Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Oregon Coast Answers: What Are Those Snake-like Tubes or Whips?

Published 11/03/2013

(Oregon Coast) – What are those big, weird snake-like tubes you find on Oregon beaches? Or perhaps they look like big whips that you're finding in the sand? Or perhaps you're wondering about those huge piles of alien-looking bulbs and whips on the beach?

It's a seaweed (or a large algae) commonly called Bull kelp – or Bull Whip Kelp or Ribbon Kelp. The scientific name is Nereocystis luetkeana.

Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

According to the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Bull Kelp are a large, brown algae that grow in "forests" near the shore. These kelp are annuals, completing their life cycle in one season, and can grow up to 20 meters (60 feet) in one year.

They grow in enormous fields just offshore and in areas too deep to be affected by tides, but you can sometimes see their roundish bulb heads bobbing in the ocean. Bull kelp are comprised of a single stalk (called a stipe) which attaches to rock on the ocean bed, while at the top is that large bulb and numerous ribbon-like blades. The bulb is filled with carbon monoxide, which is what causes it to float upright in the ocean.

What causes these things to show up on Oregon coast beaches? Usually storms pull them off their rocky anchor points and they wind up in those big, surreal piles.

Most of the ones you see on the Oregon coast are a few feet long to maybe 20 or 30 feet long, but they can grow up to over 100 feet in length. About half the time, they are piled up in enormous bundles, all wrapped up around each other like something out of an alien sci-fi movie.

Often, bull kelp are seen bobbing in the ocean and their brown bulbs can be mistaken for the heads of seals just hanging out offshore – as seals sometimes do.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center says they form an intricate aquatic habitat that is vital to the survival of many coastal species. Those blades coming off the bull kelp are leaves in a sense, and they are fed via photosynthesis that is made possible by the big bulbs that keep them afloat.

Interestingly enough, bull kelp off the Oregon coast are quite edible, though you'll want to harvest them fresh from their strand in the ocean, which means don't go trying to gobble them off the beach when you find them there.

They are said to be quite delicious and tender when cooked or marinated. More about Oregon coast science here.



More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....


A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
Oregon Coast event or adventure you can't miss
Pacific City, Oregon



LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Gobs of Cool Creatures, Odd Finds on Oregon Coast Beaches Now
A brief walk along any Oregon coast beach can yield bundles of wonders, especially after storms. Science, Seaside Aquarium
Oregon Coast Wildlife Right Now; Possible Northern Lights Glow
Wildlife are in abundance near the beaches and there's a chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis. Science, astronomy
First Storms of Season May Bring 30-ft Waves to Oregon Coast
Some gnarly waves will be battering the beaches of the Oregon coast later this week
Best Beaches of the Oregon Coast at Nighttime: Safest, Most Impressive
Finding a dark beach with no light interference on a clear eve will make for something wondrous
A Tricky Moon for Beaches and Equinox Celebrations near Oregon Coast
Harvest Moon, two star parties this Saturday, and the autumnal equinox
Get Ready for Second Summer on Oregon Coast: Warmest Through October
Many still don't know this, but September and early October see the beaches at their finest. Weather
Oregon Coast Beaches Need a Cleaning: Join SOLVE on Sept. 24
Time to hit the beaches of the Oregon coast with the annual SOLVE Beach and Riverside Cleanup
Bevy of Beachy Events: Labor Day Weekend Highlights on Oregon Coast
There's a lot to do and see out on the beaches - even more than meets the eye. Seaside events, Manzanita events, Tillamook events, Lincoln City events, Yachats events

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted