Millions of Curious-Looking Creatures Wash Ashore Northern California Beaches

Beaches in Northern California have become the unexpected resting places for millions of tiny blue sea creatures. These curious creatures, known as Velella velella or “by-the-wind sailors,” are not jellyfish but colonies of polyps bearing a resemblance to little sailboats.

Marine biologist Carolyn Belak encountered up to a million by-the-wind sailors on Trinidad State Beach in Northern California, as highlighted by the SFGate. The iNaturalist website has been flooded with reports of these intriguing creatures washing up along the Pacific coastline, sparking widespread interest and curiosity.

Social media platforms are buzzing with photographs of Velella velella blanketing beaches, turning the sand into a surreal blue landscape. A playful post by California State Parks North Coast Redwoods likened the creatures to dreamers of Pacific voyages, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Velella velella feed on planktonic crustaceans with their tentacles and, despite their menacing appearance, pose no threat to humans. These sea creatures navigate the ocean’s surface on their translucent sails, although “navigate” might be too strong a word, given their journey is entirely dependent on the whims of the wind.

While picking them up might not be harmful, it’s probably best to admire them from a distance.

This spring, the wind has cast thousands of these tiny sailors onto shores, a sight both beautiful and bewildering. A significant rise in sea surface temperature — the highest on record — coupled with strong winds, has contributed to this unprecedented bloom and subsequent beaching of Velella velella.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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