WALDPORT, Ore. — The beaches in Waldport have a purple hue this week, after millions of jellyfish-looking creatures washed up on the shores this weekend.
Millions of Velella velella are scattered across several miles of beaches.
“They look just like jellyfish,” said Cameron Rauenhorst, Park Naturalist for Oregon State Parks at the Historic Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center in Waldport. “Except they have this awesome sail. And every year they wash up late spring; early summer.”
This year is no different.
“The sail will actually tact at a 45 degree angle with the wind,” Rauenhorst said. “But when the winds get too heavy, they can’t tack anymore. And they – just like a sailboat would in a hurricane – wouldn’t be able to sail very straight. And just gets pushed along with the wind.”
He says billions of the Velella velella live in the ocean around the world. Every year, the ocean current and the wind push them to Oregon beaches.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says though the Velella velella are not jellyfish, they are related. Unlike jellyfish, the Velella velella do not sting.
Rauenhorst says it is best not to touch the Velella velella or to step on them with bare feet. Though they do not sting like jellyfish, many people will have an allergic reaction and will feel as if they have been stung.
“I don’t react when I touch them,” Rauenhorst said. “But that doesn’t mean nobody else would. And I definitely would not want to touch my eyes or eat something without washing my hands first.”
An allergic reaction is not the only reason Rauenhorst says beach visitors would not want to touch the Velella velella.
“You can see how they call these guys the purple stinkies,” he said as he lifted one up to his nose to smell. “Ew.”
Rauehorst expects the Velella velella to stay on the beaches for a few more weeks until they decay, or until sand blows over them. In the meantime, they will continue to rot along the beaches.