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December 1 2012

Blood Red Ocean: Not Exactly The End of Days

It looks like something straight out of Dr. Seuss's world, but this is no imaginary scene. A form of algae has been spreading across Australia's eastern coast since Tuesday, turning the water an alarming shade of red and forcing at least ten beaches, including Sydney's popular Bondi Beach, to close.

Known as an algae bloom or "red tide," the event occurs when unicellular organisms—in this case dinoflagellates from the genus Noctiluca—find optimal conditions (including sunlight and nutrients) and reproduce quickly. "It's sort of like the rapid growth of bacteria," said Stanford University marine biologist William F. Gilly.

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