Glowing Sand Critters on Oregon Coast Spotted Again
(Manzanita, Oregon) – One of the more unusual and delightful secrets of the Oregon coast is the glowing sand phenomenon. And it's been back recently. (Above: Manzanita at night last week, where fishing boats light up the sky and surf in surreal ways. Glowing sand was spotted here)
Last week, Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff spotted the tiny bioluminescent creatures on the dark beaches of Manzanita and Cannon Beach, and conditions then weren't that prime. They are better now, so there are more possibilities you can see this surreal sight.
They show up in the sand as tiny, greenish-bluish sparks, mostly in wet sand that is near where the tide is at that moment. You'll need to find a very dark beach at night, with no light interference from street lights or the moon – which means you may have to wait for a cloudy night or until the moon descends. (Above: a closeup of a dinoflagellate - photo Dr. Edith Widder, www.teamorca.org )
Rub your feet in the sand, going backwards, and as the sand kicks up you'll see those tiny flashes of light.
If you're really lucky, they'll be lurking in a pool of water and what you'll see is a sudden galaxy of teeny stars explode under your foot.
The cause is a form of phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, nearly-microscopic plant-creatures that are bioluminescent, like fireflies. They give off a sudden glow when their cell wall is touched.
Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium explained a bit more about these exotic creatures.
“Bioluminescence is the light produced by a chemical reaction that occurs in an organism,” said Boothe. “It occurs at all depths in the ocean, but is most commonly observed at the surface. Bioluminescence is the only source of light in the deep ocean where sunlight does not penetrate.”
It is, unfortunately, so faint that it's almost impossible to photograph.
Last week, its presence was so faint it was barely visible – really only noticeable if you're a veteran at finding these and you know what to look for.
This week's drier conditions with sunny days greatly increases your chances of seeing them right now. Although it is not guaranteed. They seem to be more visible just after a stretch of sunny days followed by storms, or vice versa. This allows them to get “charged up” by the sunlight and stormy waves churn them up and deposit them on the beaches. It moves around, however, and some beaches may show it while others won't.
You'll want to find unlit, sandy beaches, like those in some parts of Lincoln City, Gleneden Beach, Newport, northern Yachats, Waldport, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Oceanside, southern Pacific City (away from the car traffic on the sand), Tierra Del Mar and Warrenton. Seaside's beach is generally too lit up to see it, except at the very northern end by 12th Ave.
They can appear in bays, like Nehalem Bay or Yaquina Bay. When you run your hand through the water it will manifest as an eerie bluish glow in the wake of your hand.
Seaside at night
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