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'Tis Season for Ocean Burps on Washington, Oregon Coast; Maybe Even Bones

Published 11/02/20 at 3:45 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

'Tis Season for Ocean Burps on Washington, Oregon Coast; Maybe Even Bones

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(Seaside, Oregon) – Late October’s run of thousands of jellyfish in some parts of the Oregon coast wasn’t the first wild stranding sight of the season – and it won’t be the last. The season of “ocean burps” has already begun for the Oregon and Washington coastlines, and early October saw a burst of that find that included a bit of a bone mystery. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium)

While no major “ocean burps” have been reported in the last two weeks, as soon as stormy winds start to kick in or there’s a run of slightly wild seas, the beaches of Washington and Oregon may hold what is known as a beachcomber’s treasure. They'll occur anywhere, from the Olympic National Park area, Westport, to Cannon Beach and down through Brookings.

Ocean burps are the vernacular term for major debris fields that are coughed up by the ocean, which happens periodically but usually in winter or spring when the seas are wilder. In fact, it’s something to look out for along the southern Oregon coast right now since the area just had a run of sneaker waves.

Just before October 10, Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe spotted a rather large chunk of an ocean burp, stretching the length of the beach equal to a city block and about in inch deep.

'Tis Season for Ocean Burps on Washington, Oregon Coast; Maybe Even Bones

In the midst of that, someone discovered bones in the detritus and called the aquarium. Boothe made it down to the site, found the bones, and soon identified it as coming from a small seal or sea lion. No murder mystery here, just a brief scientific one. Boothe said finding bones is not too unusual in these piles of stuff.

“These small debris fields are usually composed of small bark chips, shells, large tubeworm casings, hermit crabs, algae, kelp, and sometimes even skate egg casings,” Boothe said. “Though some of the shells were empty, some still contained hermit crabs. The hermit crabs occupying the shells are a species that does not inhabit local tidepools. They are called Alaskan Hermit Crabs and they reside a bit deeper.” (Photo at end of story)

Some of the egg casings from Big Skates were already hatched. There were also a lot of empty crab shells, and numerous six-inch clam shells with soft shells.

All this is caused by the way winds affect the ocean and bring things upward.

“An upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind-driven motion of denser, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water,” Boothe said. “This juggling of water from the bottom of the ocean to the surface often lifts debris sitting on the seafloor into the water column. As the tide comes in, the debris is cast onto shore.”

All this is a smorgasbord for gulls and crows along the Oregon / Washington coast. Sometimes it’s a decent kick in the pants to watch the bird feeding frenzies here. More photos below:


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Inn at Wecoma. Recent major renovation. Sleek, modern design w some partial ocean views, balconies and fireplaces. Spacious guestrooms w/ microwave, refrigerator, coffeemaker; lavish, free hot breakfast. Large grand suite. Indoor pool and a hot tub. W-fi, fitness room, business center, free wi-fi, 867-sq-foot conference room for business meetings or large social events. Some pet friendly. 945 NW Hwy 101. Lincoln City, Oregon. 800-452-8981

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A hermit crab shell found on the beach at Seaside

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