Glowing Sand on Oregon Coast, but Minus Tides a Mystery
(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – It may be a moot point now, but for at least a couple days, the Oregon coast was exhibiting more than a few enticing aspects of the whole “Second Summer,” including glorious weather, glowing sand and some apparently strange low tide events.
Clear skies and no wind helped fire up some tiny critters in the ocean that create what’s known as the “glowing sand” phenomenon, which really made a striking appearance in Cannon Beach and Manzanita on Monday night.
The creatures in question are a form of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates, which are microscopic and are part of the basic food chain in the ocean. These, given the right conditions, show up on wet sand after dark as tiny, bluish green sparks that ignite when you walk on them.
Look for a dark beach with no ambient light from homes, streetlamps or the moon, and you may be able to find them.
In this case, they showed up in great numbers in at least one spot at the southern end of Cannon Beach and in Manzanita. Conditions for these were prime, so it’s quite possible the dinoflagellates were in other parts of the Oregon coast as well.
In this particular spot in Cannon Beach, there were some large pools of water where the creatures really showed themselves off. In these situations, when you put your foot in the pools, it’s like a small galaxy explodes beneath your feet for a second. It’s quite spectacular.
In Manzanita, they were fainter, possibly because some drizzle had moved in, which often kills off this form of phytoplankton. But they were definitely in the wetter sand.
Dinoflagellates give off energy when touched or moved, much like a firefly.
"We tried numerous times, like dozens of times, to get pictures of this," said BeachConnection.net editor Andre' Hagestedt. "But no go. They're just too faint to register on a regular digital camera."
Also spectacular was the minus tide event hitting this part of the coast, although how spectacular this was may be up for grabs. At least one observer from BeachConnection.net noted the tide line was some 200 feet farther out than normal. Usually, at this spot in Cannon Beach, the tide is in and around this rock structure. However, at around 10 p.m. – which was officially posted as a .1-foot minus tide – the water line appeared to be around 200 feet out beyond that rock.
Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, doubted that story.
“We’ve got a half moon-driven tide right now, so there’s not big tides either way,” Chandler said.
Chandler believed the tide could not be that far out, and a .1 minus tide is not that much of a minus tide.
Still, BeachConnection.net editor Andre’ Hagestedt stands by his observation of that tide situation, so it may well be a mystery how big of a low tide event that actually was on Monday night.
The Second Summer weather situation may have dissipated for a while on the coast, as the next few days call for rain on the beaches – at least through the weekend. Monday and much of next week looks a bit more on the sunny side and with temps in the 60’s, however.
Newport's Nye Beach area can sometimes be where the glowing sand shows up.
More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....
LATEST OREGON COAST NEWS STORIES
Back to Oregon Coast