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Pacific Ocean glows an eerie blue with bioluminescence off Washington coast

Bioluminescence glows off the beaches in Klalaoch, Wash. on April 17, 2021. (Photo: Matt Nichols / CAMIT Olympic Media)

KALALOCH, Wash. (KOMO) – It's as eerie as it is beautiful: the Pacific Ocean turned a glowing blue hue Saturday night as bioluminescent season has begun.

Photographer Matt Nichols was out at Kalaloch figuring conditions were ripe to catch the phenomenon, and he was correct!

Marine biologists say the blue glow comes from a natural chemical process inside living bodies known as bioluminescence.

"We humans can witness this natural phenomenon when there is lots of bioluminescence in the water, usually from an algae bloom of plankton," according to the Department for Environment and Water with the Government of South Australia. "The bioluminescent sea will glow when it’s disturbed by a wave breaking or a splash in the water at night."

Nichols has been chasing and photographing bioluminescence for some time along our coast. Usually you need a stretch of mild weather and calm ocean conditions to spot the glow -- check, and check this past week. Also make sure the air is rather dry because the common spring and summer fogs that hug the beaches can ruin your experience.

He says you can see the glow with your naked eye, but you must make sure to limit any light pollution. He suggests going in the dead of night, at a time when the moon has either set or is near the new phase. Turn off any and all flashlights/phones and give your eyes a bit to adjust to the darkness. Even better is to go at low tide "when you can see your footprints glowing and turn a whole tidepool vibrant blue," he says.

"In June-October, if all of these conditions line up, you too may be able to check this off your bucket-list."