For about a month, Portuguese men o’ war (Physalia physalis) have been washing up on Cornish beaches. Now they have arrived at Newborough too. I spotted one at the start of the week. Today there were about a dozen dotted along the tide line.
A Portuguese Man o’ War on Penrhos beach Newborough
I had never seen one of these in real life (or death) before, and I was surprised at how petite they are. The sails, or balloons, of the ones I’ve seen are only around 20cm long and 10cm tall at the most. Their colours are stunning.
Portuguese Man o’ War complete with a little fish in its tentacles (and a pound coin to show its size)
Portuguese Men o’ War are related to the Borne by the Wind Sailors (Velella velella) that washed up earlier in the year.
Sadly, there have also been lots of dead seals washed ashore lately: mostly young pups, still coated in their pale baby fur. In south Wales it is being reported that as many as two-thirds of this year’s seal puppies have been killed by the storms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation is just as bad here:(
After the eerily quiet start to the day, storm Ophelia hit north Wales with brutal force from Monday afternoon through into Tuesday.
View from the boardwalk the morning after Ophelia
On Penrhos Beach, the sand cliffs have been eaten into again. There is now a vertically faced step of three to six feet running most of the length of the beach. That means it will be harder to “escape” if you get trapped by the tide on the beach. In addition, the whole of the sand cliff has become unstable again – much like it was after storm Imogen in 2016.
The sand cliffs the length of Penrhos beach have been undermined and are crumbling
Within the newly exposed face of sand, I found this perfectly preserved Jewsbury and Brown Spardal bottle, complete with its rubber screw cap. Jewsbury and Brown were taken over by Schweppes in 1964. Perhaps it is possible that this bottle has lain in the sands for more than 50 years…
Jewsbury and Brown Spardal Mineral Water bottle complete with its original vulcanite screw stopper
Detail on the top of the J and B mineral water bottle stopper
I also found an “American style cola” drink can buried in the sand cliff with a date of May 1996.
A coke tin sticking out from the sand cliff face: its date (top line) is May 96.
The sand cliff face where the coke tin was. The tin was about two feet off the ground in a cliff about 14 feet tall.
There must’ve been about 12 feet of sand above the coke tin. Presumably all accumulated since 1996. Wow.
Storm Imogen has coincided with the new moon spring tides. The waves are being blown hard against the sand cliffs on Penrhos Beach, eating away the faces that had already become unstable from the incessant rains and winds.
Storm Imogen driving the waves onto Penrhos Beach
Sand slip – before the storm (now gone)
The sea has come right through one of the breaches NRW dug last winter and is now onto the Postman’s Path
Although the winds are set to ease and the waves get smaller, the tides over the next few days will be even higher, so there will probably be more changes to the shoreline before the week is out.
Amongst the flotsam washed ashore by the storm was one of the pink HP printer cartridges the BBC reported on at the start of the year. The cartridges went overboard from a shipment more than a year ago and have been washing up on shores around the UK and Europe ever since. This is the first one I’ve found.
HP cartridge – the first I’ve found
The stormy tide seems to have swept away much of the goose barnacle covered flotsam and jetsam that was accumulating on the beach. Each year there seem to be more and more of these barnacles washed ashore.
Goose barnacles on a glass bottle
Goose barnacles on a plastic bottle
After yesterday’s storm with its hurricane force winds, the beach is littered with jellyfish and parts of jellyfish.
I think this may be a barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo). One of the few intact jellies on the beach.
One of the many scarf-like jellyfish “fronds” on the beach
There are also plenty of windblown trees throughout the forest, mainly they’ve been cleared from the roads, but some are still blocking the track to the residents’ car park.
Fallen trees on the track to the residents’ car park
There are more storms still to come, but the highest tides are behind us. Penrhos Beach (the one to the west of Llanddwyn Island) has been remodelled by the elements: all the sand cliffs have been cut back and there are sand-slides all the way along.
Sand-slides slumped all along the foot of the sand-cliffs at Traeth Penrhos Beach
A fresh sand-slide: the fresh face of the dunes is still very unstable.
The path that used to run along the crest of the dunes now leads straight off the edge:)
The little path along the crest of the dunes now leads straight over the edge. Byddwch yn ofalus! Take care!
Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning? Sunrise behind Mynydd Mawr.
Sunday 2nd February will see the highest tide of 2014: 5.5m at Llanddwyn Island. That is even higher than the tides at the beginning of January that caused so much damage.
The Met Office is also forecasting gale force winds for the weekend, particularly on Saturday. As the gales will be from the south west, they will drive the tide straight into the coast, again. And it looks like the strongest winds will coincide with the morning tide (5.4m) on Saturday, around 10.00am.
The National Tidal and Sea Level Facility predicts the highest and lowest astronomical tides around the UK years in advance – up to 2026 at the moment. Holyhead is the nearest location to Newborough. The highest high tide is expected next year – February 2015.
The tide times for the upcoming five days are provided by the Met Office for Llanddwyn Island at the bottom of their weather forecast. And the BBC also provides the tide times for the coming week using the data from the Hydrographic Office.
It’s worth checking the tide times if you’re planning a walk on the beach or a visit to Llanddwyn Island: the beach disappears at the highest tides, and Llanddwyn is cut off by all but the lowest high tides.
High tide at Llanddwyn/Newborough beach.
Anglesey is included in the charts provided by the Irish Meterological Service, Met Eireann: their five day forecasts are particularly useful and easy to interpret.
These goose barnacles, clinging to a marker buoy and a whisky bottle, have been thrown ashore by the storms. Goose barnacles have the smoothest, lustrous, pearly-white shells and look more like some kind of mussel than the jagged little barnacles that coat the rocks.
Common goose barnacles clinging to the pin of a marker buoy
Goose barnacles washed ashore on a marker buoy
Baby goose barnacles with Grants whisky…
Sometimes they’re called goose-neck barnacles, or smooth goose barnacles or common goose barnacles. All the goose-y references are said to originate from old beliefs that geese hatched from the shells.