Glowing blue waves off Orange County coast make for thrilling start to New Year

Jessica De Nova Image
Friday, January 5, 2024
Glowing blue waves off OC coast make for electric start to New Year
Guests on a recent OC whale-watching tour boat got the dual thrills of glowing blue waves below them and a SpaceX launch in the skies above.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The ocean is putting on a neon blue show with several nights of bioluminescence, prompting some whale watching tour companies to open night tours.

Captain Larry Hartman welcomed Eyewitness News aboard the Catallac this past Tuesday.

With a picturesque view of Newport Harbor lit up in holiday magic, we set off on our night tour with Davey's Locker to search for a more natural light spectacle: bioluminescence.

Since seeing and filming it for the first time in 2018, Patrick Coyne was hooked.

"It's something that's extremely magical," Coyne said. "It's something that you really only see in fairy tales and movies. When waves are crashing blue at night and it glows like crazy, it's something that you can't believe."

Coyne follows the natural phenomenon, capturing moments and sharing them on social media.

"Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction due to a microorganism called a dinoflagellate and it's a defense mechanism, so they light up at night. There's really no way of predicting it. That's the hard part," Coyne said.

A good indicator bioluminescence may happen is a red tide. That's a reddish-brown color seen in the water in the daytime when these organisms swim toward the surface in large numbers. Agitation of these phytoplankton at night sometimes results in an electric blue display.

About a mile offshore, we stared eagerly into the dark abyss. Captain's rules: Camera lights off.

So far, we had a fun ride, saw a few sea lions, but we were still hopeful.

After about an hour, it was time to turn back, a little disheartened, when back in the harbor suddenly, there it was trailing behind our boat. Everyone scrambled to capture it on video.

"It's wild. It's so cool. Yeah, it's awesome," Miranda Kral said.

Kral, like many there that night, drove from Los Angeles to see this. She admitted she was losing hope for a second.

"Um a little bit. We saw it a little bit in the beginning and then a dolphin popped up and it was all over the dolphin and then we lost it. But it's super cool, so worth it," Kral said.

A SpaceX rocket launch upon disembarking the Catallac made for the perfect ending to a night of exploration.

Staff at Davey's locker doesn't get much of a heads up for when these events pop up, so you have to keep an eye on their website for when these tours happen.