MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Shipwrecks, cannons, ghost forests of tree stumps, thousands of years old. All of these have been uncovered this winter along the Oregon coast after severe storms lead to massive beach erosion.

Tiffany Boothe has been checking out the beach discovery. She works at the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon. That's at the very northern tip of the coast.

And Ms. Boothe, tell us about these ghost forest first. What do they look like?

Ms. TIFFANY BOOTHE (Seaside Aquarium): Really, they just look like trees coming right out of the sand emerging from the surf. Anybody else that hadn't seen the before would probably not think anything of it but us who live here know that they're not usual. We have these beautiful just flat sandy beaches and all of the sudden, they're kind of interrupted by these big stumps.

BLOCK: How big are they?

Ms. BOOTHE: It kind of depends on what beach you're at and what you're seeing - there are some beaches like up Hug Point where you're basically just seeing these root logs so they are not really very big and they've been quite haunted(ph) by the surf. You have down south towards Arch Cape, you're seeing more like huge twigs and stumps hanging out. And those are probably outside of the sand about two feet. You only can see these things at low tide, so a lot of times, they're still actually in the water.

BLOCK: And I gather that scientists have been testing these to figure out how old they are - and it's something - it's like 4,000 years old.

Ms. BOOTHE: That's not the predictions. There are some predictions that some of the stumps that you're seeing are almost 80,000 years old.

BLOCK: Eighty thousand years old.

Ms. BOOTHE: Yeah. We've got a couple of geologists who have been looking around the area and kind of observing and making - just having theories. Everything right now is basically a theory.

BLOCK: What's it like when you walk around among these ghost forests of stumps?

Ms. BOOTHE: You know, it's really cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BOOTHE: It's one of the cooler things that I have seen or done on the beach. It kind of leaves you in awe. It's hard to wrap your brain around the fact that these stumps are 4,000 years old.

BLOCK: You sent us some photographs of these remarkable, I guess, stone formations there, a rusty red color…

Ms. BOOTHE: Yeah.

BLOCK: …coming right up out of the water. What are those?

Ms. BOOTHE: Those are these iron formations. And these iron formations are formed basically with an iron oxide and minerals in the sand, and they build just these beautiful structures. Some of them are just the kind of towers and some them are really long rhythm-like structures and they're brilliant red and they're just beautiful especially when the sun (unintelligible) at sunset.

I've been told these formations can actually be that 10 feet tall. Once they're uncovered, they start getting destroyed right away because rocks hit them. They're pretty fragile. And then they take on all sorts of formations after the rocks start hitting them.

BLOCK: Now, how long do you figure you have to watch all these things that had been uncovered before they get covered up by sand again?

Ms. BOOTHE: You know, that's a really hard thing to predict. The sand moves on these beaches just like it's liquid, so these formations could be exposed one day and then not exposed from that.

BLOCK: Well, Tiffany Boothe, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Ms. BOOTHE: Well, of course.

BLOCK: Tiffany Boothe works at the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon. And you can see some of her photos of those red rock formations at our Web site, npr.org.

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