Wild wind and tall waves brought huge mounds of sea foam onto the shores of Tofino this week.
On Tuesday, when an extreme wave advisory was issued for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, onlookers saw piles of sea foam accumulate on Vancouver Island’s west coast.
According to Parks Canada, the sea foam in some areas reached heights of over 1.5 metres (five feet), particularly in outcroppings that were more exposed to the ocean.
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— David McColm (@davidlmccolm) January 10, 2024
What is sea foam?
Sea foam is an organic matter made up of phytoplankton blooms that have decayed off shore.
Those blooms are constantly created as part of ocean turbulence, with varying amounts arriving on beaches. However, during major storms, large amounts of sea foam are created as the ocean churns and crashes.
The sea foam is then more likely to accumulate, particularly along shorelines in recessed areas, like bays.
Sea foam itself is not harmful to humans, according to Parks Canada.
However, sea foam can collect contaminants that are present in the ocean as it washes ashore, meaning if things like toxic algae are present they may be pulled onto the shore with the foam.
Tuesday’s storm caused power outages, cancelled ferries, flooded a part of Dallas Road and sent trees toppling onto homes.
Parks Canada is encouraging visitors to be “Coastsmart” when storms arrive, and recommends that people staff off beaches if a closure notice had been issued, only observe the ocean from a safe distance, and plan activities according to the tides.