The weather was not on our side today. Rain was forecast for lunchtime and into the afternoon. Still, surely that left enough time for a morning walk? And we were at the start of the South West Coast Path – how could we possibly mark this by cowering indoors like a pack of mangy dogs with our tails tucked firmly between our legs?
These were Rhizostoma pulmo, the barrel jellyfish. Found mostly in the Mediterranean Sea, they are also quite common in the Irish Sea. They are plankton feeders more usually inhabiting deeper waters, so to find them washed up on the shoreline was unusual. During the course of 2014 there were many reported sightings of them around Studland. It is believed that the warmer-than-usual winter temperatures triggered an increase in the amount of plankton, which in turn drew the jellyfish into coastal waters.
This one looked almost humanoid.
The jellyfish we saw washed up were of average size, with bells of circa 40cm wide. However, some specimens grow up to over a metre in diameter, making Rhizostoma pulmo the largest jellyfish in British waters.
As the photos show, there are eight elongated lobes, each with numerous mouths which project from the underside so as to catch the plankton. The barrel jellyfish lack tentacles and stinging cells, and so are pretty harmless to humans. All the same, touching them can sometimes cause an irritation. It did not escape me, therefore, that these jellyfish were beached on Studland Beach, a local nudist beach where there was probably more skin on display to come into contact with these creatures than elsewhere. Luckily, the chilly conditions and rain had caused most to stay at home (yes, yes, with their tails tucked firmly between their legs – I know!). Only one stalwart, naked, die-hard beach lover was here today, and he was keeping himself to himself, safe and warm behind his windbreak. Brrrrrrrrr!
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Studland Beach: N 50° 39.850 W 001° 56.850
Walk #75 Statistics:
- Date of Walk: 17 August 2014
- Walk #75 total distance covered: 3.84 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 634.62 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!