Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Attack of the Jellies!

Over the Memorial day weekend Terry and I met Elaine Pasekoff and Derrek Hewitt at Coco Beach. We stuffed quarters in the parking meters and hiked over the small boardwalk to the beach. We were surprised that the strip of beach we were on wasn't crowded. A huge sea turtle lay on the dry sand its shell broken. The stench of death overpowered us and we moved up the beach. The umbrella and chairs that Derrek had carried were set up. I was the first to walk to the water's edge. There I was shocked to find billions of jelly fish being washed up in the surf. These were mauve stingers which are usually native to the Mediterranean. The wet sand was littered with jellies each one being the size of a ping pong ball. There was no way I was going in the water. When I looked up and down the beach I realized that there was no one in the water. The pink blobs had taken back the ocean on one of the busiest weekends of the summer season.

Lifeguards treated over 1,800 people for stings. Though not as potent as the sting from a blue Portuguese man-of-war, the stings were painful. Local convenience stores ran out of Benadryl and vinegar. We joked that we might have to pee on each other if we got stung. A few people were sent to local hospitals after suffering from allergic reactions. It wasn't safe in the water. The four of us huddled under the beach umbrella. I sketched the view to the north.

The attack of the jellies was unprecedented. This species of jellyfish had never been seen on these beaches. Jellies are flourishing in the warmer ocean waters, being washed up on beaches more often. After invading the beach for the weekend, the smack of jellyfish disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.

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