January 16, 2023Paul Ellercamp
We don't take you just anywhere.
Bluey... The iconic image, by David Helsham (@glistenrr)
Our Bumper Bluey Number...
Bluebottles are the perennial menace of ocean swimming (not sharks, in our view). But despite research, we have still to hear an authoritative explanation of what makes them be there, floating around at sea, ready to be blown onto the beach by an onshore breeze. Why are blueys there sometimes, but not at other times? Why are they available to be blown into some beaches, but not others, even though beaches may be next door to each other? The jury is still out on this (we hope the jury is out; we hope someone, somewhere is doing research into this).
In this edition of the oceanswimsafaris.com newsletter, we present a couple of views of what humans regard as a beach menace, one the result of research into how punters may be able to reasonably authoritatively predict the likelihood of bluey presence at a particular beach; the other on how to treat bluey stings.
Meanwhile, if someone can tell us what makes blueys spawn, thus be bob-bob-bobbing about on the ocean's surface, available to be blown in by the next onshore, then please let us know... Email us here
How likely are blueys on your beach?
In this first piece, Amandine Schaeffer and Jasmin Lawes help you to work out how to predict the likelihood of blueys at particular beaches. You also need to know the general layout, topography, and orientation of your beach, and the prevailing wind direction, then apply the principles below.
By Amandine Schaeffer
Senior lecturer, UNSW Sydney (right, at right)
Jasmin C Lawes
Adjunct associate, UNSW Sydney (left, at right)
This story ran first in The Conversation, March 28, 2022
If you’re among the one in six Australians to experience the bitter pain of a marine stinger such as a bluebottle, you’ll know how quickly they can end a fun day at the beach.
We can’t stop the summer winds that deliver these creatures to our shores, but we can choose the safest spots to swim.
Our recent research provides the first evidence of what transports bluebottles to Australian beaches.
We found the direction a beach faces, relative to wind direction, largely determines how many bluebottles are pushed to shore. We hope these findings will help beachgoers safely plan where to take their next dip.
Image by Tim Miller (AP)
Delicate ocean drifters
The bluebottle is a jellyfish found mostly along Australia’s east coast.
Most bluebottle stings occur while swimming, and are the top reason people seek assistance from surf lifesavers.
Bluebottles aren’t a single animal. They’re a floating colony of individual organisms, each variously responsible for reproducing, capturing or digesting food and catching the wind.
The bluebottle’s long, trailing tentacles are designed to sting prey and creatures they feel threatened by, including humans.
Bluebottles do not swim, but drift on the ocean’s surface. Their inflated blue bladder is sensitive to aerodynamic forces and acts as a sail.
Currents drive a bluebottle’s long tentacles below the ocean’s surface and wind drives the sail above it.
The bluebottle as a sailboat
A bluebottle’s body, including the tentacles, is not aligned with its sail. Some sails point to the left of the body, and others to the right. This quirk is thought to help populations survive. If all bluebottle sails pointed the same way, an entire group might pick up a prevailing wind and be blown to shore. But when half the group has sails facing the other way, some individuals are blown in a different – and hopefully less perilous – direction.
Our previous research sought to shed light on bluebottle drift by examining physical equations that determine how sailboats respond to winds and currents. That research found wind force can cause right-leaning bluebottles to drift around 50⁰ left of the downwind direction, while left-leaning individuals drift around 50⁰ to the right.
Choose your swimming spot wisely
Our latest research explored how winds and other environmental factors affect bluebottle beaching. We analysed daily bluebottle numbers and stings at three Sydney beaches – Maroubra, Clovelly and Coogee – over four years. The project was led by Masters student, Natacha Bourg.
Bluebottles numbers were highest during summer, peaking a few weeks before maximum ocean temperatures. Cold temperatures have previously been thought to hinder bluebottle movements. But we recorded bluebottles on beaches in winter and spring, which suggests other factors are at play.
