Small, jellyfish-like sea creatures known as by-the-wind sailors—or purple sails—are getting blown onto beaches from California to Washington by the millions.
The latest sighting came this week at Ocean Shores, Washington, where swarms of the purple-colored, oval-shaped creatures washed ashore and died in amazing numbers, as seen by the photos provided to GrindTV from Michael Watson.
“I’ve seen these guys in varies sizes of flotillas over the years, but this is the biggest incursion I’ve seen,” Watson told GrindTV. “It’s fun to see the hub-bub amongst the tourists.”
The Weather Channel went so far as to say billions have washed ashore along the West Coast, reporting that it is a result of strong winds and above-average sea surface temperatures.
“Since March, the component of surface wind blowing from west to east over the northeast Pacific toward coastal Washington and northwest Oregon has been stronger than average,” said weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.
KOMO News has this report:
With small dorsal sails, the by-the-wind sailors are powerless to avoid getting swept onto beaches where they die.
A similar event occurred last summer.
JellyWatch.com was created with support by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and tracks sightings of jellyfish. Since the by the wind sailor is similar to jellyfish, sightings of these purple blobs appear on the site—from Big Sur, California, to Charleston, Oregon, to Ocean Shores, Washington.
The scientific name of the by-the-wind sailor is velella velella. It is a free-floating hydrozoan that lives on the ocean surface. They sting to stun prey but are harmless to humans.
“It looks pretty messy,” Tim O’Cain told KOMO News as he survived the amazing mass of by-the-wind sailers at Ocean Shores. “Really gooey. And actually from a distance, I thought they looked like a mussel, until you got up close to them.”
Steve Green with the Coastal Interpretive Center told KOMO News that the by-the-wind sailors could continue sailing onto West Coast beaches throughout the summer months, which will make for a gooey mess for beachgoers.