Walking on the Odd and Strange on Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – The ocean and the neighboring beaches are the most dynamic environments on Earth, and often yield the biggest, freakiest surprises, if you know where to look. On the surface, Oregon’s coastline is one beautiful chunk of scenery and repose after another, but dig just a little deeper, look a little closer, and you’ll see whole worlds beneath your feet or nearby that you didn’t imagine possible. In fact, some of these oddities lurk in the sky – even in the sunset.
Ancient History in the Rocks
In the summer of 2003, BeachConnection.net found this intriguing object embedded in the rock while wandering the hard-to-traverse rocky chunks of a hidden beach spot around Oswald West State Park (at the end of Falcon Cove Road).
Back then, fossil and beach expert Guy DiTorrice lived in Newport, and he clued us all in.
He said it was a "rock scallop, seen from the interior, with the hinge line on the left side. Take a wire brush to it and you'll see the high-sheen polish. The backside (still embedded) will be ruffled design, usually pocked with worm- and clam-drilled holes."
So, what is a "rock scallop?" we asked. It sounded as if it had something to do with that old B-52's song, "Rock Lobster."
He said they are non-swimming scallops that attach themselves to rocks near the shore. He added the scallop is the logo shape used by Shell Oil Co.
The next logical question then is: how old might this fossil be? Guy said the brownish rock color indicates Astoria Sandstone, which "could be as young as 12 million years old, and as old as 17 million."
If that's not cool enough, Guy provided some interesting tips about their modern-day descendants. "They are great eating, have much larger muscles (the meat) than the commercially-harvested swimming scallop cousins."
The Green Flash At Sunset
Notice the greenish haze of a blob poking through the cloud layers here at sunset.
It’s so rarely photographed that some science folk still don’t believe it exists. But it does, and as crowds of strangers gather together at certain vantage points to watch summer sunsets, you now often hear someone else around you talk about hoping to see the famed “green flash.”
Newport’s Bob Trusty photographed this oddity once – albeit a really strange incarnation of it. The green flash is defined as a small, greenish blob you see just above the setting sun, just a second or so before it dips away below the horizon. Certain conditions must exist for you to see it: mainly clear skies with no clouds or fog between you and the horizon.
Yet somehow, Trusty caught a singular version of this that BeachConnection.net’s research has not been able to find. There are certain categories of the green flash, and none of the literature includes this one.
One site, by a man named James Young, features some stunning examples of the green flash on the Oregon coast. His photos are more like what you will see. He explains it this way on the website:
“This phenomenon occurs as the last part of the sun sets in the thick layers of the earth's atmosphere. Just a brief explanation about the thickness of the atmosphere on the horizon will aid one's understanding of how this extraordinary event takes place. Looking straight up (overhead, or to one's zenith), you are essentially looking through 1 layer of atmosphere. This is commonly called 'one (1) air mass'. But looking out across the ocean from sea level, the amount of atmospheric 'thickness' just above the ocean is equivalent to an air mass of 107! This concentrated atmospheric thickness acts like a weak prism, so that as the sun sets, the last sliver of the sun's disk is broken up into a mini spectrum. Since the green light (the predominate color the eye is sensitive to) along with the blue is refracted slightly more than the red end of the spectrum, they remain visible for up to a few seconds longer, thus the brief 'flash' of color.”
BeachConnection.net did catch some video and at least a few photos of the phenomenon, some of which can be seen here.
Sea Foam's Strange Facts
The billows of soapsuds that occasionally litter the beaches aren't from pollution. According to Bill Hanshumaker at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, sea foam is created from the breakdown of the skeletons of tiny single-celled plants called phytoplankton. When high wind and waves churn air into the water, their dissolved organic matter helps to create bubbles.
Protein from the dead microscopic plants increases the seawater's surface tension, producing bubbles when air is added.
You can find the Hatfield Marine Science Center at 2030 Marine Science Dr. in Newport, Oregon. (541) 867-0167.
Geologic and Fossil Oddities at Fogarty Creek
Looking to walk on fossils?
This little state park, south of Lincoln City, hides a bundle of wacky objects. Depending on sand levels, you’ll find freaky caves, chunks of rocks with tons of ancient creatures still inside, and geologic shapes that defy description. Not to mention, the dark sand grains here are extraordinarily large – enormous by grains of sand standards. They actually hurt to walk on barefoot.