Friday, May 30, 2008

Flippin' Jellyfish

It seems that the jellyfish are paying Positano a visit again this year. There have been reports of waves of unwanted floaters hitting our beaches already.

In Australia when I was young, jellyfish meant segments of transparent debris from the sea which were washed up on the sand especially for us to play with and squelch between our toes.

In Positano, it is a different story. It means entering the water with trepidation and looking down all the time rather than enjoying the swim. These jellyfish are rather insidious and difficult to see most of the time, even if the water is crystal clear. They are very small with long stinging filaments. People dive in with masks on to be able to see them under water and get stung all around the mouth. I have only once had the misfortune of being brushed by a jellyfish because I am usually over cautious. That was enough for me and I'd been only lightly touched.

The cry of 'Medusa, Medusa' leaves people scrambling to get out of the water and has little children running gleefully with their nets in order to scoop the culprits out of the sea. A jellyfish cemetery is created on a corner of the beach and all the gelatinous mass is left to dry in the sun. My third child, about five years ago when he was ten, was playing in the water. The cry 'medusa' came up, and my son got out his net. There were a few critters in the water so he fished them out. Then he saw another, further into the deeper water and dove in with his net. As he drew this one in, he didn't see a second jellyfish on his side and managed to squash it under his arm. He still bears the scars.

Local's reaction to a jellyfish sting is rather varied. Most say to go to the bar to have some 'ammonia' put on the area. Others grab a hot stone and place it on the burn (ouch ! ). There is a spray available to cool the sting a little. But they are mostly philosophical saying that if there are jellyfish it means that the water is clean. (I have seen the opposite on some days).

But the best jellyfish story I've heard, came from my husband's cousin . Years ago when her sons were young and two terrors, the same antics regarding the fishing of jellyfish went on. One day, they forgot to bring their net with them. The eldest had a pair of flippers on for snorkeling, so when the Medusa cry went up, he remediated as best he could and picked it out of the water with the top of his flipper . When he went to dump it in the delegated spot, the jellyfish stuck to the rubber and to get it off, he flipped it. The jellyfish went flying through the air and landed on the back of a poor unsuspecting lady who had been sunbathing on the beach. The screams as it stung her!! She had welts all over her back. It was some time before they showed their face on that beach again.


Kataroma said...

Hi scintilla - not sure where in Australia you're from - but in Sydney the bluebottles are rather nasty. I've never been stung by one but my mum (who grew up at Bronte) has a story about sitting on a rock aged 6 where someone had created a "blue bottle graveyard". She ended up in the ER.

And the Queensland box jellyfish - well, they just kill you...

Rosa said...

Ow, Your poor Mum !
Kataroma, I'm from Melbourne, so we don't get as many nasties in the water, only blue-ringed octopuses (which I've never seen). I've heard about the other jelly fish though. The ones on Melbourne beaches are parts of the body not filaments.
We barely put our feet in the water on our last visit to Fraser Island - tiger sharks everywhere !