A lyric from the beloved patriotic song, “God Bless America,” became a reality in Ocean Shores Saturday when the beach on the north side of the jetty was covered by “the ocean white with foam.”
A bit of sea foam on local beaches is not unusual, but the wide area covered Saturday was. It was created by the combination of a “king tide” of 11.4 feet, heavy seas that produced waves in the 25-foot range, and wind blasting out of north/northwest. The blender effect of waves crashing against the north side of the jetty and others hitting the shore kept the sea churning and the foam growing.
Many turned out to photograph the phenomenon, and a few, such as Robert Murphy of Woodinville, had to, literally, immerse themselves in it. Murphy, who was a property owner in Ocean Shores for more than 30 years, said he has witnessed some wild winter weather on the North Beach over the years, but never anything like this.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website, sea foam forms when dissolved organic matter in the ocean is churned up when the ocean is agitated by wind and waves. Most sea foam is not harmful to humans and is often an indication of a productive ocean ecosystem.
But when large harmful algae blooms decay near shore, there is potential for impacts to human health and the environment. Scientists studying the cause of seabird die-offs off California in 2007 and in the Pacific Northwest in 2009 found a soap-like foam from a decaying Akashiwo sanguinea algae bloom had removed the waterproofing on feathers, making it harder for birds to fly, leading to fatal hypothermia in many birds.