Our research found wind direction was the main factor driving bluebottles onshore. On Australia’s east coast, both northeast and southerly winds bring bluebottles towards the beach.
Crucially, we also found the shape of the coastline, and its orientation relative to prevailing winds, affects the rate of bluebottle arrivals.
Maroubra faces east and is the longest and most wind-exposed of the three beaches. We found a summer north-easterly wind at Maroubra led to a 24% chance of bluebottles the following day.
But at nearby Clovelly beach, the chance was just 4%. Clovelly faces south and sits relatively protected at the end of a narrow bay. However, after southerly winds, the chance of bluebottle encounter there increased to 12%.
Coogee faces south and is smaller than Maroubra. A small rocky outcrop limits exposure to the ocean and therefore exposure to bluebottles.
Overall, bluebottles were most likely to be found at Maroubra, followed by Coogee then Clovelly. This reflects their varying beach lengths and orientation with respect to prevailing winds.
Image by Sam Mooy (AAP)
Planning your day at the beach
These conclusions can be applied beyond the beaches we studied. By checking beach orientation with wind direction, we can make an educated guess as to whether the chance of encountering bluebottles is high at any beach.
We know bluebottles are pushed around 50⁰ left or right of the wind direction. So a quick drawing in your head or on the sand may tell you which nearby beach is likely to be safest.
But there are exceptions to this rule. Strong ocean currents, for example, can influence bluebottle drift, especially when winds are weaker.
Rips and the circulation of water in surf zones are also linked to bluebottle beaching.
And bluebottles can extend and contract their sails and stinging tentacles which may change the direction of their drift.
So before entering the water, take plenty of precautions against bluebottles and other dangers. Surf Life Saving Australia urges all beachgoers to:
- stop and check your surroundings
- look for rips, large waves, rocks and other hazards
- plan to stay safe, including swimming at a patrolled location
- visit beachsafe.org.au.
Stomp, stomp, stompin' at Maroubra (Image by SamMooy,AAP)
Further research is needed to better understand bluebottles, including how climate change, and subsequent warming oceans, will affect their drift.
Citizen science provides a powerful opportunity to learn about bluebottle distribution, size and arrival at our beaches.
Next time you see bluebottles at the beach, take photos and upload them to this project in the iNaturalist app.
In this way, you can help researchers discover more secrets of these beautiful marine creatures – which will hopefully lead to fewer painful bluebottle encounters.
Preventing, Recognizing, Treating Bluey Stings
Now, James Roland discusses treatment for bluey stings. Note that research into this is on-going, and science appears yet to find the perfect answer. One thing does seem clear: weeing on a sting does not help. This report has been medically reviewed.
This story was published on Healthline on January 7, 2020
Despite their harmless-sounding name, bluebottles are sea creatures that you should steer clear of in the water or on the beach.
The bluebottle (Physalia utriculus) is also known as a Pacific man o’ war — similar to a Portuguese man o’ war, which is found in the Atlantic Ocean.
The dangerous part of a bluebottle is the tentacle, which can sting its prey and creatures they sense as threats, including people. The venom from bluebottle stings can inflict pain and swelling.
Treatments for a bluebottle sting range from a hot water soak to topical creams and ointments to traditional oral pain medications. Some home remedy solutions, such as urine, aren’t recommended, despite being widely believed as effective treatments. Here’s what you can do.
What to do
If you’re unfortunate enough to be stung by a bluebottle, try to stay calm. If possible, ask someone to stay with you and to help treat the injury.
Find a place to sit
If you’re stung in the foot or leg, walking may cause the venom to spread and expand the painful area. Try to stay still once you reach a place where you can clean and treat the injury.
Don’t itch or rub
Even though it may start to itch, don’t rub or scratch the site of the sting.
Rinse, rinse, rinse
Instead of rubbing, wash and rinse the area carefully with water.
