Lights in Irish Sea 'are natural'

 

Spectacular green neon flashes flaring up the sea along Ireland’s east coast is a harmless natural phenomenon, marine experts said today.

Hardy swimmers taking dips after dark in popular outdoor bathing spots like the Forty Foot and Killiney Bay in Dublin have been enjoying the aquatic light show in recent weeks.

Bodies striking through the evening waves are being illuminated by a ghostly glow-in-the-dark plankton - a floating bloom of algae which fires up into a fluorescent sparkle when disturbed.

One regular swimmer, Richard Allan (35) from Prestwick in Scotland but now living in Dublin, described it as a magical experience.

“It’s like witnessing other natural phenomena like a meteor shower or solar eclipse - the only difference being you’re right up close to this,” he said.

The computer engineer who swims at the Forty Foot admitted being sheepish about getting into the water when he first spotted the spectral glow around other dippers, fearing it could be radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear plant in the UK. 

“I was a bit apprehensive at the start, but after reading up about it I’ve been back a few times,” he said.

“It’s less apparent when you’re stationary, but if you or someone close to you is moving or splashing about, then you’re treated to this spectacular light show, with patterns of blue-ish white light appearing and disappearing up to ten feet around where the water is disturbed.”

Another swimmer, Ronan Hayes (42) from Glasthule, south Dublin, said: “It really is

amazing looking - it’s like you’re spreading underwater magic dust or stars with each swish of your arms through the sea. It’s supernatural looking.” Unsurprisingly, the Marine Institute has a more scientific description for the phantom-like sightings, insisting it is most likely a bioluminescent plankton called Noctiluca scintillans - sometimes known as Sea Ghost or Fire of Sea.

The institute’s Dr John Joyce said the last time there was a large bloom of the algae spotted off the Irish coast was in the south west, around Dunmore East, Co Waterford, in 2004.

PA