News

It looks like fun but sea foam's full of snakes and disease

Grace Killingbeck, 12 of Lennox Head, checking out the foam coming from the ocean at Boulders Beach, during this weekend storm.
Grace Killingbeck, 12 of Lennox Head, checking out the foam coming from the ocean at Boulders Beach, during this weekend storm. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

ROUGH surf, torrential rain and heavy swells have left some Northern Rivers beaches covered in a thick layer of brown foam, like a blanket of dirty snow.

While a mid-summer foam fight may look like fun, North Coast surf lifesavers are warning swimmers against playing in the frothy mess.

Far North Coast surf lifesaving director Ben Redman said people should avoid the surf as foam usually results in a large number of snake sightings.

"People shouldn't swim in it," he said. "You'll usually find a lot of sea snakes in the foam, they seem to be attracted to it."

A picture by Hugh Kelloway of people playing in sea foam at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina.
A picture by Hugh Kelloway of people playing in sea foam at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina. Contributed

ABOUT SEA FOAM

  • IT IS created by impurities in the ocean, such as salts, natural chemicals, dead plants, decomposed fish and excretions from seaweed.
  • These impurities are churned together by powerful waves, which cause the water to form bubbles.
  • These bubbles stick to each other and are carried below the surface by wind currents towards shore.
  • As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upwards and mass together, forming foam.

In similar conditions in 2008, one surf life saver counted 21 snakes in the foam at Lighthouse Beach in the space of a few hours.

Sea snakes are highly venomous, however they have small fangs and are generally not aggressive.

As well as snakes, the foamy surf can also contain pollution and viruses as stormwater from rivers and drains carries oil, detergents and sewerage into the sea.

Mr Redman said the foam could be hiding debris, rocks or deep water which are all potential hazards for swimmers.

Southern Cross University Marine Ecology Professor Peter Harrison said the foam was the result of heavy swell conditions and rough waves churning freshwater and seawater to form bubbles which mass together to make foam.

"There's been a lot of turbulence at sea so a lot of chemical molecules in sea water form a foam when heavily agitated."

Prof Harrison said the foam would be a mixture of algae, animal plankton, organic materials from mainland runoff during floods and other organic materials that had dissolved in the water.

Topics:  editors picks, ocean, sea foam, tc marcia, wildweather




Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

3 easy dinner recipes your kids will love, and so will you

No Caption

THERE is a middle ground! Dinners fit for kids and adults.

How to reduce your child's risk of food allergies

ABOUT 90% of food allergies are caused by just seven foods.

5 good mental health habits for kids (and parents)

CRYING OUT FOR HELP: The demand for counselling support for children and young people is increasing.

FORMING good habits early is critical for your child's mental health.

Smack or no smack - where do you stand?

THE debate is reignited - is smacking acceptable?

Susie O'Neill: Why I stopped smacking my children

Swimming legend Susie O'Neill says she has stopped smacking her kids.

“I (smacked) because that’s what I knew growing up."

Introducing a step-parent into the family

Introducing a step-parent into the family can be stressful for the children, as well as the new parent.

THERE is no easy way to introduce a step parent into the family.

BIG FREEZE: Northern Rivers struggles through coldest night

The Northern Rivers has had its coldest night of the year.

The cold snap hit the region in a big way overnight

GALLERY: Highlights from the 2016 Lismore Lantern Parade

TREE STYLE: This elven-like forest man turned heads at the 2016 Lismore Lantern Parade.

Thousands turn out to experience a magnificent parade of colour

WATCH: Glory in death for Northern Rivers Vikings

Lismore Viking re-enactment group Rognvald’s Lith members Michael Rowe, Richard Guy, Travis Woods, Warren Thompson and Jim Hammond, will be participating in battle at the winter village at Liismore on June 25th and 26th. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Axes, swords, shields and spears clash in epic, bloody battle.

Latest deals and offers

Lantern Parade Volunteers

Volunteers load lanterns for the parade.

Lismore Lantern Parade 2016

Experiencing t he dancing, music, and lights of the 2016 Lismore Lantern Parade.

Samba Blisstas drumming crescendo

Percussion collective the Samba Blisstas rip out the beats at the 2016 Lismore...

OPINION: Should we give up the great Aussie dream?

Generic housing Rural View.

First home buyers are struggling big time

Commercial Property June 16 edition

SNAPPED UP: A sushi shop in a106sq mground-floor tenancy with a 43sq moutdoor area in Southport Central Towers on the Gold Coast has sold for $954,000.

RealCommercial edition June 16, 2016.