“Captain, my recon mission is complete. During my sweep of the beach, I spotted eleven fat, blue jellyfish wash up onto shore. I request to hand over my togs and be sent back to base.”
“What are you talking about?” M asks me.
“Look…just look…you see those giant, blue blobs just hanging out on the sand? Those…those are what I’m talking about.”
“Can we go look?” asks G.
We see a young girl in the distance, just a wee speck on the horizon, she reaches down and picks up a blue blob with her bare hands and tosses it into her sand castle bucket. As we get closer I see she can’t be more than four and is surrounded by older brothers…not parents. I fight the urge to run towards her in Chariots of Fire style slow motion and yell out, ‘Nooooooooooooo!’ as she wanders over to pick up the jellyfish you see below. It is the size of an extra large pizza. She has drawn a small crowd and from the strained looks on their faces they seem to fight the same urge I do.
“Hi there,” I say sweetly, “do you think these jellyfish are safe to touch?”
She looks up at me with an expression I can only describe as appalled, “I am a croc huntah,” she says, “I am so big and so strong. This jelly can’t hurt me.”
She motions up the beach a bit where we spot her ‘jelly’ graveyard, “Look! Those jellies have lost their stingaahhs!” she says with great confidence.
In the short amount of time it took me to report back to M about my findings, this little one had collected all the jellyfish I saw wash up. She’s good, real good, but I need more information. No adult on the beach will go anywhere near these jellies, nor do they seem to approve of the little croc huntah’s collection methods.
One of her brothers tells me it’s true. A lifeguard told them yesterday they had lost their stingers so they can’t hurt you, but this brother is only nine or so. I need a more reliable source. Then the mum and dad show up on the scene, “Oh, been collecting jellies have we?”
“Is this your little one?” I ask.
“Oh yes, that’s her.”
“She tells me she’s a croc hunter.”
Both parents laugh cautiously, “Yesterday a few of these jellies washed up on shore and we panicked until the lifeguard told us they’d lost their stingers and the kids could hurl them around like footballs. I actually wish he hadn’t told them that.”
With this more official sounding news, G wants in on the jelly hunt. We oblige.
When I sat down now to write this post, I thought I’d look up for myself what the story was with these jellyfish. It turns out these Blue Blubber Jellyfish (that is their name) actually don’t have stingers to lose. They have hundreds of tiny mouths on those big, chunky legs of theirs. They sting their prey with tiny venomous bites from those little mouths. If they’ve come up on shore, it’s because they’ve died and they won’t bite you if they’re dead (unlike box or bluebottle jellyfish who defend themselves from beyond the grave with enough remaining venom in their dead tentacles to paralyze a horse).
But if you find yourself swimming with Blue Blubbers, beware. While the bites won’t kill you; they can be itchy to some; a little rashy to others and if you’re the allergic one, which you’ll never know unless you get stung (surely that’s me), they can leave big welts that hang around for months.
The moral of the story is, Australians have such a weird and wide variety of creatures to deal with, they can only commit to memory the ones that can kill you. All the rest? Sure, toss ’em around like footballs. So I tossed this experience into my personal sandcastle bucket of reasons to love the great indoors. To quote Fran Leibowitz’s Reader, “To me the outdoors is what you must pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab.”