Oregon Coast Mystery of Puzzling Purple Waves Solved

Published 08/28/2015 at 7:04 PM PDT - Updated 08/28/2015 at 7:34 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) - Those funky, freaky purple waves that had Oregon coast scientists completely puzzled has likely been solved. According Dr. Caren Braby of the Newport office of Oregon Department and Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), it is a jellyfish-like creature called a salp. But there may be a surprise twist as to why there are so many. (Photo above by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

While completely harmless and in fact rather pretty, the purple waves came to light because of an Oregon Coast Beach Connection reader, and it created a huge stir among scientists from various agencies. It wasn't a big deal because it was worrisome in anyway, it was simply that none of the experts had ever seen anything like that.

When Oregon Coast Beach Connection passed around the photos to agencies like ODFW, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Health Authority and a few others, it immediately had at least a dozen different scientists and naturalists chatting. It had reached the university level as well. While not visible to the public, behind the scenes this was a really big deal.

A few educated guesses were thrown around, but all involved said it would be impossible to tell without a water sample.

Finally, it was Braby's team that got hold of one from Clatsop Beach, and she determined it was a small jellyfish-like create called a salp.

"My staff have been communicating with WDFW and taken samples at Clatsop Beach," Braby said. "They are a huge bloom of juvenile salps - a gelatinous [tunicate] more closely related to fish than to jellies."

In its early larval stages, the salp has a spine, but looses it as it fully becomes a salp, thus making it related to vertebrates.

Dr. Bill Hanshumaker at the Hatfield Marine Science Center said he wasn't completely convinced, but he admitted it sounded good. Either way, he was in awe of how unprecedented these purple waves were.

"I've been here 25 years and I've never seen anything like it," Hanshumaker said.

Above: pink salps in Manzanita in 2010.

Why the salps are this intense a shade of purple isn't known, but Oregon Coast Beach Connection did snap photographs of a similar incident in 2010 when salps hit the north coast in such abundance they created a pink tide.

Braby agreed this entire sight is unusual, and why they are here in such numbers is an oddity as well.

The how and why is the interesting twist that could involve the infamous "blob," an area of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean that scientists believe is contributing to the current drought patterns of the West.

"This may be an unusual sight for us because of two or more possible (hypothetical) reasons: 1) they may be blooming significantly this year due to unusual ocean conditions, or 2) they are usually out there but this year they are onshore due to the suppressed upwelling (the 'blob') pressed up alongshore."

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium photographed the salps today - Friday - as well.

"The purple color is due to the mass concentration of them washing in," Boothe said. "We are also having a small diatom bloom."

Diatoms turn the water brown. This hits the Seaside, Gearhart and Warrenton area periodically and can be so heavy it looks like brown oil. But it is, in fact, a sign of a healthy ocean in good enough shape that lots of little critters can explode in population.

Boothe also found numerous gooseberries on the beach, another tiny jellyfish, shown in the picture below with a mushy-lookng set of salps. More about salps and gooseberries

For those the Oregon coast in the next week or two, you may get to witness a first-ever event. You may get to see a bit of history, if it never happens again.

More photos below from Boothe, including what the creatures look like in their natural environment:



Below: purple waves in Neksowin this month, courtesy Jeanine Sbisa


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´┐Żed scallops.
Oregon Coast event or adventure you can't miss
Pacific City, Oregon

 


Breathtaking high panoramic beach views from oceanfront rooms, spacious family suites & fully equipped cottages.  Known for gracious hospitality, the sparkling clean Sea Horse features a heated indoor pool, dramatic oceanfront spa, great whale watching, free deluxe continental breakfast, conference room, free casino shuttle & HBO.  Fireplaces, private decks and spas are available in select rooms.  Close to shops, golf, fishing & restaurants.  Pets are welcome in select rooms.  Senior discounts.  Kids 18 and under stay free in their parent's room.  Very attractive rates.
Lincoln City’s only resort hotel built right on the beach with all oceanfront rooms - nestled against a rugged cliffside overlooking a soft, sandy beach. Dine in penthouse restaurant and bar, for casual meal or candlelight dinner. An array of seafood specialties, juicy steaks and other Northwest favorites, including decadent Sunday buffet. Rooms range from bedrooms to studios to 1-bedroom suites with microwaves and refrigerators to full kitchens. Also, wi-fi, spa, saunas, exercise room and year-round heated swimming pool. Kids will love the game room and easy beach access. Full-service conference/meeting rooms for that inspirational retreat; extensive wedding possibilities.

 

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Oregon Coast Vacation Rentals - A Massive List
Find dozens of beach rentals in Gearhart, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats, Florence
Huge Waves, High Wind Warning for Oregon Coast This Week
High wind warning in effect from Wednesday afternoon to late that evening; 27-ft waves possible
Highlights of N. Oregon Coast's Tillamook County This Month: Food, Music
Garibaldi events, Pacific City events, Manzanita events
Central Oregon Coast Event Highlights: Lincoln City Gets Spooky and Delicious
A series of awesome events fill the roster in Lincoln City for the next month. Lincoln City events
New Irish-Style Beer Comes to Oregon Coast's Pelican Brewery
Restaurant news: Sea'N Red, a traditional Irish-style Red Ale, Pacific City
Oregon Coast Travel: Difficult But Comic Lessons the Beach Can Teach
Yet the beach has a way of showing you who's boss. Sometimes it's funny. Cape Kiwanda, Newport bayfront, safety, Lincoln City
Startlingly Cool History Exhibits at Oregon Coast Museum, Oct. 20 Event
Ancient cellphones, 100-yr-old Chinese coins and other striking finds. Newort events
Oregon Coast Weather Brings Curiosities: Dragonflies, Bubble-like Jellyfish
Dragonflies made a stunning appearance and an engaging form of jellyfish started popping up. Lodging, science

Back to Oregon Coast

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