The science behind Liquid Light Fantastic Oceans
The science behind Liquid Light Fantastic Oceans


The science behind Liquid Light
Bioluminescence is nature’s light display.

Imagine seeing waves that glow a vibrant blue in the dark of night. Or a silent, radiating sea creature, floating like a ghostly lantern. This isn’t the beginning of a science fiction story, it’s one of nature’s most beautiful and captivating spectacles: bioluminescence. This natural phenomenon is prevalent in jellyfish, which is why these wonderful creatures are the inspiration behind Liquid Light during Vivid 2018.

What is bioluminescence?

While it looks spectacular and other-worldly, bioluminescence is not as strange as it seems. According to National Geographic “bioluminescence is light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism.” Just like we do, some creatures need light to go about their evening activities. Over time these creatures developed the ability to create and manipulate light which resulted in a huge evolutionary advantage. Just look at the jellyfish, which have survived for over 500 million years!

This bright shiny phenomenon is common in the ocean and can be seen in everything from fish to sea stars, microscopic bacteria, jellyfish and squid. But, it’s not only creatures and organisms of the deep that can create their own light. Fireflies and glow worms are a common example of land-dwelling bioluminescent organisms.

How do organisms use bioluminescence?

As most parts of the sea are dim or dark all the time, light is a very useful tool in the ocean. In fact, 85% of light that penetrates the ocean’s surface will not travel deeper than 10 meters. Clever sea critters have worked out that blue and green light travels the furthest underwater and most bioluminescent organisms use these colours to light their underwater world.

From jellyfish to tiny krill, bioluminescent organisms use light to communicate, attract prey and potential mates or to distract or scare threats. The Periphilla jellyfish scare predators by releasing a packet that bursts into rocket-like sparkles as it travels away from the jellyfish. Sounds just like fireworks!

Want to see glowing jellyfish in Sydney?

You’re in luck. The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is home to a range of jellyfish found in the waters off Australia. Located a short stroll from Cockle Bay Wharf, the aquarium is the best place to get up close and personal with these glowing beauties while staying dry this winter!

Fantastic Oceans and Liquid Light

Fantastic Oceans is one of the most anticipated displays of the 2018 Vivid program.

According to Vivid Sydney Water features come to life as jelly fish in a fantastic display of colour; special fountains emulate corals and deep-sea flora; lasers ripple like waves of the ocean or etch the silhouette of creatures from the deep. Moving-head lighting technologies emit bright beams of light skyward — like glistening shards of sunlight piercing the surface of this fantastic underwater world. For visitors, a walk through Darling Harbour becomes a dream-like dive into the ocean depths.”

Want to create your own jellyfish inspired display? Visit Cockle Bay Wharf and meet our mad scientists who’ll help you create your own Liquid Light artwork. Then stand back and watch in wonder as it’s projected onto a giant jellyfish high above Town Square.