I have searched for an answer to this question for years, to verify if it was true.

A man that lived on a river in the rugged part of the northern Washington Cascades told me an interesting story. He actually lived on the upper reaches of the Cascade River, a tributary, which eventually flows into the Skagit River.

The river is a high energy, steep gradient river full of rocks. Fast moving and cascading.

The man told me during a big flood flow, at night, he could hear the rocks and boulders bouncing around and bumping into each other. The most amazing thing is he said in the pitch black of night, he saw muted, periodic, random quick light flashes under water - creating an unusual effect. He and I speculated the flashes were produced by rocks colliding with each other. The rocks in the area were mostly granitic, perhaps with some gneiss.

I did not see it. Is this possible? I know you can get sparks from some rocks and minerals - but granite boulders - underwater!!? Any comments?


  • $\begingroup$ Ive been to a pretty magical hot springs with rocks that spark underwater as well ( I don’t want to disclose the location because its already blown up in recent years) its a really incredible thing to witness $\endgroup$
    – Jessie
    Nov 26, 2022 at 5:08

1 Answer 1


Is this possible?


I know you can get sparks from some rocks and minerals - but granite boulders [?]

Yep. Quartz is one of those minerals that "sparks". It is piezoelectric, and triboluminescent.

Here's a wonderful video of this phenomenon: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3ATribo.ogv

Granite is a rock which has plenty of quartz in it. By definition, granite has more than 20% quartz.


Why not? Those are properties of the quartz itself, not the surroundings. The light does not come from electric arcing of the air, it comes from electronic processes occurring within the crystal. The fact that there's water around it probably does not matter.


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