Hot water dunk
Be careful not to make the injury worse by using water that’s too hot. Ideally, water that’s about 107°F (42°C) should be tolerable to the skin and effective at treating the sting. The heat helps kill the protein in the venom that causes pain.
The ocean can appear so benign... But dangers lurk. (Image by oceanswimsafaris.com)
If no hot water is available, a cold pack or cold water may help ease the pain.
Take a pain reliever
An oral pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), may provide additional comfort.
Boost your beach first-aid kit with these tips:
- Vinegar. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that using vinegar as a rinse can disinfect the site of the sting and provide pain relief.
- Tweezers. While rinsing should help remove any invisible stinging cells, you should also look for any tentacle fragments and carefully remove them with tweezers.
- Gloves. If possible, wear gloves to avoid any further contact with your skin.
See a doctor
If you still experience pain, itchiness, and swelling after the treatment outlined above, you should see a doctor. They may prescribe cortisone cream or an ointment to help reduce inflammation and ease your symptoms.
You should definitely see a doctor if:
- the area of the sting covers a wide area, such as most of the leg or arm
- you’re stung in the eye, mouth, or other sensitive area — in these cases, seek immediate medical assistance
- you’re unsure if or what you were stung by
If you’re unsure whether you’ve been stung by a bluebottle, jellyfish, or other sea creature, you should see a doctor for an evaluation. Some jellyfish stings can be fatal if left untreated.
Another danger lurking? No way. Grey nurse sharks are docile. This one is suffering: hooked by a stray line, it mooches about with a big hook in its lip and 2-3m of heavy line hanging beneath it. We did a story with Channel 7 News on how we swim with grey nurses at Forster. Have a look at it... Click here
Can you be allergic?
Though rare, allergic reactions to bluebottle stings can occur. The symptoms are like those of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can follow the sting of a wasp or scorpion. If you’re stung and experience chest tightness or difficulty breathing, get medical attention immediately.
If stung by a bluebottle, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain. A bluebottle sting typically causes pain right away. The pain is usually quite severe.
- Red line. A red line is often visible, a sign of where the tentacle touched the skin. The line, which may look like a string of beads, will usually swell and become itchy.
- Blisters. Sometimes, blisters form where the tentacle came in contact with skin.
Other symptoms, such as nausea or abdominal pain, are unlikely.
The size of the wound and the severity of symptoms depend on how much contact the tentacle had with the skin.
How long will the pain last?
The pain of a bluebottle sting can last up to an hour, though multiple stings or injuries in sensitive parts of the body can make the pain last longer.
Bluebottles feed on small mollusks and larval fish, using their tentacles to pull their prey into their digestive polyps.
Stinging tentacles are also used defensively against predators, and innocent swimmers and beachgoers can seem like a threat to these unusual creatures. Multiple stings are possible at one time, though a single sting is most common.
Swimmer with visitor, Forster. (Image by Rachel Dodd)
Bluebottles can sting in the water and on the beach when they appear to be lifeless. Because of their blue color, they’re harder to see in the water, which is one reason why they have few predators.
Though bluebottles resemble jellyfish, they’re actually a collection of four distinct colonies of polyps — known as zooids — each with its own responsibility for the creature’s survival.
What this means for people is that stinging happens on contact with the tentacle, almost like a reflex.
Your best strategy to avoid a bluebottle sting is to give them a wide berth if you spot them on the beach. And if there are warnings about dangerous animals in the water, such as bluebottles and jellyfish, heed caution and stay out of the water.
Children and older adults, as well as people who are allergic to bluebottle stings, should exercise greater caution and be accompanied by healthy adults in areas inhabited by bluebottles.
Where are bluebottles found?
In the summer months, bluebottles are usually found in the waters around eastern Australia, while in the autumn and winter months, they can be found in the waters off southwestern Australia. They can also be found throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans.
A bluebottle’s main body, also known as a float, is usually no more than a few inches long. The tentacle, however, can be up to 30 feet long.
