Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meet the bluebottle...

Having a cultural inspiration... I wanted to share with you what is a bluebottle.

Well... yeah... This is a blue-bottle...
But is not the kind of bluebottle that I am talking about.

The bluebottle is a funny looking zooid (part of a bigger organism) which looks like a jellyfish, inflated like a balloon, floating in warm waters, resting and enjoying the day while tides, wind or waves carries it away to beaches, open ocean and occasionally to a swimmer, surfer or visitor of the beach.

Meet the bluebottle...
Say 'Oi!' little fella!

As I am sure you are aware right now, any jellyfish is related to painful (and maybe deadly) venom contained in a tentacle hanging behind (or under) the organism itself... In the case of the bluebottle, you will find that pretty blueish translucent (3cm long) balloon floating placidly, but beneath the surface is dangling a very thin and long tentacle (up to 10 metres long) which most of the time is impossible to see in the water.

Balloon on top... tentacles underneath...

Why is it relevant to Australia?

The name bluebottle was given by Aussies because it appears to be little blue bottles buried in the sand; but in the rest of the world is known as Portuguese man-of-war, linked to its sailing warship appearance... although I haven’t seen a Portuguese blue caravel sailing somewhere...

OH NO! A Portuguese man of war!!!!
Anyhow, the bluebottle is responsible for up to 10,000 human stings on the east coast each summer (just in Australia) and some more all over South and Western Australia... So it is important to know when you take a look to a beach in which there are lots of bluebottles stranded long wide in the beach, you should never ever ever ever ever jump in the water... Unless, of course, you think you might get away without being stung or you have a fully body protective suit or you are very stupid.

A real caravel or man-of-war.
When I was reading it from Wikipedia I imagined Mel Gibson painted in blue as in braveheart
screaming 'Bluebottle FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOMMMMMM!!!!!'

What to do when you are stung by a bluebottle?

Before any other action is taken... Try to identify if it was a bluebottle or any kind of jellyfish (remember that bluebottles aren’t really jellyfishes)... How? Take a look to the sand, if you find bluebottles beached take action as specified below, otherwise go to the doctor:

If you are not highly allergic (or have weak allergic reactions):
  1. Don’t try to remove barehanded the tentacle... It will continue to sting if you keep touching it. Try to remove it with something else.
  2. Take some salt water and apply it to the affected area.
  3. Try to apply hot liquids on the wound... Urinating the affected area might help to ease the pain and it will denaturalise the venom.
  4. If the pain is not eased after a while, or you get more symptoms other than burning sensation, light muscle cramps and pain (such as intense pain, fever, lost of consciousness, etc)... you should go to the doctor immediately.

If you have strong allergic reaction (or more sensitive area is compromise such as eyes or mouth) you should:
  1. Wash the area as fast as possible with tap water (to try to remove the tentacle as much as possible).
  2. Get medical assistance.

They are easy to spot... Is not like they are trying to hide or something.

How did I get this inspirational moment?


I was stung by a bluebottle... three times...

Yup, three times...

Someone with the bluebottle mark.

It wasn’t the same though... but that doesn’t mean I feel less stupid.

So here is the story...

Yesterday (Saturday) it was a lovely day for a swim in the beach. Day was warm, sky was blue and the water it was beautifully warm... I think you are starting to understand how this is going...

I received a buzz from some mates to go to the beach (Narrabeen) and I couldn’t resist. Once we applied twice sunscreen to prevent nasty burns (and avoiding terrible insulation with a 12 UV index) wear the bathing shirt and shorts, we packed our stuff, hooped in the car (their car) and drove to Narrabeen.

I was amazed at first to find so many bluebottles beached... so my first comment was ‘is there bluebottles in the water?’... Someone said ‘I don’t think so! I haven’t seen one in the water...’ and I believed it.

Mistake number one... If someone tells you ‘I haven’t seen one in there...’ it doesn’t mean that there isn’t in there...

I decided not to jump straight away in the water... Instead I started to apply sunscreen (more) to Kathy’s back... just in case the UV index decided to go a bit further... In a separate post I will try to explain why is important to have sunscreen down here (as well as some other protective wearing suit).

Do you remember when I was saying the tentacle can be up to 10 metres?
I wasn't joking.

Later, I was starting to feel a bit hot, so I decided to jump in the water (despise Kathy’s pleads not to) to refresh myself and I must say the water lovely, not too cold, not too warm... it was nice; it wasn’t completely translucid, but good enough to see seaweed and the sand... No bluebottle in the water... none that I could see.

Mistake number two... Everything comes with a price. The water can’t be that good without something waiting to emerge. This was the same kind of mistake the people of the black pearl in pirates of the Caribbean had... I bet they thought in the second movie:
Oh... the water is so nice today’ and BOOOOOOM, SQUATCHSSSSSSSSSS, BLAAAAAAAAAAM, SPUTWAAAAAAAAAATSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! GLUUUB... GLUUUBB... GLUUUB.... The kraken attacked.

Poor bastards... Maybe they got stung as well by bluebottles.
It was at the precise moment that I was walking to deeper waters when I felt it.

