Myth Blaster: Foam Envelopes Beach in New South Wales


Diane S., Wisconsin received an email about foam on a beach in Australia and she wanted to know if it was real. 
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Myth Blaster Verdict: TRUE … 

At first because the photo [last one] looked like two people superimposed upon suds, a doctored photo; but after investigation I found out to be legitimate, as well as the story. Spots of foam on beaches is common during periods of the year – but rarely anything like this and as a fisherman stated “it happened 30 years ago“.
Pictures above and below are from Icon images via Daily Mail news, story by Richard Shears, August 28th 2007 …

It was as if someone had poured tons of coffee and milk into the ocean, then switched on a giant blender. Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney were [sic] transformed into the Cappuccino Coast. Foam swallowed an entire beach and half the nearby buildings, including the local lifeguards’ centre, in a freak display of nature at Yamba in New South Wales. One minute a group of teenage surfers were waiting to catch a wave, the next they were swallowed up in a giant bubble bath. The foam was so light that they could puff it out of their hands and watch it float away. It stretched for 30 miles out into the Pacific in a phenomenon not seen at the beach for more than three decades. Scientists explain that the foam is created by impurities in the ocean, such as salts, chemicals, dead plants, decomposed fish and excretions from seaweed. All are churned up together by powerful currents which cause the water to form bubbles. These bubbles stick to each other as they are carried below the surface by the current towards the shore. As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upwards and, massed together, they become foam. …

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Daily Telegraph, story by Samantha Williams, August 27th 2007 …

Wild weather whipped the ocean into what resembled more a cappuccino than the beach at Yamba on North Coast at the weekend. The foamy waves, which stretched about 50 m from Yamba Surf Life Saving Club out to sea didn’t deter Tom, 12, and his brother Jack from making the most of the bizarre conditions. [See one of the photos above] Fisherman planned to drop a line said it was the first time in 30 years they had seen the beach covered in foam. … The foam is a concoction of bubbles and liquid shaken by the stormy conditions.

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Yein Jee’s Discovery with Yein Jee featured this story in an August 28th 2007 posting in his blog. You will find that Yein Jee’s blog is linked here at Lighthouse Journal under “Global Link” category.
According to a couple of scientific sources, like Cosis, foam in sea water is caused by phytoplankton biomass. I remember in my travels seeing bits of foam washed ashore, but, of course, nothing like what happened in New South Wales, Australia.
For more scientific information and interest:
Phytoplankton Biomass and Production
Sea foam and electrical power – a patented method of generating electricity from foaming action of the sea.
Thanks Diane S., Wisconsin for passing this to me to share with folks. 
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