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A Jellyfish Summer

Last week, Bruckner Chase of Santa Cruz set out to become the second person ever to swim across Monterey Bay. He intended to use the publicity surrounding the 14-hour slog to raise awareness about ocean issues.But then the ocean did a little awareness raising of its own. Thirty minutes into the swi...

A sign near an Australian beach warns of the danger of jellies (photo by Sarah Zielinski)




Last week, Bruckner Chase of Santa Cruz set out to become the second person ever to swim across Monterey Bay. He intended to use the publicity surrounding the 14-hour slog to raise awareness about ocean issues.



But then the ocean did a little awareness raising of its own. Thirty minutes into the swim, jellyfish---whose swelling numbers are considered by many to be a symptom of unhealthy seas---began to swarm.



“I’m like, ‘Come on guys, I’m trying to help here,’” Chase said later.



The jellies could not be reasoned with---Chase was soon being stung everywhere, even inside his mouth. He made it through the swim by putting on a wet suit after about two hours, at his wife’s insistence. (She was beside him in an escort boat.) Jellies stopped a California woman attempting the same swim the week before, reportedly stinging her hundreds of times. But even in the wet suit---which protected all but Chase’s face and extremities---conditions were less than pleasant.



“During the last mile,” one news account said, “Chase felt (the jellyfish) oozing through his hands with every stroke and realized ‘that had I not been in a wetsuit, I would not have been able to physically survive.’”



Ah, memories. I spent a chunk of the spring reading stories like this one while researching jellyfish for our 40th anniversary issue, and this summer I haven’t been able to resist keeping up with the latest jelly current events (although I did chicken out of my colleagues’ jellyfish-eating expedition). As usual, the jellies have been up to no good:



On the bright side, though, scientists have been studying a fish that actually seems to thrive in the jellyfish-infested waters off of Namibia, where most fish species have been pushed out. Cute little bearded gobies are immune to jelly stings and even have a taste for jellies, which make up a third of their diet.



Abigail Tucker is the magazine’s staff writer.
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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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