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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.

Summer Cometh: Are you ready?

Oregon Coast Science Goes Deeper Than Meets the Eye

Gooseberry photos by Tiffany Boothe

(Oregon Coast) - A closer look at Oregon’s beaches often reveals new things, but it can create more questions than it answers. It certainly proves there's much more to the geology and biology of the Oregon coast than meets the eye.

An up close peek in early summer at the sands at Hug Point – near Cannon Beach - showed some tiny wonders appearing on the beach. Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe found a miniscule creature called the gooseberry – or comb jellies. Their scientific name is Pleurobrachia, and Boothe says they periodically show up on the Oregon coast when west winds push them onshore.

“They are both residents of near shore and open ocean habitats,” Boothe said. “They are abundant at times along the West Coast, but as with all jellies they are not seasonal. They can wash up anytime. They can swim, but not against the ocean's currents. So like the purple sails (which washed up recently in great abundance, causing that fishy smell), they are at the mercy of the ocean. Strong west winds will strand them on the beach.”

More gooseberries

Gooseberries are barely a quarter inch in diameter, and look like big bubbles sitting by the tide line.

They are actually completed unrelated to jellyfish, although these translucent, spherical creatures are often mistaken for them. Gooseberries come with two feathery tentacles, which can be retracted into special pouches. The name comb jelly refers to the eight rows of hair-like cilia on their bodies, which vibrate and enables them to swim.

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Boothe says they also differ from regular jellies because they have no stinging cells (called nematocysts). “They capture their food with a transparent mucous 'net,' ‘ Boothe said. “They are strictly carnivores, feeding on a variety of platonic animals. They are both residents of near shore and open ocean habitats.”

Close-up of sand reveals startling colors

Even more striking about them: at night, they are bioluminescent, meaning they glow.

Boothe’s close-up shots of these creatures are stunning enough. But the unusual nature of the sand around them begs further questioning. Why so many colors in the sand here, since the beach itself at Hug Point appears to be no different in color than most beaches? Is this normal? Do all beaches have this many kinds of grain all over?

Hug Point

The answers were startling. Newport’s Guy DiTorrice (fossil expert known as Oregon Fossil Guy and Beach Connection columnist), said every beach has its own different composition.

“The sand is ‘colored’ by the predominate minerals present in the rock formations in its immediate area and from any creek or river outflow,” DiTorrice said. “The central and north coasts tend to be browner/tan, thanks to all the Astoria formation sandstone that's around. On the southern Coast - Curry County - the sand has a very dark and gray coloring to it, as the many exposures of Nye and Coledo formation rock are very ash laden.

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“Now add to this base formula the crushed and tumbling remains of basalt, all sorts of quartz/agates, minerals (e.g. gold, garnets, etc), fossilized (usually silicated or agatized) bone, shells and woods. Then mix in the additional impact of near-coastal outflows (treated/untreated human and Mother Nature's). Finally, add the additional contributions of oil (crude and processed), broken up aluminum cans, plastic water bottles and colored glass from a variety of sources, and you get some pretty spectacular colors.”

DiTorrice said sand is very dynamic, containing various kinds of rock, like boulders, cobble, pebble and concretion made from all sorts of materials, such as quartz, mica and granite. “You can see that each beach produces its own unique type and colors of sand. And, as is the case of so many things in our universe, there are people who collect sands to illustrate just how different it can be around the world.”


Oregon Beaches Aglow with Freaky Critters Glowing phytoplankton is spotted up and down the coast

Oregon Coastal Village Wows with Mystic Vibe, Ghost Forest Neskowin is different in many ways, including its geologic features

Oregon Travel Oddities: Sparks Above, As Below Proof that summer can yield the wildest, weirdest moments

Ghostly Tourism on Oregon’s Coast Hunting tales of ghosts is another fun pasttime on the coast

Hiking It and Roughing It on Oregon’s Coast A look at trails and rugged campgrounds

Sampling Wines and Wine Bars on the Oregon Coast Wine shops and wine bars are a growing part of coastal tourism




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In Awe of AstoriaASTORIA
Where the Columbia meets the Pacific, Land of Lewis & Clark and loads of atmosphere & history
Serenity in SeasideSEASIDE
The Promenade, Tillamook Head, family fun & broad, sandy beaches
Cavort in Cannon BeachCANNON BEACH
A mysterious lighthouse, upscale yet earthy, a huge monolith, fine eateries & an art mecca
Annihilating  Beauty of Nehalem BayNEHALEM BAY
Manzanita's beaches, Nehalem and Wheeler's quirky beauty; laid back Rockaway
Time Trip Around Tillamook BayTILLAMOOK BAY
Garibaldi, Barview, Bay City, Tillamook & an oceanfront ghost town
Triple the Pleasure in 3 CapesTHREE CAPES LOOP
The hidden secret of the coast: Cape Meares, a lighthouse, Oceanside, Netarts and Pacific City
Miles & miles of unbroken beaches, Cascade Head, Neskowin and many manmade attractions
Divine Depoe BayDEPOE BAY
A spouting horn downtown, freaky hidden cliffs and whales, whales, whales
Nature in NewportNEWPORT
Time-tripping Nye Beach, a bustling bayfront, marine science-central and two lighthouses
Staggering Seal RockWALDPORT / SEAL ROCK
Pristine, even secretive sands and wild geologic landmarks
Aargh, there's no alliteration with Yachats - but it IS unbelievableYACHATS
Constantly dramatic wave action, a mix of the rugged & upscale
Unsurpassable Upper LaneUPPER LANE COUNTY
25 miles of deserted beaches & oodles of wonders
Fine Times in FlorenceFLORENCE
A lighthouse, ancient bayfront and miles and miles of fluffy dunes







Lincoln City Vacation Homes There’s something for everyone among this selection of wondrous homes: smaller homes with a view to a large house that sleeps 15. All the homes are either oceanfront or just a few steps away from the sand – all with a low bank access and fantastic views. Most are in the Nelscott area; one is close to the casino. You’ll find a variety of goodies, depending on the home: fireplaces, multiple bedrooms, dishwashers, Jacuzzis, washer/dryers, hot tubs, cable TV, VCR, barbecues; there’s a loft in one, and another sprawling home has two apartments. Pets are allowed in some homes – ask ahead. Each comes with complete kitchens so you’ll have a home away from home. Most have the seventh night free. Prices range from winter $85 to summer $230 per night. www.getaway2thecoast.com. 541-994-8778.