Nothing says summer like a jellyfish sting!

Hers in Brighton and Hove our seasonal swimming friends the jellyfish have arrived in abundance. In this blog you will learn how to identify the common types and what do do if you are stung.

Once the May Bloom begins to die back the jellyfish appear on the south coast of England.  We had a sunfish sighting off Brighton’s beach last week which meant the jellyfish were imminent. It is their staple diet as it is for leatherback turtles. So what visitors can we expect each year from May to October? (Also included are a couple of creatures that are technically not jellyfish but kinda look and act like them so they get a mention.)

I love jellyfish. I think they are mesmerising to watch and I can often while a way a few minutes (read hours) watching the Monterey Bay Aquarium jellyfish dance on their jellycam.  They don’t really swim but instead are carried by tides and currents around the UK waters. They all sting but to varying degrees and are essential in the marine food chain so I feel we can forgive them if they accidentally leave some nematocysts stinging cells on our limbs. For me summer has only truly arrived once I feel a slight skin irritation after a shower and know it’s because I’ve been stung by a jellyfish.

sea goosberry

Sea Gooseberry – The first to appear in the summer are sea gooseberries, which are not actually jellyfish, but they are my favourite. They are so named for obvious reasons but are sometimes called comb jellies or ctenophore. Due to their almost transparent nature they can be hard to see but you feel their cilia, which they use for swimming or their two long trailing tentacles as a soft tickle. Their shadows on your skin are sometimes easier to spot than the actual creature itself.  They vertically migrate throughout the day so are most common near the surface in the mornings or evenings.

moon

Moon – this jelly has an umbrella shaped transparent bell with 4 very distinct purple or white rings in the centre and gets up to around 40cm. These are the jellyfish gonads! It has very short hair like tentacles which release the mildest of stings. So mild you may not even realise you have been stung.

compass

Compass – this is the jellyfish we draw or see in drawings. It has a typical umbrella top and lovely long tentacles and frilled arms and grows to around 30cm. It is identifiable by the markings on it’s bell, which resemble a compass and are reddy brown in colour. If you feel you have been stung by a jellyfish on the south coast this is likely to be the culprit. It is sometimes called a nettle jellyfish as it’s sting feels similar to that of a nettle.

blue

Blue – This jelly fish has a dome shaped bell and lots and lots of stinging tentacles and is around 30cm. Although it is named ‘Blue Jellyfish’ it doesn’t actually turn blue until it is at full maturity. It gradually changes from a pale yellow to a blueish purple. During it’s paler phase it can commonly be mistaken for a Lion’s Mane Jelly. He’s stinger!

Largelionsmanejellyfish

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish – quite obvious how it got it’s name. A very elaborate orange jellyfish which can grow quite large (50cm – 2m) with This is the worst stinger but fortunately for those of us that swim off the south coast they are usually found in northern waters. The problem with these is they sting A LOT because they have such A LOT of tentacles which easily break off. These are worth seeking medical attention for.

barrel

Barrel – sometimes called dustbin lid jellyfish as this is typically their size so you’ll know of you see one. They can get up to 1m. You can often spot them in the deep water of Shoreham port when they get stuck in the locks there. They are incredible to look at. The good news is they do not have tentacles but rather frills and if they sting you they re very mild.

mauve

Mauve Stinger – does what it says on the tin. It’s mauve and it stings. It’s much smaller than the others only getting up to about 10cm and it has a deep bell, pinky purple in colour. It have 8 stinging tentacles that can leave you with skin irritation, blisters, hives and scabs.

Portuguese_Man-O-War_(Physalia_physalis)

Portuguese man-of-war or bluebottles are not actually a jellyfish and don’t just exist in Portugal. It is in fact a siphonophore which in layman’s terms is a whole host of colonies of genetically identical creatures!  It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which is blue-purple in colour and  sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. It has incredibly long fishing polyps, up to 10 metres long and although rare in UK waters is has a powerful and dangerous sting. Get to the doctor!

by the wind

By the wind sailor – sometimes confused with the Portuguese man-of-war as it too has a sail like structure that sits above the water line and they are blueish purple in colour. Again it is not a jellyfish but it does have stinging tentacles that are harmless to humans. The tend to appear in huge swarms.

STINGS – what to do!

