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Discovering the Unexplainable on the Oregon Coast

Published 05/19/22 at 5:15 AM PST
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Discovering the Unexplainable on the Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – For a seriously long time now, as in decades, I've been more than a little obsessed with the Oregon coast. Especially its oddities. This obsession in itself is a bit of an oddity, as I grew up hating the coast. As a kid and later a teenager, it just rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn't until my mid 20s when something started to click: when I discovered hidden little Oceanside, actually. Now that had me intrigued. (Above: Yachats at night looks alien. Photo Andre' GW Hagestedt)

Yet it was one night in Neskowin a year or two later, that I saw something freaky which I still can't completely explain to this day. And it was that incident that set the tone for me and gradually pulled me in. Being a science nerd underneath it all, and someone who was fascinated by wacky stuff like ghosts and UFO's (though I don't believe in them), these shores made the perfect point of research for that which is out there. After all, real science is a lot trippier than Sci-Fi.

One night in the late '80s I went to Neskowin with my girlfriend at the time, and we hit the beach rather late. It was Friday the 13, actually – the second one in a month, as February and March both had them. It was a full moon but overcast, which added plenty of atmosphere all its own.

Waiting for us was someone else's bonfire, which was gleefully serendipitous. As we sat there drinking champagne, I started to notice something unusual on the horizon. It was pitch black out there, but somewhere on or near the horizon was a faint, undulating, red glow. As we talked and drank, for ten minutes I watched it change shape and fade in and out. Finally I pointed it out to her, and she saw it too. OK, cool, so I wasn't going nuts. So for the next 20 minutes or so we watched it together, with speculations about evermore outrageous causes such as UFO's or ghosts or submarines.

"Monster" at Manzanita one night (photo Andre' GW Hagestedt)

Here was the thing: it appeared to be on the water, so it was either a reflection from above or something glowing from below. It was red, so it couldn't be the full moon reflecting on the water – right? It completely filled me with awe and pure confusion for years after.

In the meantime, I had heard about “glowing sand” from a friend who used to live in Lincoln City, and finally one night in Newport I saw it. Little blue / green sparkles beneath our feet. I mentioned it to my three friends (yes, we had all been imbibing), and they were relieved to find out I'd seen it too.

Then came one stormy spring day in the early '90s, and as I took that twisting turn above Devil's Churn on the central Oregon coast I saw something else that completely stumped me. It looked like globs of snow going the wrong direction: it turned to be sudsy ocean foam flying upwards. Mind blown.

Later in the '90s I discover that glowing phytoplankton on the beaches and flying foam are much the same thing: forms of phytoplankton.

Around this time, I was interviewing a now-famous scientist named Dr. Edith Widder about glowing phytoplankton, and I asked her about the red glow in Neskowin. She said there is such a thing as red tide, but it's too cold on the Oregon coast for that. Her final answer gave me the chills and really set me on this path: "But there are a lot of things out there we don't know about."

I still don't know what I saw, but I think it might've been the red glow of a fishing vessel way out there.

Green flash at sunset, Seaside (Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Not long after that I start hearing about the green flash at sunset, and then manage to see that numerous times between 2000 and 2012, but capturing it on camera only a few times.

Coastal bars soon became another final frontier as well: I've seen wild stuff there I can't explain on many occasions. Coasties know how to live it up in surreal fashion sometimes, while liquored-up tourists can truly make for some bizarre spectacles. It's so David Lynch at times.

By the late 2000s Oregon Coast Beach Connection was in existence, and then some of the real discoveries happened. Like singing sands: as I did more research on that I realized I had actually heard it before. As a kid in Waldport (staying at the Pat Boone Inn, actually), I heard the dunes there making that miraculous violin noise. It stopped me in my tracks and made me shake my head as if to wake myself up.

I was the one who pointed out some quirky curves at Rockaway Beach to geologist Tom Horning, and he confirmed, that yes, Twin Rocks alters the beach in front of it. A new discovery. Even just last year, I helped discover some new ghost forests in Coos Bay and Netarts.

The list goes on and includes lots of coastal history no one else has bothered to write about and even some astronomy explanations. It's been a wild ride – and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. Wait 'till you see what I'm finding about the Washington coast as we expand northward.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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