BLOG #5 JELLYFISH
Who doesn’t love a jellyfish?! They are fascinating, exotic sea-creatures. I’ve gathered together 10 facts that I find particularly amazing about these gorgeous animals.
1. If you look at a jellyfish, they don’t appear to be made of very much. In fact they are 95 % water with the rest consisting of minerals and proteins inside a couple of layers. The gelatinous goo is called mesoglea, which is made up of muscle and nerve cells, together with important proteins.
2. They don’t possess the organs usually found on most animals. For example, they have no lungs, stomach or intestines. They have a simple internal system that works perfectly well for them. Jellyfish bodies have two layers of cells, the external epidermis and the internal gastrodermis. The majority of bodily functions, such as, procreation and expulsion of waste happens using an opening in the gastrodermis. Oxygen and nutrients are taken in via the external epidermis and walls of the gastrodermis.
3. Jellyfish can sting you when their dead!
4. A group of jellyfish is called a ‘swarm’. Latterly it was called a ‘smack’!
5. Reproduction happens like this…. Eggs and sperm are released into the water which develop into larvae that can swim. The larvae then attach themselves onto surfaces and change into polyps, which then split to become fully formed tiny jellyfish.
6. They are not actually fish. To be a fish, technically they have to breathe through gills and have a backbone. Jellyfish, however, absorb oxygen through their membranes and are invertebrates.
7. All oceans contain some sort of jellyfish. They glide on the ocean currents around the world, in freezing and tropical waters.
8. Jellyfish sting their prey to knock them out before they eat them. They live on small plants, fish and shrimp, in the main.
9. Some glow in the dark. Their bioluminescence sends a warning message to predators but also can be an attraction for prey. Pretty useful!
10. There are many types of jellyfish in our oceans from tiny to huge. The Lion’s Mane has 50 metre-long tentacles with a body the can be up to 6 metres wide!
I think you’ll agree that there’s a lot more to jellyfish that you first thought. Another amazingly fascinating ocean creature.
(Thanks to Ocean Scubadive) Author: Debbie Kirton
Blog #4 SEAHORSES
I’ve been fascinated by seahorses since seeing them in an aquarium as a young girl and later with my own children. They are so tiny and delicate, yet they look prehistoric! Their lives are fraught with danger but here they still are. It’s a case of ‘safety in numbers’ at birth so they have a chance of survival.
Male seahorses give birth to live young after the female has placed the eggs into the oviduct inside the male. An oviduct is also called a ‘brood pouch’. Gestation takes a few weeks and the live young are born when the male experiences contractions and expels the young from the pouch. Around 5 to 1000 frys can be born and are immediately independent from the parents. However, only 0.5% will survive into adulthood.
Surprisingly, seahorses are terrible at swimming! They are really slow-moving due to their only means of propulsion being a tiny fin on their back. In rough seas they can become exhausted and close to death which makes them vulnerable. Their long flexible tails help them to anchor to the sea floor to wait out any rough conditions that may occur.
Another saving feature is their camouflage which makes them invisible in their environment to anything that might be looking for a quick lunch. Interestingly, they are pretty good predators themselves and love to eat, constantly grazing for plankton and copepods (small crustaceans).
Seahorses are technically fish because they have swim bladders and gills. There aren’t many predators that like to eat seahorses due to their armour-plated bodies.
Last, but not least, the seahorse is a monogamous creature who dances with his/her partner daily to strengthen the bond, which is beautiful!
Respect the ocean and it’s creatures!
Blog #3: Mermaids and Mermen
In days past the mysteries of the deep hid exotic creatures, such as, sea-serpents and Merfolk. The latter were half human, half fish-beings living in the depths, existing in folklore and tradition for thousands of years, for example, Era, the Babylonian fish-god and Trtion, the merman messenger of the sea.
Folk tales from Wales and Scotland depict mermaids befriending and even marrying humans. They were frequently linked with death and disaster by enticing rowdy sailors off-course to meet their demise. Mermen are not as well-known as their female equivalents, however, their ferocious reputation for summoning up storms, destroying ships and drowning their occupants is apparent.
Shetland legend states that, the Blue Men of the Minch looked like a normal human man from the waist up, but with a blue tinge to their skin and grey beards, were fish from the waist down. It is said that before they unleash chaos for the ship, the have a rhyming contest with the captain. The ship is saved if the captain is quick-witted and smooth of tongue, thus preventing the sailors from plunging to their briny deaths.
In medieval times, mermaids were shown as equivalent to any other sea creature. A ‘true story’ from 1614 describes an encounter between a ship’s captain and a mermaid where the captain started “to experience the first effects of love”. By the 1840s mermaids had become an oddity and to feed the audience’s hunger for the weird, Barnum (the Great Showman) pieced together the top skeleton of a monkey and the bottom one from a fish, which duped many people at the time.
In recent times, it is believed that the manatee and the dugong may have been the inspiration for many of the Merfolk tales. Today, mermaid reports are extremely rare, but do exist from time-to-time. However, there is never any evident to corroborate the stories.
