Oregon Coast Photos of the Week: Weird Brown Foam
(Seaside, Oregon) – Seaside has recently been the recipient of loads of strange brown foam. The situation still lingers there, where it shows up fairly often, but it’s also been seen down on the central coast this month.
It is not pollution or some kind of oil spill. In fact, the culprit is a sign of a very healthy ocean: tiny, microscopic creatures called diatoms, which are a form of phytoplankton.
These shots, taken in fairly warm, sunny conditions on Thursday in Seaside, are of the area near “the cove” – which is the section of beach that hugs Tillamook Head. Currents cause the brown foam to show up more in some spots. Curiously, a fairly small patch of ocean (about 100 feet of length down the beach) had the really brown foam. North and south of that spot it was not nearly as pronounced.
Earlier this month, it started appearing along Lincoln County beaches, like Seal Rock, Newport and Depoe Bay, and this caused some residents to call the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) out of concern.
The DEQ office in Salem collected a sample, and analysis under a microscope confirmed it was indeed only this form of phytoplankton.
In Seaside, tourists will often flood local businesses and tourism entities with questions about the brown stuff, also fearful it’s pollution of some kind.
Diatoms are microscopic plant-like creatures that are actually responsible for most all sea foam you see on the beaches. They are about 100 micrometers long – or 1000 times the size of a virus. Still, they’re not visible with the naked eye.
The brown stuff often changes place – it moves around. It’s been seen as far south as Silver Point near Cannon Beach on one day this week, then the next day it was gone.
In this spot in Seaside on this day, it was causing really dark patches along with very dark, brown chunks of foam. These blobs of brown foam floated lazily along the waves. It also has the propensity to create dark, oily-looking patches in the sand as well as large tracts of brown foam and goo along the beaches.
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