At first glance, it looks as if the sea is glowing bright with millions of surreal blue stars.
However, the color isn’t caused by some magical phenomenon, or plankton that have evolved to glow in order to distract potential predators. The indigo glow is actually the result of an ecological disaster.
As night falls on Hong Kong, the toxic pollution present in the water turns the shoreline an eerie neon blue. Fertilizer, pig manure and sewage runoff (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) are to blame for the nutrient-rich seawater.
This deadly waste gets eaten by bioluminescent Noctiluca scintillans, also called “sea ghost,” a single-cell organism that has been blooming throughout the waters surrounding the mega-city.
Noctiluca gives off a glow when agitated, or by the movement of crashing waves.
Despite the fact that Noctiluca don’t produce neurotoxins, when their numbers grow too large, these algae blooms can be extremely destructive — disrupting the food chain and harming other marine life, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye.
The long exposure photographs above captured this occurrence with stunning clarity.