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Wondrous Odd Science of Oregon Coast: Glowing, Singing, Flashing

Published 3/15/24 at 3:35 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) - UPDATED WITH DEEPER DETAILS - The Oregon coast and Washington coast hides some wild 'n' wacky secrets that add a whole new dimension to your getaway. Some are even fairly rare, which only adds to the astonishment factor. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

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Like the green flash at sunset. This scientific oddity was for years a means of ridicule for people claiming to see it, but by the '70s it was actually documented on film.

Under the right conditions, you may see a brief green flash directly above the sun, just before the last sliver dips below the horizon. This can only happen on a day of no clouds, and is the result of a variety of conditions that block out certain color bands for a split second. A little more frequent - but harder to discern - is a slightly longer, green blob that lingers just above the sunset.

There's more to the story, however.


Green flash in Seaside / Oregon Coast Beach Connection

See Oregon Coast's Green Flash at Sunset and Its Wacky Cousin "The green flash is a cousin of an unusual ocean weather phenomenon called the Novaya Zemlya effect. Considered quite a rarity in some ways, it may actually be more common to the Oregon coast than many think."


Green flash at Bayocean / Oregon Coat Beach Connection

Then there are glowing and singing sands.

The singing sands is also very rare and actually happens only on two spots on the coast: in some areas of the National Dunes Recreation Area south of Florence and just south of Cannon Beach. Sometimes, it sounds like distant voices singing. Others, it's a bit like a violin or an odd, elongated squeaking noise. This, too, only happens under certain conditions, when two different kinds of sands grind together under the right degree of humidity.

It's a tiny bit more frequent in the Dunes area than near Cannon Beach. Even so, some that Oregon Coast Beach Connection have talked to on the subject have not heard the phenomenon for years.

Oregon Coast Singing Sands to Booming, Squeaking Sands: How to and Where to Find They're extremely rare and only at the National Dunes Rec Area


Near Gold Beach, courtesy Steven Smith / Solution 7 Media

During spring and summer along the Oregon coast, you'll have a better chance of catching the "glowing sands," although it's still much more common in tropical climates. Here, if you find yourself at the tide line on a really dark beach, you may find a strange, green/bluish spark coming from the sand kicked up by your feet. This is caused by tiny, bioluminescent phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, which glow in a manner not too dissimilar from fireflies.


Near Gold Beach, courtesy Steven Smith / Solution 7 Media

Conditions to look for: a sunny day at the end of a few days of rain and rough seas. This increases the chances of bringing the little fellas to shore.

Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes Glowing Sand On Oregon Coast, Washington.

For something rather unusual but guaranteed, wait until August and the yearly meteor showers that hit the Earth. While these are easily spotted anywhere on a clear night, cloudless nights on the Oregon coast allow especially crystal clear views of this. It's unforgettable.

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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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