It wasn't precisely a comic plugging me in... 
An electric sensation running through my left leg which made it retracts backward really fast; making me trip off, almost losing balance. My immediate reaction was to turn around and started running out the water as fast as I could. Thankfully I was out in no time and Kathy asked me what happened (she already knew... you could pretty much imagine her face of ‘I told you so’) trying to dry me up and check where I was stung... It took me about 2 minutes to show a chain of little red marks in my calf. About ten to fifteen red mark that starting an awful burning and beating pain.

I stood there, immobile for a little bit till everyone else checked me out and applied some cream on it. And it was the first time that I heard... ‘You should try to pee on it... it will ease your pain...’

I thought ‘What?????????? WHY?????????’ ignoring the comment at first... then he started explaining... ‘When my son was stung by a bluebottle, the lifeguard told him to pee on his leg... and that remove the pain almost instantly...’

Still... I didn’t do it because I was thinking... ‘In case I really pee my leg... how the bloody hell am I going to clean it? I am not going to jump back in the water!’

45 minutes later... the pain was long gone, replaced by very sensible reddish skin but I was back playing on the beach. We took some rackets and started playing it... But as you can imagine, after another hour and half playing... I felt suffocated and needed to refresh myself. Kathy and I walked to the showers and rest there for a little bit. It was at that precise moment when a bloke approached to us asking...

‘What’s that thing in the water?’ pointing to a reddish spot, floating 10 metres away from the shore.
‘Looks like krill... I have seen it before...’ (At that moment everything made sense... krill... bluebottles... warm waters) ‘... but if you are thinking about swimming... forget it. I was stung by a bluebottle’ I said.

And the guy replied ouch! Well, you know how they say... in blue skies and blue waters; aware of the bluebottles!’ turning around and walking away... So we did as well...

The legend of the mysterious bluebottle nursery rhymer
But I wasn’t refreshed enough. I was still feeling too warm to be comfortable and the first chance that I saw someone walking towards the water I decided to walk with her... I mean, is not possible to be stung again... right?

Mistake number three, never underestimate the power of Murphy ’s Law. ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’.
Mistake number four, ignoring a mysterious man warning nursery rhymes about blue skies, blue waters and bluebottles.
Mistake number five, ignoring Kathy’s disapproval look... again.
Mistake number six, ignoring all previous five mistakes and continue on.

Both of us jumped into the water (not too deep, where we could see enough to avoid any bluebottle) and she asked how it feels to be stung by a bluebottle... to which I reply:

‘Oh well... the first thing that you are going to feel is a ZAP where it touches and then a burning....’

And I wasn't as happy as the bloke in the image.
Both of us started screaming. Now the electric shock was coming mainly from the back of my right leg and some bits of the back of my left leg. I wasn’t willing to find why she was screaming as well... but I started running... again to the safety of the dry land. Just to find Kathy speechless, with a bit of a smile in her face and ‘I told you so’ look; what can I say... again sitting in my towel waiting for Kathy to apply the cream in my new set of red marks. In this second occasion I was heavily stung in comparison to the first time... My left leg had something very mild, while the back of right leg had three thick red marks.

Turn to face my friend and she tells me ‘you don’t need to explain me anymore how it feels. We should pack up; we can’t be in the beach today.’

I hope you find the story more entertaining that I did... Worth of sharing it with you, but at least I could share my newly acquire wisdom through painful training so you could avoid it yourself.

My Advice... In blue skies and blue waters with blue things beached... aware of the fucking bluebottles...



El Lado B Del Planeta (Monólogos Bipolares) said...

Hahahahahaaaa... I just loved the end hahahahahahahaha....

I was telling your story to my little boy and he just said "ouch... thanks God we never went to a beach in Sydney!" with a shocked face...

You know, i leanr a lot of vocabulary reading yuor blog! thank you!!

Rod said...

Hehe, I have been several times to the beach... None of them with such a close encounter.

By the way, what was new in this post that I haven't post before? (just curious)

Snap said... bottles on the beach is a sure sign there are blue bottles in the water ;) They hurt like hell, don't they!

Gabriel said...

Hilarious!!! It´s really a funny story. Nevertheless you must keep your dignity straight up.

My best wishes for you and your family in this 2011!!!

Rod said...

@Snap, yes :( so little and so painful...

@Gabriel, I am glad you liked it... I didn't at first.

El Lado B Del Planeta (Monólogos Bipolares) said...

Hey Rod!

What was new?? What do you mean? (sorry if I'm being "slow" jojojo)

Rod said...

Never mind... You said you learn lots of vocabulary with my blog and I was thinking that my English is a bit limited :P

So I always try to include or learn a bit more when I start writing.

El Lado B Del Planeta (Monólogos Bipolares) said...

Ah ok... Well, then mine is more limited than yours hahaha... not good!!

You use new words and old ones that I just don't know where to use it... for example, I didn't know the meaning of "stings" (yeah i didn't) or... I remember I learnt the words "towards" or "forwards" buuut... don't remember how to use it!! So thanks!

Rod said...

LOL, no worries then