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Friday, December 27, 2013


Ten days (plus or minus two days) after a full moon off Waikiki Beach, the box jellyfish (Alatina moseri--left) invades.  Over the past 173 full moons (14 years), a study indicates that 66,000 box jellies arrived across a 1310-foot section of this beach.  However, all the Leeward (south side of Oahu) beaches face this threat.  In fact, jellies can be found throughout the world, although there are different species.  

In Australia, the Chironex fleckeri (right), with a head the size of a basketball, can fatally sting, and, in fact, are responsible for more deaths than snakes, where the world's deadliest can be found.  I'm overdoing this, but 20-50 people die annually in the Philippines from box jellyfish stings.  I don't remember even one death in Hawaii.  In 2010, Valencia, Spain, 150,000 tourists were treated.

How's this for spreading fear?  There is Irukandji, a tiny jellyfish with a scientific name of Carukia barnesi, that causes vomiting, back pain, brain hemorrhaging and heart failure.  They are found in northern Australia, Japan and Florida.  Smithsonian has a posting calling them "Killers in Paradise."  Where in Florida?  Check with the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West.

I remembered, though, that portugeuse man o'wars (right) were a lot more troublesome at Ala Moana Beach, although their timing does not appear to coincide with the moon cycle.  Both deliver painful stings, and beaches are closed when they appear.

I suspect box jellies, thus, are a negative influence on tourism, for anyone who gets stung will remember the pain, and tell all their friends.  Washing with salt water is the best treatment, although rinsing the area with vinegar for 30 seconds helps for jelly stings.  A heat pack might help.  Some say meat tenderizer or urine.  However, DO NOT USE VINEGAR for man o'war stings, which can provoke hemorrhaging.  Hydrocortisone can relieve itching.

Angel Yanagihara of the University of Hawaii has found that the venom can cause potassium leakage leading to cardiovascular collapse and death within 2 to 5 minutes.  What led her to this field is that she was swimming off Kaimana Beach 16 years ago, got stung by a box jelly, lost consciousness and was bed ridden for days in great pain.  She is developing zinc gluconate as an antidote.  Angel also helped Diany Nyad recently swim from Cuba to Florida because the 2011 attempt failed from box jellies.

Okay, I did promise a possible solution.  Just make jellyfish a desired cuisine, and soon the world will be rid of them.  Well, maybe not, as I've had jellyfish in China, and if the largest country cannot consume enough, and the world is being overwhelmed by jellyfish (actually, they run in 20-year cycles), that is not an answer.

Jellyfish cost South Korea nearly $300 million/year in lost tourism and shutdown reactors.  Thus, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST--I once gave a lecture there), has developed a jellyfish-shredding robot known as JEROS (Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swam--to the left).  Simply, JEROS detects, sucks into a net and shreds with a propeller the jellyfish.  While the first generation did 880 pounds in an hour, the next generation will be able to destroy 2,000 pounds/hour.  But, whoops, according to Angel, though, not so smart, for all the reproductive material is is released, probably enlarging the next swarm.  Back to the drawing boards for KAIST. 

Anyway, while you might be able to quietly experiment around the coastline of South Korea, JEROS X will run into surfers, Greenpeace and a host of other protesters in Hawaii.  Anyway, our box jellies only provide a painful experience.  We should feel lucky that there has been no known fatality here.  

Until KAIST or someone else invents a way to control jellyfish, though, click on this if you are in Hawaii and want to avoid stings in 2014, or want to come here when you can safely swim on Waikiki Beach  Today is still unsafe here, the next three day period runs from January 25 to 27.


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