JELLYFISH STING WALLIS SANDS BEACH VISITORS
In July, 2010, one hundred visitors to Wallis Sands Beach, New Hampshire, were stung by a large, dead, jellyfish.
The jellyfish, identified as a Lion’s Mane jellyfish, fell apart when State Park staff attempted to remove it from the beach. Its stingers remained active though it was dead.*
The Lion’s Mane jellyfish, rare as far south as the New Hampshire coastline, isn’t normally seen in such shallow waters. Lifeguards spotted the creature described by the Park Manager, Ken Loughlin, as the size of a “turkey platter,” and weighing nearly fifty pounds. The state’s chief of marine fisheries, Doug Grout, said this jellyfish species jellyfish, usually found in northern New England, averages eight feet in diameter and can have tentacles up to fifty feet.
All the action transpired in about 20 minutes, when Warburton and his colleagues administered first aid (vinegar treatment). “There wasn’t time to sit and measure this thing. We just got rid of it,” Warburton told LiveScience. “Think about a glob of Jell-O you’re trying to pick up with two hands,” he said, explaining the need for a pitchfork to pick it up.**
Wallis Sands Beach was my family’s beach of choice when my sister (Nancy) Lee and I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When we children went there with our grandparents, we rode in my grandfather’s Chevy. My grandmother sat on the rocks at the end of the beach, beside the road, reading, visiting, or just relaxing. When we went with my mother, we took the bus. She stretched out in the sand on a large towel, tanning under the scorching summer sun. Either way, we had the run of the short beach, under the eyes of the lifeguards.
On the occasions we went in the evening, we rode in the Chevy. Buses didn’t run at night.
On one evening visit, Lee and I ran through the low-tide, shoreline waves. We spotted a jellyfish on the wet sand. It had a band aid inside its clear body.
On another evening visit, we were making footprints in sand left wet by the recently ebbed tide. Two boys, digging a hole in the sand, caught our attention. They filled the hole with clear-colored jelly fish before covering it with sand. Then they skipped to the water’s edge, where they ran in and out of the softly crashing waves. All the while, they kept a surreptitious eye on the numerous beach strollers.
Soon a young couple walked toward the jellyfish trap.
Sure enough, the hoped-for result occurred—the man’s foot met the jellyfish. The boys scooted down the beach, hiding their laughter behind their hands. The man quickly, instinctively, withdrew his foot and ran into the water, attempting to alleviate any damage the jellyfish might have done.
I strongly suspect that the jellyfish in the hole weren’t the Lion’s Mane species. They couldn’t even have been dangerous—any more than the jellyfish, pictured, was (it was found on Lamoine Beach, Maine, many years later). The boys probably knew the jellyfish weren’t dangerous, even if Lee and I didn’t.
And I strongly suspect that if the same boys were on the beach the July day that many people were stung by the dead jellyfish, they would have whooped with laughter—that is, until they themselves were stung.
Sixty years later, as I stroll along Wallis Sands Beach, I watch for young children involved in building sand castles, playing at the edge of the surf, or otherwise occupied in beach activities. I wonder if they are as innocent as they look. And I watch where I step, aware that at any moment my foot could land in a jellyfish-hole trap.
In the future, I will also think about the Lyon’s Mane jellyfish, far south of its usual habit, which stung one hundred persons on my childhood beach.
After returning to our home near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, we ate at a Chinese restaurant. There was a special party going on in the side room, and I shamelessly eavesdropped, trying to learn if it was a birthday or anniversary celebration. It was neither—just a party. However, the restaurant owner said that, because one attendee was from Hong Kong, the host had requested a true Chinese menu. It included fresh chickens from New York City.
We overheard the host saying that he heard questions about what was on one platter. Guesses ranged from noodles to fish. What it turned out to be was jellyfish! The owner described it as looking like jiggly noodles.
To read Jellyfish: Food, Pets, Glut & Threats click on http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/jellyfish-food-pets-glut-threats/
* Watertown Daily Times July 22, 2010 From wire services.