One recent evening, Kattie McMillan was walking her dogs on a beach along the lower York River when she was treated to a dazzling light show: bioluminescent algae glowing a bright neon blue as far as the eye could see.There a quite a few bioluminescent algae, mostly dinoflagellates, in the worlds oceans and bay. These are the same organisms that cause red tides and some of the shellfish poisonings, and in fact, some of the bioluminescent organisms are toxic.
"You could see fish darting and crabs swimming — even where some of the vegetation washed up and got caught on the rocks," recalled McMillan, outreach educator at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point. "It was almost like a shimmering of bioluminescence."
One of her dogs ran through the surf then jumped up on her boyfriend, leaving glowing paw prints on his shirt, she said.
"I've seen bioluminescence before, certainly, but it's probably the brightest I've ever seen it," said McMillan.
We've had bioluminescent red tides up here in the middle bay on occasion, and it's quite a spectacular site, but I've never seen it as bright as that is being described. Maybe I should go down after dark tonight and see if it has reached up this far.