Sea-foam

This picture has generated some talkback radio discussion today:


Image Source: Daily Telegraph (photo by Bill Counsell)

The picture was taken at Yamba. The sea foam extends 50m across the beach and into the sea from the Surf Lifesavers club house, as shown in the photo below. Reports from locals are that they haven’t seen foam like this in 30 years.


Image Source: Herald Sun (photo by Bill Counsell)

The obvious question that occurred to many people was whether this was due to ocean pollution, and according to John Dengate of the NSW Department for the Environment and Conservation, the answer is no. This is a natural process occurring in especially big seas, where plankton and other small sea organisms are literally pulverised against the rocks of the shoreline, resulting in a very fine protein suspension in the sea which coats the air-bubbles created by the waves to create a stiff froth, just the same way as egg protein coats air bubbles to make meringue, and beer protein coats air bubbles to produce a head of foam in a beer glass.

Pretty cool.



Categories: environment, fun & hobbies, Science

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3 replies

  1. I wonder if those people know they are swimming in pulverised plankton?

  2. WOW! That’s amazing.
    I lived in the Carolinas for a very brief period and every now and again, I’d notice an oddly unnatural looking foam on the coast. I assumed it was caused by pollution. Maybe I was wrong!
    Mindy: HA! Probably not.

  3. I used to swim at various Yamba beaches a lot in high school. Never remember seeing foam like that before and have seen some mighty surf along that part of the coast.

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