dark abilities.

Sometimes it’s to attract mates, sometimes it’s to prevent predators from eating them, and other times—well, other times, scientists still haven’t figured it out. It’s awesome.

But the most stunning visual in a documentary filled with stunning visuals is watching dolphins swim at night in an ocean teeming with millions of luminous plankton. Because the dolphins are moving, the plankton light up all around them, and makes it seem as if they are outlined in glow-in-the-dark light. It’s like the light show “Fantasia” at Disneyland come to life or like dolphins living in a Tron world, and it’s unbelievable how gorgeous it is to see.


BBC Two writes:

But why do animals produce living light? For centuries we could only marvel at the beauty and the mystery, but now for the first time we can begin to reveal the amazing truth about living lights. It has taken three crucial technological breakthroughs. Firstly, colour cameras have improved dramatically; they are now over 4,000 times more sensitive than a decade ago. The cameras are so sensitive they are revealing startling discoveries that until now we could not see. Secondly, scientists have entered the unknown world of the boundless deep open ocean with the help of a new generation of submersibles and robots. Thirdly, Ammonite Films have invented and built a series of unique cameras that can capture the faintest ephemeral glow of luminous life.

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When I was on board air craft carriers and we were going a pretty good speed, like 30 knots or so, I would go down to the fantail and watch the water churn a little light show back there. You could get the effect on smaller ships too, like destroyers, but the carriers was were it was at for that stuff.