Because of their small size, bluebottles can be washed ashore easily by strong tidal action. They’re most commonly found on beaches after powerful onshore winds. Bluebottles are less commonly seen in sheltered waters or on the banks of sheltered coves and inlets.
Because their blue, translucent bodies make them difficult to spot in the water, bluebottles sting tens of thousands of people in Australia every year.
Though painful, the stings aren’t fatal and don’t usually cause any serious complications. Still, it’s worth paying close attention when you’re in the water or on the beach to avoid these unusual but dangerous creatures.
If a bluebottle tentacle does find you, be sure to carefully clean the sting and soak it in hot water to start the healing process.
Swim start in Ocean Swimming Stadium, Mana Island.
Travel to swim in exotic locales in 2023
Vigorous response to travel packages
We're rapidly filling travel packages for our oceanswimsafaris in 2023. Packages are online for The Philippines (May-June), Sulawesi in Indonesia (June – just one room left), whale swimming in Tonga (August), Mana Fiji (October) and for Heron Island (three dates in June, October, and November).
Sea life in French Polynesia. You, too, can swim here.
French Polynesia, May, 2023 (Both oceanswimsafaris now full, we're sorry) – We have two oceanswimsafaris to French Polynesia. These have been rolled over several times since the pandemic hit, but we'll to get them away finally in 2023. One is full, but the other (May 18-27) has two spots available. Check the details and get in touch quick and smart… Click here
The Philippines, May-June, 2023 – We’re off to The Philippines to swim with whale sharks, etc. We stay on the island of Negros Oriental in a five-star resort, which we use as our base for swims around the area over some of the best coral reef you will ever see, and in some of the clearest water. This location, at the northern end of the Celebes Sea, offers the highest diversity of marine life in the Indo-Pacific. We already have good sized group booked. Looks like it will be much fun. Dates are May 29-June 6… Click here
Very nice water in Sulawesi.
Sulawesi, June 9-17, 2023 (Just one room left – Hurry!) – We’re heading to get back to Sulawesi, the weird-shaped island in the nor’-eastern Indonesian archipelago. This is at the southern end of the Celebes Sea, the other end from our venue in The Philippines (see above), again in the area of the greatest diversity of marine life in the Indo-Pacific. More glorious coral reef and tropical water, lots of turtles, different banquet every night, and some of the most panoramic views you will ever get from a resort room. Just 1-2 spots (1 room) left… Click here
Tonga, August, 2023 – Come with us to swim with whales in Tonga. This has proved to be one of our most popular oceanswimsafaris. In 2023, we have filled our first set of dates; now we have a second set of dates open (August 7-15). We spend three days swimming with whales and two days ocean swimming around and between islands in the Vava’u archipelago. Dates are August 7-15, 2023… Click here
The end of a big day, San Sebastián.
San Sebastián, Spain, August, 2023 – Back to Spain! We’re planning on running our San Sebastián oceanswimsafari over the week of August 22-28, anchored by the annual 3km swim around the island of Santa Clara. San Sebastián is one of the ancient world’s most colourful cities. San Sebastián sits at the point on the Basque/Spanish Atlantic coast where the Gulf Stream hits the coast, so the water at that time is comparable with NSW-SE Queensland and Perth in summer. Have you heard of pintxos? Excellent food in San Sebastián, and we make it another focus of our visit there. The Basques have their own, very special cuisine… Click here
Dr Lanie Campbell explores the entrance to a sea cave off Catalonia's Costa Brava. Not many punters get to experience this.
