Surf Suds

By Henry H. Mitchell, December 2008.

Seafoam at Myrtle Beach

Sea foam washes ashore at Myrtle Beach State Park.

On this sunny, breezy December day in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, sea foam was racing ashore and bounding down the beach like herds of puppies let loose for a run. In fact, one clump strongly resembled a peppy poodle at a trot!

But sea foam is a mystery. Why does it appear at some times and not at others? It probably has to do with cold ocean currents' scouring the depths of the sea and churning up protein-rich organic material, and/or an algae-rich body of water colliding with the shore — from whatever source, a lather is produced on the surface of the waves. Often Myrtle Beach's sea foam will leave a green “grass stain” on one's clothing, indicating that it is laden with algae.

Technically speaking, sea foam is a colloid — in this case a saltwater solution holding algae particles in suspension.

I like to carry a small kitchen strainer mounted on a golf club handle when I walk the beach, in order to scoop seashells, sharks' teeth, and other treasures out of the surf. A strainer-full of sea foam provides a bit of childish amusement: blow through it to create a shower of soap bubbles!

This guide to Myrtle Beach is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.