What’s been happening on the Cape seashore over the last two weeks?
Dr Deborah Robertson-Andersson, a volunteer at both Hout Bay and Table Bay Sea Rescue bases, answers the question:
Due to the onshore winds that have been blowing round the Cape peninsula I have been getting reports of strange and weird animals stranded on our Cape beaches. While there haven’t been any calls regarding sea monsters such as those that happened in Scotland and Waikanae, the animals that we are seeing are very interesting as we seldom see them. They are members of a community that lives close to the water surface called blue neuston.
Why are we seeing these mass strandings? At the moment there are large numbers of them off shore and when we get onshore winds as we have been for the last two weeks they are ending up on our beaches. My advice to you is to go down on to the beach and see if you can find any of these animals. Please take care that you don’t get stung by the blue bottles as they can be very painful. Use a stick to poke around and not your fingers. For this reason I have included some information on the treatment of jellyfish stings as well as emergency contact telephone numbers.
Jelly fish stings:
The following information is from SA JELLY WATCH www.sajellywatch.uwc.ac.za
Because stinging cells are scattered throughout a jellyfish’s tissues, and because each of us reacts differently to being stung, you should avoid contacting jellyfish with your naked skin. You should particularly avoid contact with eyes, nose or mouth and lips, as well as other membrane-rich areas of your body: DO NOT skinny-dip when there are lots of jellyfish about!
In the event of a bad sting, you are advised to seek immediate medical attention (10177) and to contact the poisons unit of your nearest hospital:
Contact telephone numbers of South African Poisons Units and information centres that operate 24 hours a day are provided below. Please note – some of these numbers are intended for medical professionals. If you do have to phone one of the numbers below, it is important to try and identify the actual species that has caused the sting because their database holdings are extensive. Please be aware that many of the experts on the other end of the telephone line will never have treated jellyfish stings before.
021 689 5227: 021 658 5378: 021 658 5075 (Red Cross Children’s Hospital)
021 931 6129 (Tygerberg Hospital – Information Centre)
082 491 0160 (University of Bloemfontein – Information Centre)
Please be advised that some sting-victims may suffer anaphylactic shock and will need immediate on site treatment if they are to survive.
Some species of jellyfish are life-threatening to even the healthiest person (the young, old and sick are particularly at risk), and should you see any box-jellies in the water, you should avoid swimming altogether. You should also alert the nearest life-guard station.
Be aware that the tentacles of jellyfish may break off in the surf, so that even if you do not think you have been stung by a jellyfish you may have done so if they are present in the water. Keep your eyes peeled!