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Wild 'n Wacky on Oregon Coast: Freaky Facts, Fossils, Rumors

Published 07/21/2016 at 5:31 PM PDT - Updated 07/21/2016 at 6:21 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Fossils near Depoe Bay

(Oregon Coast) – Call it a latter day Believe It Or Not, without Robert Ripley. From fact to fairly fiction, Oregon's coastline is chock full of these. Fossil finds, bizarre plants, broken records to a curious if not laughable claim about a battle off these beaches, here's a potpourri of funky facts that will surprise.

Bizarre Bulbous Bulbs. What are those huge tube-like creatures on the beaches of the Oregon coast? They're actually plants, sort of. They're called bull kelp and they are a large, brown algae that grow in "forests" near the shore.

According to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, these kelp are annuals, completing their life cycle in one season, and can grow up to 20 meters (60 feet) in one year. At the bottom, their branching "holdfasts" anchor the kelp, although some are torn free in storms. Their long stipes (stems) tangle together to form large piles, as you see in the photograph. Their floats have a high proportion of carbon monoxide and to keep the blades (leaves) near the surface for photosynthesis. Their smooth, roundish shapes, when bobbing in the ocean, are sometimes confused with seals. Full story here.

Beach Fossil Madness. It's illegal to cut anything out of the rocks of the Oregon coast, but if you want to go hunting for ancient critters frozen in time that have been shaken loose by the tides, most beaches have something. It's easier to find in winter, however, when sand levels get really low and expose bedrock and agate beds, however. (Above: Strawberry Hill).

According to local experts, Oregon's "beaches are home to one of the heaviest concentrations of 15- to 30-million-year-old fossils in North America." Some of the greatest shell locations are at Charleston, north of Florence at Strawberry Hill, the small parking lot north of Seal Rock and the section of beach just north of Ona Beach State Park (near Waldport.)

Broken Records of the Oregon Coast. There is a lot of complexities and twists and turns when it comes to these claims. Many just aren't true.

One that definitely is true resides just north of Florence. Sea Lion Caves is the largest sea cave in the world The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed that in the '90s, noting the cave clocked in at 310 feet long, 164 feet wide and about 50 feet high.

In the '90s, Lincoln City had a claim that the D River was the shortest in the world. But news stories circulated that Guiness and its world records organization wound up having to share that record with a river in Montana.

According to the Guiness organization – which Oregon Coast Beach Connection contacted in the 2000's – this is not true. That official designation was never given to either the D River or Montana.

And what’s the shortest lighthouse on the west coast? That's Cape Meares, near Tillamook, clocking in at a stumpy 38 feet high. Size doesn't matter here, however, as it stands on a 217-foot-high cliff.

Wild 'n Wacky World War II Claims. Crazier still is the now-legendary and mysterious story of a patrol boat that got into a skirmish with two, maybe more submarines about ten miles off of Cape Lookout. The incident, rather hotly debated, actually involves Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in command of the vessel. The event itself is unproven, but his presence aboard the ship is well documented.

It was a sub chaser called SC-536, stationed out of Astoria, that was sent to investigate radar pings of at least one submarine off the Oregon coast on May 19, 1943. Accompanying it were two military blimps. All crews involved that night swear they had sunk a Japanese sub, and even witnessed the resultant oil slick and blood on the sea.

However, upon return to base, a higher-up general denied their written report and claimed it never happened. The military apparently still sticks to that view today, in spite of considerable written testimony by witnesses.

At the time, the only explanation for the cover-up seemed to be a matter of bad publicity and scaring those on the West Coast. This is not without precedent, as the government withheld for decades the fact German submarines were known to make maneuvers off New York and the East Coast. But why a cover-up regarding the Cape Lookout incident would continue now is unknown. Oregon Coast Hotels in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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�ed scallops.
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