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Saturday, August 7, 2004



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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
An estimated 200 gray sea worms ranging from 1 to 6 inches in length were found yesterday at Ala Moana Beach Park.


Strange Invasion

Sea worms wash ashore at
Ala Moana Beach Park


Lifeguards reported finding scores of "strange sea creatures" at Ala Moana Beach yesterday morning.

One woman reported being stung Thursday by one of them, said lifeguard Steve Clendenin, who described them as a "nightmarish cross between a centipede and a sea urchin."

"I've never seen them before," said Clendenin, a lifeguard at Ala Moana since 1979.

An estimated 200 gray sea worms washed ashore at Ala Moana Beach Park yesterday morning, said acting Lt. Bill Goding, of the city Ocean Safety Division.

The worms have white hairlike "legs" which they use to propel themselves in the water. They ranged from about 1 to 6 inches in length. Some were found burrowing themselves in the sand, but most appeared to be dying.

The state Department of Health found it was not necessary to close the beach.


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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lifeguard Bill Goding held up one of the worms.


The creatures are actually polycheate worms that do not sting or bite, although they sometimes have thornlike spines on their backs, according to the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch.

"Because of the rain, many of them died because of the dilution of fresh water coming into the ocean," said Janice Okubo, Health Department spokeswoman.

The worms are rarely seen and normally live in the ocean buried under the sand, Okubo said. They burrow deep in the sand eating algae.

Goding used a plastic spoon to quickly collect about 30 worms in a small stretch of beach in front of the lifeguard station on the Ewa end of the beach park.

A few teenage surfers who had just gotten out of the water stared at a bucket of the worms in disgust.

"That's crusty," said Rick Yoshikane, 15. "They look like centipedes. I've never seen them before."

"They look like the flatworms from the movie 'Evolution,'" said Casey Matsuo, 15. "They mutate into gorillas and took over the world."



Hawaii State Department of Health
www.state.hi.us/health

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