Costa Brava, Spain, September, 2023 – And back to the Costa Brava, the wild coastline of Catalonia between Barçelona and the French border. We’ll swim from France to Spain around the end of the Pyrenees, follow the most spectacular coastline in the world, and sample some of the best food and wine you will find anywhere. We’ll immerse ourselves in the world of Salvador Dalí, who was native to this area. And we'll visit our favourite wine bar in the entire world, run by Pau, a cigar-chomping (outside only, thankfully) sommelier and ex-war photgrapher. There’s something for everyone on this oceanswimsafari, whether or no you’re a swimmer. Sadly, 2023 dates are full, but we've had already considerable shows of interest for 2024. Dates September 12-20… Click here
Mana Fiji, October 17-22, 2023 – We are off to Mana Fiji for a five-day carnival anchored around a 10km (solos or 3 x 3.3km relay) swim on the Thursday, and a choice of 5km, 2.5km, or 1km on the Saturday. Mana’s North Beach is Ocean Swimming Stadium of the Pacific, one of the best stretches of water in which you’ll ever do a swim event… Click here
We sail around the Northern Sporades, in the wake of Jason and his Argonauts.
Greece's Northern Sporades – We pioneered oceanswimsafaris around these lesser known (to Antipodeans) Greek islands, around locations for the movie, Mama Mia. Imagine, lazing around these islands, in some of the world's clearest water, on a yacht for a week. We live aboard, but we have some nights on land, and we dine each night at a different taverna by a different little cove. We can take groups of 6-8, but if you have around double that number, we can use two yachts. This is an oceanswimsafari done to order. Give us a yell... Click here
Lots on offer; lots to do; lots of swimming in some of the world’s most beautiful water.
Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, June, October and November, 2023 – See below.
Our advance deposit scheme
You can reserve your place in any oceanswimsafari with an advance deposit of $500 per head. When we finalise the packages for each trip, we’ll give you the option of accepting or declining. If you don’t wish to proceed, we’ll refund your advance deposit in full. But in the meantime, you will have your space set aside.
See oceanswimsafaris.com for more.
Get your View gogs
Best gogs, etc, at best prices
Yet again, still, we're continuing our 'never-before' offer of View gogs. The folks at View have adjusted their prices in a small way recently, so we have had to adjust ours correspondingly, but we've kept prices down. We reckon these are the best value gogs you will get, in terms both of quality and price. This is in our our experience, mind you, bu this does go on a bit.
Some of our bargains…
- View Selene Swipes – $36
- View Wide-eyes Swipes – $36
- View Wide-eyes Swipe Mirrored – $42.50
- View Xtreme semi-masks – $37.50
- Prescription goggles – Swipe Optical goggles – choose your lens strength in each eye – $68.50
Here's the link to order your new gogs. Click now and we'll get them away to you quick and smart… Click here
Not a bad joint for a swim.
2023 Heron Island
Dates open for June, Oct, Nov
Our Heron Island oceanswimsafaris were heavily booked in 2022. We've had some terrific groups come with us, and we're looking forward to tip top conditions in 2023. We're heading to Heron in June, October and November. June is the beginning of Manta ray season around Heron. October and November are early in turtle-laying season.
Best get in quick and smart. It would be good to have you with us.
We're taking bookings now for our 2023 Heron Island dates –
- June 14-19
- October 25-30
- November 8-13
Find out more and book… Click here
New model Swipes
Prescription gogs now in Swipes
Big news from View: our very popular prescription goggles now also come with high-anti-fog Swipe technology.
Our Swipes, so far in both Selene and Wide-Eyes versions, have been a big hit, offering what View (the makers) describe as 10 times the anti-fog capacity of other gogs. We've been using them for almost two years now, and we know that it works. We've sold over 1,000 pairs of Swipe gogs since their release just prior to Xmas 2019, so many of you must agree, too.
Now the Platina prescription goggles come in Swipe versions, too. Lenses come in strengths ranging from -1.0 to -10.0, and +1.5 to +6.0, and you can have different strengths in each eye. Just select the strengths you want when you order your gogs online.
View's new Swipe prescription gogs are available at $68.50 a full pair, which is cheap compared with how you will pay at a spectacles shop.
You can order your new Swipe Optical (prescription) gogs online now… Click here
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