National Geographic : 1961 Nov
Oregon's Sidewalk on the Sea the turmoil of sand, rock, and surf that lies beyond each headland? All but 23 miles of the rugged Oregon shore is under public ownership. A chain of coastal parks, historic sites, and scenic overlooks meticulously maintained by the Oregon State Highway Department added to the delights of our summer excursion (map, page 713). Beachcombing Offers Rich Bounty We quickly discovered that one of the most exciting diversions here is beachcombing though not the idyllic desert-island variety. The Oregon shore stroller must enjoy the sting of cold salt spray on his face and the challenge of slippery rocks, gravelly beaches, and steep, crumbling coastal cliffs. But the treasures he finds make all the difficulties worth while. The beachcomber may hunt for driftwood, sea stars, or fossils of ancient marine life. He may search for the polished beauty of agates, or the globes of colored glass that drift across the ocean from Japan (page 722). Per haps it is fishing that lures him to the shore, or riding sand dunes in a balloon-tired jalopy, or watching the sea lions and vast colonies of sea birds. We joined enthusiastically in all these activities during our visit. But this morning, on the dawn-tinted beach at Yachats, we had eyes only for Anthopleura, a genus of saucer-sized sea anemones that inhabit Pacific shore waters from Panama to Alaska. Cautiously groping our way forward over the rubble of slippery rocks, we found our selves at last on the floor of a deep trench, at whose seaward end, not far ahead, a mighty surf roared. An hour before, this trench had been, and an hour hence would be again, at one with the crashing sea. Only now for a brief period of low tide was it dry. Dry? With each impact of the surf against the out er ramparts, a cloud of biting spray showered over us. Although wet, wild, and cold, the exposed area teemed with life-life in abeyance, that is. Scores of sea-creature species, millions of individual organisms, surrounded us, each quietly awaiting the inevitable return of mother sea. In pools along the way we had seen many anemones in "bloom"-bright green flowers whose fringing petals were tentacles. We hadn't collected any of these, however, for we wanted specimens from under ledges where little light penetrates. I was interested in examining these for the microscopic algae that live in the tissues of many anemone species, giving Anthopleura its striking emerald hue. The rock cleft before us seemed the right place, for one of its walls was undercut and shaded as far back as my arm could reach. There, collapsed and with all their tentacles shrunken and stringy, sagged no fewer than 500 Anthopleura (opposite). Crouching on the wet sea floor, I reached under the ledge to pluck one, only to have it contract even farther. My hand slipped and came away wet and slimy. I had to use my pocketknife to dislodge half a dozen for our collecting bucket. We lingered a few minutes to take photo graphs, but not without a certain uneasiness at the threat of a sudden break-through by the now-rising tide. We knew how swells seem to follow a safe pattern for a time, then suddenly rush in without notice like an un leashed maelstrom. We were already dripping with spray; so I made no objection when Eda suggested we pack our gear and get out. Tiny Creatures Feel Anemone's Sting Back in the cabin, our usually wide-awake children-Eda Kristin, 12, and Paul, 9-were still in bed. We left them there while my wife prepared breakfast and I transferred the anemone specimens to an electrically aerated 10-gallon aquarium I had set up just outside the back door. That afternoon I found myself conducting an impromptu symposium on marine biology. Participating were Laurette and Asa Irwin, Dull and Inert at Low Tide, Sea Anemones Bloom When the Water Rises Surf-loving anemones (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) cling with sticky bases to off shore crevices and ledges. At high tide they resemble vivid flowers. When tide ebbs, they draw in their tentacles and suggest masses of overripe fruit. Accompanied by his daughter, Eda Kristin Zahl, the author pries a specimen from the wall of a tidal pool near Yachats. Transferred to an aquarium, the captives unlock their fleshy houses. Wavy tentacles carry a paralyzing sting for small sea creatures that come within range. A purple sea star (Pisasterochraceus) shares the tank. KODACHROMESBY PAUL A. ZAHL, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF © N.G .S.