Jellyfish can sting whether they are dead or alive and if a part of the tentacle is broken off it can still sting you. Stinging cells, normally intended for their food prey,  basically attach themselves to your skin and well sting. How much they hurt and how dangerous the sting can be all depends on the type of jellyfish, how much you have been stung and how you react to stings. For example, if you are the type of person that blows up when bitten by a mosquito because your body produces an excess of histamine, the likelihood is you will react the same way to a jellyfish sting. Certain types of stings will always require medical attention as per the description above. The more mild stings can be treated in the following ways;

  • Remove all traces of the stinging cells from your skin with a bank card by scraping it along the surface.
  • The sting reacts to changes in temperature and PH levels so keeping both of these consistent for as long as possible will reduce pain and redness. So it sounders counterproductive and probably not very inviting but stay in the salty cold water of the sea for as long as possible.
  • Do not clean the area with fresh water as this will do both of the above (change in temperature and PH) and boy will you know it if it is a significant sting. As previously said I sometimes only realise I have been stung when have a shower – a good reason to avoid them and stay salty.
  • Treat with heat not a cold compress
  • Take paracetamol and/or antihistamine
  • A newly discovered favourite is put shaving foam on the affected area as it apparently prevents the spread of toxins. Who knew!

 

The gooseberry, moon, compass and barrel are the most common in the English channel. I have never seen the others in Brighton and Hove but that’s not to say they have never occurred, just that they are rare. If you wish to continue swimming in the sea over the summer months you are going to have to put up with these fascinating residents. Rash vests and swim leggings can be worn to prevent stings but it won’t prevent you from encountering them. Hopefully, learning about how important they are to the marine food chain and knowing that the sting from the most commonly occurring types is harmless won’t stop you from getting in the water.

Lots of organisations are interested in tracking jellyfish populations. The Marine Conservation Society record which jellyfish get washed up and where so please report whatever you see. The Wildlife Trust also asks for public volunteers to record wildlife on our shores.

Favourite jellyfish fact: Groups of jellyfish are called swarms, blooms or my favourite smacks!

NB: All image are taken from Wikipedia – there will be better and beautiful  examples of the jellyfish on the internet but so as not to breach copyright they have not been shared here.

Just keep swimming!

Do it for David – alternatives to plastic

Being plastic free is hard. There are lots of images on Social Media and slightly preachy people telling you to change your ways as they eat from bamboo bowls. But old habits die hard. And giving up plastic is bloomin’ hard. They don’t tell you that. That conversation is not in the public domain about just how hard it is to avoid plastic all together. It’s easy to post and despair at a single tangerine peeled and packaged in a plastic tub. It’s also easy to avoid buying ridiculous products like this. But in reality, in day to day life, when you have a habit that has been part of your upbringing and culture for your whole life, it’s bloomin’ hard.  To even realise you’ve consumed single use plastic sometimes is hard as it’s our way of life to grab a bottle of water when thirsty or a ready-made sandwich when hungry. We all know we need to reduce our plastic consumption and stop polluting the seas or we will inevitably kill off life on earth. But we have a habit of convenience and a cupboard full of Tupperware.

However, as the famous supermarket that packages skinned fruit in plastic says, ‘every little helps’. And at Seabirds HQ, much like the rest of the nation, we have fallen for David, (not Hasslehoff). Along with 14 million other viewers we tuned in every Sunday night to Blue Planet II to listen to David Attenborough tell us, gently and stoically we are killing ocean life. We want him to be our uncle/dad/granddad and have him round for Sunday roasts. But who can forget the dead whale calf that the mother refused to let go. Hope in a hopeless situation.

David has bought the conversation to the table, the pub, on-line, Westminster. So let’s #doitfordavid and think about the small, easy, manageable changes we can make. There is no planet B so we need a plan A. Here is our Plan A Top 10 affordable and achievable changes.

