Curiouser and Curiouser on Oregon Coast: Lightning, Glowing Sand, Meteors
(Oregon Coast) – Lights in the sky, strange light flashes in the sand, and a little bit of travel advice for those wanting to avoid traffic jams on the Oregon coast this weekend. Also, minus tides are still playing a role in the fun times on these beaches. This weekend on the coast is full of a variety of interesting and entertaining natural events that can be nothing short of jaw dropping (above: skies above Cannon Beach earlier this summer).
The still-secret glowing sand phenomenon is showing up on the beaches. It was seen last week in Lincoln City and last night on the north coast, but that could mean it’s anywhere. It was a little more prominent near Cannon Beach than on the beaches of Manzanita, although patches of sand there showed the flashing critters in great abundance.
It manifests itself as tiny, blue-ish, green sparks beneath your feet when you walk at the tide line at night. It can be extremely faint, so many don’t even notice it – and very few people hit the beach at night anyway.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll find pools of sea water that have been standing awhile, and when you stomp your foot in these you see a sudden explosion of these tiny creatures – like a small galaxy was briefly created beneath you.
It’s been described as being “very Michael Jackson” – a reference to the lighted floor effect in one of his early 80’s music videos. Indeed, it looked like that last night in the dark of Hug Point State Park: as you moved your feet backwards they would flash into life.
This is caused by tiny, bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, which glow in a manner not too dissimilar from fireflies.
You’ll need a completely dark beach to see these, one with no light interference from streetlamps or homes, and no moonlight.
Lightning put on quite the show all over the state last night, including the coast. At Hug Point near Cannon Beach, where an extremely low tide and pitch black conditions prevailed last night, that glowing sand phenomenon was accompanied by the muted flashes in the east, behind the hills. This was a memorable and surreal sight: tiny flashes happened beneath your feet while larger sheet lightning-like flashes happened overhead.
The sky flashes were much less visible from the Manzanita area.
There does not appear to be any more lightning in the forecast for the region, although there remains enough humidity in northwest Oregon it seems a possibility in the future.
Some of the Perseid meteor showers are still visible at times. The latest seasonal session reached its height earlier this month, but some spectacular streaks were spotted in the wee hours of the night last week in really dark and clear spaces such as Lincoln City and Tierra Del Mar. There are still the last few traces of the Perseid meteor showers to be seen, but by now they’ll be few and far between.
As of late, coastal nights seem to be on the misty side, but some areas have been incredibly clear, allowing all sorts of stargazing possibilities. It depends on the night and location.
Some awe-inspiring minus tides continue to pop up, made even better by calm ocean conditions. Check the tide tables for your particular area as exact times and measurements will vary greatly, but this weekend they seem to be around minus two or three inches or so around 7 a.m.
More will show up at the end of September around September 28, as low as minus one foot at times.
Some travel advice for the North Oregon coast this weekend: this is the Hood to Coast Relay, where runners and their teams will be spilling into Seaside starting Friday or Saturday. This will make the roads rather cluttered – and increase traffic hazards – but it will also result in no lodging openings in places like Cannon Beach and Seaside. For a more relaxed time, you may want to stay just south of there, from Manzanita southward.
The central Oregon coast will be unaffected by any such madness, except the usual refugees from the valley heatwave.Wherever you are heading this weekend, make sure you have made lodging reservations well ahead of time. Do not wing it and just head to the beaches.
Seaside's cove area in a nocturnal mist
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