Passengers listen as Leslie Kretschmar, director of At Sea Programs at the Ocean Institute, talks about deploying a net into the ocean during the Bioluminescence Cruise on Friday, June 23. Photo: Allison Jarrell

By Kristina Pritchett

As the net was lifted onto the R/V Sea Explorer, the crowd grew quiet as they waited to see if anything would glow.

During the Ocean Institute’s Bioluminescence Night Cruise on Friday, June 23, plankton illuminated a shade of blue, like miniature glowsticks.

The scientific trip teaches guests about different marine animals that glow in the dark and allows them to explore the nocturnal world of marine birds, sea lions and plankton.

Crew members deployed a net 600 feet into the ocean to capture the organisms which have the ability to make their own light.

“Bioluminescence occurs when animals are disrupted,” a crew member said as the blue light glowed on and off.

Guests are able to learn different facts about animals including pelicans, California sea lions, grunions and other birds that can be spotted in the Dana Point Harbor.

The next trip is scheduled for Friday, July 21. For more information, visit

Did you know?

  • As pelicans mature, their heads turn white
  • Birds with eyes on the sides of their heads have almost 360 degrees of vision so they can watch for predators
  • Birds that are seen in the day are pretty restricted to the daytime because they can’t see as well at night
  • Grunions come onto the local beaches during new and full moons for a four-day period
  • California sea lions have external ear flaps and they can rotate their hind flippers
  • Animals use bioluminescence light to communicate, find food, find a mate and more


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