Tasmanian bioluminescent just the start of natural wonders

NATURAL WONDER: The Aurora Australis, captured near Ulverstone. Insets: glow worms inside the Marakoopa Caves, and sea sparkles on the North-West Coast. Pictures: Martin George, Julie Head.

NATURAL WONDER: The Aurora Australis, captured near Ulverstone. Insets: glow worms inside the Marakoopa Caves, and sea sparkles on the North-West Coast. Pictures: Martin George, Julie Head.

The bioluminescent plankton that illuminated Tasmanian coastlines captured the attention of nature lovers across the world.

The noctiluca scintillans (or more easily said and spelt as ‘sea sparkle blooms’) is actually plankton, which glows neon blue when it’s disturbed, Institute of Marine and Antartic Science’s Christopher Bolch told Fairfax Media.

The phenomena has been in Tasmanian waters for some years, Dr Bolch said.

It most often appears in calm yet warm ocean waters.

However, it’s not the only natural phenomena that Tasmania boasts.

The Apple Isle is also known as one of the best places in the country for photographers to capture the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights.

Astronomer Martin George said the aurora’s display – bright, neon colours in the night sky, hard to see by the naked eye – was caused by sun particles.

“It reaches a peak about every 10 or 11 years, corresponding with the peaks in solar activity,” Mr George said, who also runs the planetarium at Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

“However, even in between times (like now) we still sometimes see displays.”

If you want to see an aurora, Mr George said, you’ve got to put in the hard yards.

“The best chance of seeing them is to go out every clear night and watch the sky for a while,” he said.

“They are hard to predict in advance but sometimes solar activity can give us a warning of one or two days that we may be more likely to see a display.”

For those who are looking for a more constant, reliable glow-in-the-dark experience: go underground.

You can even experience it during the day.

The fungus gnat larvae is more commonly known by its more romantic moniker: glow worm.

Glow worms, in Tasmania, are most commonly found in caves, Marakoopa caves senior guide Haydn Stedman said.

They can also be found in the forests around Mount Field.

Mr Stedman said that while the glow was a beautiful twinkle to behold among otherwise dark places, the lights had sinister undertones.

“The light attracts flying insects, which the glow worms then eat,” Mr Stedman said.

The glow worm population at Marakoopa Caves is just begging to get back on track, after it was affected by the 2016 floods.

Mr Stedman said the glow worm’s population tended to swell in summer.

“The best time to see them is about 1pm to 2pm, that’s when they tend to shine the brightest,” he said.

“They’re a link to the ecosystem that you don’t always consider.”

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