Dolphins That Glow In The Dark

I just returned from our annual California Southern Channel Islands trip aboard the vessel Conception of Truth Aquatics boat charters.  The weather was less than cooperative, to be honest.  The swells along the outer islands were bigger than I would’ve liked, and we were not able to make it to my favorite, Santa Barbara Island.   To matters even less helpful, San Clemente Island was closed to divers.  And so, we were relegated to the southeast side of Catalina Island, where the kelp has been all but gone for the last three years and taken over by invasive Sargassum.  The diving was less than ideal.  However, on the night leading out, we witnessed one of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen in all the oceans.  I had seen it a couple times before, but it wasn’t until now that I was able to capture it with my camera.


As our boat was traveling across the Santa Barbara channel toward the southern islands, common dolphins, many of them, came in to ride our bow wave. This in of itself is not unusual, but what we witnessed as they were doing it, was.  The water that night was filled with an endless sea of bioluminescent plankton, and as the dolphins cut through the water, the dolphins, and the water trailing behind them, glowed a beautiful blue light.  As banal as this may sound, it was the stuff of fantasy, magic, and dreams.  And fortunately, I was able to capture it for the first time ever.


Digital camera and low light sensitivity have improved immensely in recent years.  With my Nikon D810 I was able to bump my ISO up to 51200 (that’s tech talk for super light sensitive), open my shutter for 0.5 seconds, and hold my camera over the railing of the boat and capture ghostly images of this amazing natural phenomenon.  These images admittedly don’t do the experience justice, but I’m thrilled to have captured a blur of what I saw.

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