Mysterious foam creates 'mesmerizing' spectacle in Gorge Waterway
Published Tuesday, July 9, 2019 5:31PM PDT
People passing the Gorge Waterway keep doing double takes.
"Just bizarre!" says one man peering into the water from a nearby walkway. "I didn't know what it was."
Others are pointing down from the Tillicum Road bridge. "Never seen this before," says a woman walking her dog. "It's a mystery."
The water is filled with countless white foamy things in all different shapes and sizes.
We climb down to the shoreline to try and get pictures of them. You can hear the Jaws theme in your head when one slowly swims past the camera.
"It's bothersome because you don't know the source," says Merv, who's trying to capture video of the spectacle on his phone.
Tall clumps of the stuff are oozing onto the decks of nearby boats.
It looks like a creature devouring the dock. When a group of paddlers attempt to navigate through it, one woman wonders if it’s a potential kayak catastrophe.
"Icebergs," she says. "That’s the first thing I thought. And most of it's under the water!"
But instead of crashing into icebergs, the paddlers are scooping it like ice cream.
"Soap," laughs a woman on her morning walk. "It looks like soap suds."
They wobble in the wind on shore, and roll like tumbleweeds on the water.
"It looks like that time I messed up my dishwasher and put in laundry detergent instead of dish soap," says the woman walking her dog. "It foamed everywhere and it was all over the kitchen."
There are signs surrounding the area. Some show black and white photos of the area, that include a bit of foam. We're told that hundreds of years ago First Nations women washed their clothes in the sea foam. They hoped it would inoculate their family members from drowning during underwater spiritual quests.
Back on the bridge, Merv is sending the video he shot to his wife Kathy, a retired biologist.
"So she can explain it to me," he laughs. Kathy responds that it's a natural occurrence. Others confirm the foam is caused by the currents under the bridge agitating the salt and organic matter in the seawater.
It's usually an indication of a productive ocean ecosystem. There's way more sea foam than usual, because there's a bigger range between high and low tide right now, and therefore more agitation of the water.
"It puts a smile on your face," says a man who specifically came down to the Gorge to see the foam.
"It's neat to watch," says a woman seeing how the foam seems to dance and paint pictures on the water. "It's neat to see it swirling in the tide."
Neat how what once seemed possibly menacing (cue the Jaws theme), now seems so wonderfully mesmerizing.