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When the Ocean Burps on Oregon / Washington Coast It's Insanely Cool

Published 03/31/21 at 1:55 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

When the Ocean Burps on Oregon / Washington Coast It's Insanely Cool

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – You're walking on a pleasant beach somewhere along the Oregon or Washington coastline, sometime between October and maybe late spring. Maybe it's up around Ocean Shores, maybe Manzanita, or perhaps down around Gold Beach. Along this long, pleasant expanse you spot a brown mass covering the beach almost entirely for 100 feet or more. It's nothing remarkable, you think to yourself. No big deal. (All photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)


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You're probably looking at what is called an ocean burp – or a mass of detritus. And it's a treasure trove of freaky finds and wowing bits. Sometimes there's stuff still alive in there as well. Laying in that seemingly - at first glance, anyway – pile of sea garbage could be all sorts of stunning stuff, like skate eggs that are still alive, elaborate sea shells, cockleshells, hermit crabs, squid eggs and somewhat rare rock finds.

Tiffany Boothe and Keith Chandler of Seaside Aquarium often talk about these discoveries over the years, reporting into Oregon Coast Beach Connection with regularity about these finds.

“When conditions are just right the ocean will kick up debris that has been collecting on the sea floor and distribute it onto the beach,” Boothe said.

Boothe and Chandler urge beachcombers to keep their eyes peeled on the beaches they're walking on as more engaging stuff is bound to be discovered. It happens a bit more in winter during stormy periods, but spring can provide gobs of these as well.

“If you see a patch of dark brown on the beach, go look through it because you'll find some cool stuff,” Chandler said.

Sea stars, sponges, volcanic rock pumice and sometimes bits and pieces of fish or mammals show up as well. Sometimes, species of starfish rarely seen out of the ocean get chucked up onto the beaches with these episodes. It's a massive cornucopia. Some of these ocean burps have covered enormous chunks of a beach; the aquarium noted one in 2012 that covered two whole blocks worth of Seaside's sands.

It's the live stuff that's the most amazing, and the first to get gone. Chandler said seagulls love these finds and make a feast on them.

“One minute they're happy and safe on the bottom of the ocean, and then all of a sudden they're staring into the eye of a seagull,” Chandler said.

Where and when to look? It's largely luck – and you need a long sandy area, not a rocky cliff, of course.

Squid eggs found by Seaside Aquarium

It's not possible to predict these events, Chandler said, but if two happen in close succession, there's a good chance another one or two upwellings of these objects will happen again. The conditions that create them are somewhat of a mystery – or at least very unpredictable, Chandler said.

Yet both Chandler and Boothe admit less populated beaches will likely yield more interesting stuff as they're less picked over. Which means the farther south you go into remote parts of the Oregon coast or far north into the Washington coast, these could be a goldmine. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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