The existence of Merfolk dates back many centuries and their forms can still be seen in films and in books. Perhaps if we look very carefully out to sea………
Blog #2: WILD SWIMMING
Wild, natural, outdoor swimming, or whatever you would like to call it has exploded over that last couple of years. I have been swimming in the sea for around 20 years, admittedly mostly in a wetsuit. However, after a bout of glandular fever and then post viral fatigue I began to take a dip in the sea in my swimming costume, ‘to feel the benefit’! Man, it was cold and I thought I would never get used to it. Surprisingly, before long my body began to look forward to getting into the water. Interestingly, I have had a Google and found that blood plasma, the watery part of blood, has a similar concentration of salt as sea water. Maybe that is one reason why we are drawn to the ocean. Wild swimming is a great way to make the most of the outdoors and exercise too.
Benefits are many:
· It boosts the immune system by stimulating the endocrine system.
· It gives you a natural high by releasing endorphins when you get into to chilly water, so that any pain you may experience is overridden with joy!
· It improves circulation by at first restricting capillaries and then dilating them as your temperature reduces and then rises again, making your heart pump blood around your body. (This also burns calories which is an added bonus.)
· Additionally, it can improve libido by increasing the release of oestrogen and testosterone.
· The social aspect of group swimming (when it is allowed) is also a plus.
· Getting out into nature is AWESOME.
Safety is important too:
· Acclimatising is very important. It is necessary to avoid any shock to the body. Enter the water slowly and steadily. At first, only spend a minute or two in the water. That will be plenty to gain any benefits.
· Be aware of weather conditions, tides (if coastal) and any dangers, such as weeds, rocks or hidden deep spots are in the vicinity.
· If swimming in rivers or lakes, be aware of any ticks or leeches. Check yourself after a swim to see if there are any of the little darlings who have taken a liking to you.
· Wear the right gear, such as, a swim hat or woolly hat to keep the heat in, neoprene gloves, sock or booties are also a good investment. Wear a wetsuit if you want to, you can always take it off as time progresses.
· Don’t dive unless you are familiar with your surroundings and are used to the cold.
· Know your own limits and keep to them. As the temperature of the water gets colder, reduce the time you are in the water. Some swimmers only spend 1-2 minutes at a time which is plenty of time to receive any benefits when it’s Baltic!
· Last, but not least, warm up slowly. Make sure when you get out that there are layers of dry, warm clothes to put on and a nice hot cuppa to warm up from the inside. Don’t take a hot shower straight away, warm up slowly.
So, hopefully, you are not put off and you will start to dip your toe (pardon the pun) into a new obsession.
Author: Debbie Kirton
Blog #1: ME AND THE SEA
Moving from the Midlands to Cornwall was a huge decision made quickly. I was a teacher in a local primary school and my husband had been running his own haulage business for many years. With two active boys, a beautiful house in a great area of the city, why weren’t we happy?
The answer to this was, we had no time for each other or our boys. Any ‘down time’ was spent traveling from one activity to another for various reasons, usually in different directions. Weekends were the hardest to be together, mainly due to work commitments. After feeling exhausted for a long time, we decided that a change was needed and soon.
Opportunity came when we least expected it. A phone call suggesting that there may be a job going and were we interested, was all it took. Within 3 months we had sold the business, worked notice, sold a house, bought a house, got jobs, registered with schools, the doctor, the dentist and surf school. We landed in St. Ives, Cornwall and were ready to start our new lives.
Coming from the Midlands, all I knew was pool swimming and had been lucky enough to have an Olympic-sized pool to do that in. However, sea swimming was a different animal altogether. It was cold, it moved and had varying depths, flora and fauna. My first ‘serious’ swim was for about 5 minutes with steamed up goggles and a floppy swim hat around a rock and back doing breaststroke. I was beside myself with fear. To my new friend, it was hilarious. A few months later Steve, my husband, and I had joined St. Ives Surf Lifesaving. It truly was a life-saver.
Within a few weeks, ourselves and our children were competing for the Club up and down the county and nationally, swimming, prone paddle-boarding, using race rescue techniques in the sea, beach sprints, plus many other activities. We also took part in and helped out at the St. Ives Biathlon. A 2km run followed by a 2km swim (I won my age group in my 40th birthday year. Just sayin’!) We had a fabulous time, trained hard and helped out as much as we could. Looking back, it was one of the best times of our lives. Didn’t feel very thankful when we had to do training in the cold or after work (I’m not very good with authority when I’m tired, FYI.) However, it sparked my love and respect of the ocean.
My family still have a passion for the water too, especially surfing and ocean ski paddling. In the last few years, we joined the Ocean Sports Community and enjoyed a new outlet with Ocean Canoe paddling, which is a large canoe with an out-rigger that can hold 4 to 6 people which you can race or surf. It’s pretty epic and exhilarating especially the surfing bit. On top of that we also do a bit of stand up paddle-boarding (actually anything to get us into or onto the water).
During Covid-19 most of the above has been out of bounds, so I have gone back to ocean swimming but this time in a swimsuit, not a wetsuit. It can be challenging but the benefits outweigh the feeling of cold. I don’t stay in for long but long enough to make a connection.
In conclusion, the journey from that lady, in tears, almost doggy-paddling around a rock on Porthmeor beach to where I am today has been one I wouldn’t change. My love of the ocean is now part of me for life and I am grateful to be here in this beautiful place. I use drawing and painting as a reflection of my gratitude.
Author: Debbie Kirton