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Whipped Ocean - Beach Foam at Yamba New South Wales

Summary:
Email claims that attached photographs show a shoreline at Yamba NSW that has been inundated with ocean foam (Full commentary below).



Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, August 2008)
Subject: HERE'S SOMETHING WE'LL NEVER SEE.........WHIPPED OCEAN........AMAZING!

Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney was 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.

Whipped Ocean Yamba 1

Whipped Ocean Yamba 2

Whipped Ocean Yamba 3




Commentary:
These photographs show a shoreline that has been virtually buried under a massive inundation of frothy sea foam. The photographs are genuine and depict an event that occurred on the shore at Yamba, NSW, Australia in August 2007.

An August 2007 Daily Telegraph article notes:
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 50m 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.

Fishermen planning to drop a line said it was the first time in 30 years they had seen the beach covered in foam.
Stormy conditions at the time whipped up the foam, which consists of masses of tiny bubbles. John Dengate of the NSW Department of Environment explained that the foam was formed from the remains of organic material such as plankton and seaweed that had been pulverized on rocks. An entry about sea foam published in the Q & A section of the New York Times offers are more detailed explanation:
Like a bathtub full of bubbles, sea foam needs two ingredients," said Dr. Elizabeth L. Venrick, a marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., "something to [decrease] the surface tension of the water, like bubble bath, and something to froth it up, like water running into the tub." In the ocean, the "bubble bath" is usually dissolved organic material, she said, and strong surface winds or the breaking of waves on the beach stir up the water with air to make bubbles. "The organic material comes from a number of sources, usually a concentration of biomass, like the phytoplankton bloom that causes red tide or a fish kill," Dr. Venrick said. (A bloom is an increase in the numbers of some species or complex of species that then die or are eaten, releasing organic material.) The material can also come from sewer spills and other terrestrial runoff, she said.
The creation of such large amounts of foam is unusual, but not unprecedented. Large amounts of foam also smothered the beach at Pt Cartwright on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland in January 2008. And sea foam also encroached on the shore at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire after stormy weather in April 2007.

References:
Yamba hit by foam lather
BEACH FOAM SPECTACLE
No place like foam
Hampton NH: 2007 Storm Photo Gallery


Last updated: 23rd August 2008
First published: 23rd August 2008

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen