PETER FROST remembers a terrifying Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Our recent mini heat-wave has seen thousands of holiday makers heading for Britain’s seaside. But human holiday makers are not the only visitors being attracted to our beaches.
The recent spell of warm weather has also seen a rapid increase in jellyfish blooms around our coast. A number of colourful and spectacular species including the giant Lion’s mane have been turning up on beaches in growing numbers.
The Lion’s mane, our biggest jellyfish, can have a body well over six feet (two metres) in diameter and has long powerful stinging tentacles. These tentacles can be up to a hundred feet (30 metres) long. Longer than a blue whale.
Lion’s manes were made famous in a Sherlock Holmes short story.
Holmes discovers that the true killer of a school professor who died shortly after going swimming was actually this giant jellyfish.
Despite the story actual deaths from British jelly fish stings are rare. Healthy adults usually survive even serious stings.
These huge jellyfish are mostly found around North Wales and the North West of England. They feed on smaller species such as the Moon jellyfish.
Big blooms of moons attract lion’s manes and these in turn attract leatherback turtles. Lion’s manes are the main diet of these huge turtles which can grow to the size of a Volkswagen beetle.
A particularly warm July has led to jelly fish sightings on all parts of our coast. Holiday makers have been frightened out of the water by huge blooms of stingers.
As well as the spectacular Lion’s mane we have also seen large numbers of the giant blue and compass jellyfish too. These beautiful and graceful swimming creatures have been very common in the Devon and Corwall this year.
The compass jelly gets its name from an elegant set of markings that resemble an ornate compass rose.
Another pretty species, the spherical, white and almost luminous moon jellyfish, has been found all around our coast sometimes in very large numbers.
One further species the barrel jellyfish are normally found in the Irish sea but come further south as in warm summers like this year’s.
Try to keep clear of any jellyfish. Never touch them either in the water or when they have been washed up on the beach. Alive or dead they can really sting and some exotic species are really dangerous.
So why are jelly fish blooms increasing?
Some scientists say that pollution is driving up the number of algal blooms and depriving the seas of oxygen. That’s bad for shellfish and other fish species but jellyfish do well in these conditions.
Others believe it is a side effect of commercial overfishing. Still others say that it is just a natural cycle, and nothing to worry about.
Weather, and warm summers remain a key factor in the number of jellyfish that invade our summer beaches.
What to do if you get stung.
Most jellyfish stings are mild and don’t require treatment or can be treated yourself. Here is the latest medical advice.
Seek medical assistance or dial 999 if there are severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or if a large or sensitive area of the body, such as the face or genitals, has been stung.
Get the victim out of the water. Keep as still as possible while being treated to reduce the risk of toxins being released into the body.
Any remaining tentacles should be removed using tweezers or a clean stick. Wear gloves if they’re available.
An ice pack on the affected area will help reduce pain and inflammation.
Vinegar is no longer recommended for treating jellyfish stings. The use of any substances should be avoided. Ignore too the well known advice about peeing on the sting.
Applying shaving cream to the affected area will help prevent the spread of toxins. Use a credit card or shell to scrape off any of the small poisonous sacs that are stuck to the skin.
First published in the Morning Star Summer 2013