  1. Straws – Do you really need a straw to drink your drink? Unless you are a small child or physically challenged I would suggest the answer is no. So when you are out and about either refuse a plastic straw if offered or bring your own stainless steel one. I like to slurp up my morning smoothie through a straw so have stainless steel ones in my cutlery drawer.
  2. Toothbrush – every time I watch Bear Grylls take some more nauseatingly annoying people onto a deserted island to survive I despair. Not just at the contestants, but at the tide of plastic on these beautiful paradise beaches and it is always toothbrushes! So switch to bamboo. Simples!
  3. Coffee Cup – this is a money saving change too. Most coffee shops will discount their coffee price if you are using a reusable cup. There are lots on the market to choose from but be warned some are made from plastic! So chose a bamboo, stainless steel or glass. (The paper disposable cups on offer do not recycle as they are chemically coated to make them waterproof.)
  4. Water Bottle – loads of people carry their own water bottle when they go to the gym, in the car or just out and about, So switch to non-plastic bottles. You can get aesthetically beautiful isothermal bottles now which keep water cold for 24 hours.
  5. Reducing microfibres – this is the invisible mainly unknown threat to our seas. Most of our clothes, especially from affordable high street stores, contain microfibres. Naked to the human eye, tiny pieces of plastic that make up the material, are released when washed into rivers and the sea. Avoiding the obvious ones like microfibre towel and replacing them with cotton ones is easy. Avoiding high street fashion is not so easy. Some shops like H&M have a conscious range of clothes made from natural organic materials like cotton that do not contain microfibres. For synthetic materials, an easy solution is a bag to use in your washing machine that traps the microfibres like a Guppy Friend.
  6. Shampoo – not all shampoo comes in plastic bottles. Many cosmetic companies are now creating shampoo bars. Seabirds are big fans of Lush shampoo bars which fit into a handy tin to store. A tiny bit froths up beautifully so it lasts for ages. We are still on the hunt for a conditioner bar that can handle our sea ravaged and (sun) bleached hair.
  7. Soap – we didn’t always dispense our soap from a pump action plastic bottle. In the days of yore we had bars of soap. So just go back to them!
  8. Bag for Life – I think most people now have these in their boot when they go to the supermarket. But how many people remember to take them to their local shops or are caught short during an impulse purchase. A string bag or fold away bag for life which folds into it’s own storage pocket is the answer. Mine is from a well known supermarket chain.
  9. Pick Up Litter – there are lots of local beach cleans organised by local community groups, Surfers against Sewage, Marine Conservation Society and the like. Here in Brighton we have the wonder Pier2Pier Silent Disco Beach Cleans. But you don’t need to wait for someone to organise one….don’t worry I am not suggesting you organise one yourself. But when you go to the park, the beach, or anywhere really, if you see litter pick it up. Yes the bins are always full and never emptied so take it home!
  10. Festival Pints – the summer staple for many is a festival and they are a great way to spend a hedonistic weekend. But oh the aftermath of litter. Obviously glass and cans are a danger to humans but the alternative plastic and wax coated paper cups used are a danger to the environment. So pack a stainless steel pint pot. It keeps your drink cold, for beer drinkers it retains the head and it is just so much nicer to drink out of. If you don;t believe us just ask Beer Yeti. Again we chill in the fridge and use for smoothies at home.

There are lots of other changes you can make. I have recently started to carry bamboo cutlery in my handbag and my swimsuit is made from econyl.  Many say why bother when our refuse collection companies don’t actually recycle the stuff we put in recycling bins……but David has given us hope. So these are our top 10 easy and affordable changes. No preaching, just suggesting. It is hard but #doitfordavid

Image result for david attenborough blue planet

 

The Physics of a Pollution Solution. World Environment Day June 5th 2018

 

Isothermal is a word I associate with my kid’s Physics homework. Wikipedia says ‘An isothermal process is a change of a system, in which the temperature remains constant: ΔT = 0.’ Yep that makes it clearer. Genuinely all Greek to me! I though because I listen to Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox I would automatically absorb his knowledge by podcast osmosis. Apparently not.

Undeterred, I have done some research. It is basically a way of keeping something at a constant hot or cold temperature when the temperatures surrounding the something are constantly changing. So in the case of the Seabirds Isothermal bottle , you can leave it in a boiling hot car with the windows wound up for hours on end and the temperature won’t change. (Don’t do this with your dog.)

So what else is good about the Seabirds Isothermal bottle? It’s made from stainless steel, not plastic, with a double wall insulation. It has 3 layers to keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. The drip free neck is large enough to for ice cubes to fit through. Its ergonomic design is not only pleasant to hold in the hand but the bottle also fits into a standard cup holder. It’s ideal for enjoying tea or coffee throughout the day, warming up after swimming. It’s perfect for ice cold water to help you stay hydrated during and after exercise. You can even send your kids to school with one. Just make sure you scribble all over it with a sharpie and be prepared to search other kid’s school bags when it goes missing.

Keeping your drink hot or cold isn’t the only great thing about it. At only £15 it is a bargain compared to many other leading brands that sell the very same product. And the lovely colours to choose from. The bling Rose Gold is flying out of the shop and we are looking to order more after just two days of trading. The cool blue and snow white are also available.

At Seabirds we are serious about refusing single use and looking for plastic pollution solutions. This bottle fits the bill and our mission. Here at Seabirds HQ we all have one and are able to refill them at various stations across the city . Sourced from a local company in Hove whose ethos mirrors our own, they have created a drinking bottle that keeps water clean, safe and pure. Stainless steel is a food grade product, tested and trusted by the food and beverage industries. It is easy to clean, toxin free, non-leaking, odour and taste free, recyclable and robust for continued usage. The only down side is you cannot put it in the dishwasher!

So on World Environment Day – refuse single use plastic – and be part of the refill revolution! Get yourself a Seabird’s isothermal bottle.