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When a 'Gigantic Jellyfish' Found on Oregon Coast Isn't What It Seems

Published 03/08/23 at 5:43 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

When a 'Gigantic Jellyfish' Found on Oregon Coast Isn't What It Seems

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – An average day at the beach it would seem, albeit the scenery and lighting conditions were extraordinary. Portlander Pilar French is dinging around Cannon Beach with her two pups, snapping some impressive photos. One in particular she felt Oregon Coast Beach Connection needed to see. (Above: photo courtesy Pilar French)

She'd found something, well, trippy. A giant jellyfish it appeared to be. Just enormous.

“I touched it with my foot and it jiggled like jello,” she said.

Here at Oregon Coast Beach Connection, it looked like a jellyfish as well, and we passed it onto Seaside Aquarium for a positive ID. It turns out this was a sort of grisly find – but a super interesting revelation about the Oregon coast's ecosystem.

What French had jostled with her foot was likely an internal organ from one of the dead whales that washed in a couple of months ago.

“Maybe part of its stomach,” said Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium. “We have bones from the sperm whale washing ashore in Gearhart too. At one point what was left of the intestines from the baby gray whale were also found on Gearhart beach.”

Photo Seaside Aquarium: the sperm whale in its original spot in January

Back in late January, a total of four different dead whale carcasses washed up within a couple of weeks. One was a 40-foot sperm whale that landed near the wreck of the Peter Iredale, and another was a baby gray that showed up just a couple of hundred feet away within a week. An extraordinary set of coincidences that sent many of the public into a tizzy, it was simply that: a coincidence. Fourth Whale Carcass on Oregon Coast in Two Weeks, This Time Cannon Beach, Video

The whale carcasses were left to the tides and to animals living in the area, not buried as Oregon officials often do.

Now, however, bits of their guts are showing up in odd places. That's unpleasant to know, but it should serve as some kind of advisory to watch what you touch on the beach – or let your dogs near.

Photo Seaside Aquarium: the sperm whale in its new spot farther south, definitely decomposing

Boothe said large surf and the recent high tides moved the sperm whale about a half mile south of the Iredale.

“It also continues to be a great food source for a variety of scavengers, most notably bald eagles,” Boothe said.

If you find some part of these whales, you don't want to touch them as these decaying chunks can carry diseases to you or your dog.

However, there's some legal issues here you may want to heed as well.

“Keep in mind that it is illegal to collect or be in possession of any parts of an endangered animal, not to mention they smell awful,” Boothe said.

So how long does it take for a whale to totally decompose? Boothe said approximately nine months. So the stinky remnants of the sperm whale will likely be around through the end of summer. She included some before and after photographs of a whale on the south Washington coast about ten years ago to illustrate this (see at bottom of story).

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

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