Thursday, 29 July 2010

Floating Fiends

by Rachael Haylett

My favourite time of year has arrived: the long nights, sunny days, warmer waters and plenty of opportunity for outside fun. The only downside is that the jellyfish have also arrived.

Everyone has phobias, and one of my biggest has been jellyfish, ever since I first moved to Ardnamurchan.

The waters around Kilchoan seem to contain two main species of jellyfish over the summer months. The most common are Aurelia aurita, or moon jellyfish, which are clear with purple rings. These are the jellyfish which one might well see
held in children's hands as they run around Sanna beach, because they do not sting humans.

Unfortunately Ardnamurchan waters also contain jellyfish which can have quite a nasty sting. Commonly known as Lion's Mane, (Cyanea capillata), these jellyfish can grow to quite a size in the colder and deeper waters around the peninsular. They can be recognised by their deep orange colour, and should be avoided.

As the tourist season hots up in Ardnamurchan, it's worth knowing how best to treat a jellyfish sting should an accident occur. If nothing is available to you, then soaking in sea water helps. Coating the wound with vinegar is recommended, alongside the careful removal of the tentacles from the stung area. On no account rub the sting - that just bursts the nematocysts - and do not apply ice or hot water. If possible, one should gently apply baking soda or shaving cream and shave with a razor or credit card - this prevents the release of more toxins. Then reapply the vinegar. More detailed information can be found

However, it is worth remembering that we are lucky that our waters do not contain much more dangerous floating fiends. On my parents' recent visit to Bermuda they found loads of Portugese Man of War jellyfish washed up on the beaches. A sting from one of these could lead to a visit to a local hospital. So there's one reason why the cold Scottish waters aren't so bad.

Photo of Aurelia aurita (top) courtesy of 'Sheriff of Nothing' on Flickr

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