A Jellyfish Summer

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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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