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Velella Like a Thick Carpet at Some Oregon Coast Spots

Published 3/26/24 at 4:55 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Velella Like a Thick Carpet at Some Oregon Coast Spots

(Newport, Oregon) – Spring break may get stinky for some visiting the Oregon coast this week. An old, familiar and colorful friend has been washing up as of late, and sometimes in incredibly huge numbers. (Photo courtesy Charlie Plybon / Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation)

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Velella velella are back – which isn't exactly new, as this was documented just a couple of weeks ago. What is different is the startling masses of them being seen at the moment. In the latest case, Surfrider Foundation's Charlie Plybon caught the above image of not only a veritable carpet of them, but the individuals are extremely large.

Plybon snapped this on the central coast near Waldport, close to Lost Creek.

Northern California's coast is also experience a serious deluge of them. If there's one place reporting them on the coastline then there's another: it's just unclear where at the moment.

While boldly colorful just after stranding, velella velella start to lose color fairly quickly and become translucent. That's only the first step in the impressions they make: they soon start to rot on beaches and become a smelly mess.

Luckily, weather has been a bit on the rainy and cool side, so conditions have not given them the opportunities to become a disgusting odor. Those beaches inundated with them will have an unpleasant element to deal with should the weather turn rather warm.

Earlier this month in Seaside / Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium

Some years, warm weather causes the gargantuan layers of them to make an unbearable odor from even a great distance.

Also known as by-the-wind-sailors or purple sails they are actually not jellyfish, and only vaguely related to them. According to Oregon Coast Aquarium, they are hydrozoans, a class of predatory animals that are distantly related to corals or sea anemones.

They are, however, fairly closely related to the Man-O-War, which can sting badly. Velella don't sting, although experts advise not to go walking barefoot on those gobs of them. Some people have allergies to these things and can be somewhat affected.

While a bit gelatinous in feel and structure, they're more like a salp – which can also be found on this coastline.

“Purple Sails have a clear 'sail' that catches the wind and pushes them across the ocean's surface,” said Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium. “When the wind blows from the west, these little guys get stranded on the beach.”

They are literally at the mercy of the winds. Velella cannot swim.

This time of year, when winds start blowing from the west like this, it can increase your chances of finding an actual Japanese glass float on the beach.

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Photos below Seaside Aquarium

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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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