Comes the charming evening to the great sandy arc of beach curving away from Adders Rock
and the Curlews begin to gather in gangs
to strut and call in the dunes..
the mad bloody beasties!
Stalking the sands with a head-forward, rapid trot and looking every bit like a cartoon caricature of an angry bird, they shriek and wail the whole night through like a flock of demented women. Any flat bit of ground near a body of water will usually draw them and their blood-curdling calls are a familiar part of the Australian nightscape.
Yeah..you gotta love ’em.
It had been a near perfect day on Sacred Minjerribah. The only off-key note in the hedonistic symphony of my senses were the multitudes of poisonous, stinging jelly-fish (known locally as the “Bluebottle“) that a treacherous North-East wind had wantonly swept onto the islands shores.
Swimming, therefore, was out for the moment, but yet there was a consolation of sorts, for even the Bluebottle.. a brainless, stinging, iridescent bubble trailing a metre or so of sticky, toxin-laced tendril behind it to wrap around the unwary swimmers arms, legs and face..
yes, even these horrible, poison-filled pus bags
can provide an aesthetic treat to the eye.
At least, they can when they’re newly washed up by the tide and you’re not worrying about the treacherous, near-invisible-till-the-last-moment bastards wrapping their thin as a thread, toxic tendrils around your unprotected flesh.
But when left on the sands by the retreating waves, where you can study their fragile, ephemeral beauty while standing safely on dry land..well, then you can pause to admire the exquisite shadings of their glistening,
near-transparent flesh, from the delicate spectrum of hues of blue tinting the crystalline membrane, to the intense, ultra-cobalt colouring of that terrible tendril,
to the subtle hints of amethyst along the puckered seam
that seems to seal its bag-like “body”.
Interestingly the Bluebottle, or “Portugese Man of War“, is not actually a single, multi celled creature like your ordinary jellyfish. It is in fact, a colony of four different, interdependant polyp creatures. One does the air-bladder bit, one handles the eating whilst the third type takes care of the reprodutive duties. The fourth naturally, is in charge of the hideous, stinging blue tendrils.
Together this extraordinary collection of micro-creatures combine to create a complex colony so successful
they haven’t felt the need to change the design for many millions of years.
Indeed, they’ll probably still be bobbing and floating around in the oceans long after the human “dominant species” has gone extinct.
Actually we Australians tend to be a bit blaise
about the hazards of swimming
with the colourful “Portugese Man O’ War”.
Sharing, as we do, a Continent crammed
with a wide variety of critters
who can casually sting and/or bite you to death,
we tend to regard the the humble Bluebottle
as no more than an occasional nuisance.
At least the Bluebottle won’t kill you (generally)or scar you hideously for life (usually), unlike its near cousin, the deadly Irukandji jellyfish, fortunately only an occasional visitor to these waters, or the even more notorious Box-jellyfish.
Further north of course, the Box-jellyfish is the bastard responsible for keeping people out of the water during the hottest months of the year, but fortunately for me,
it is not generally seen at this latitude.
But that may well be changing, I am told by Scientists, for as Climate Change inexorably warms the Oceans, the various tropical denizens of sea may well start expanding their range southwards. Then, alas, it may no longer be possible to take a cooling dip in the summer months off sacred Minjerribah’s shores.
But for now I walk along the beach studying and admiring the wondrous beauty of this curious colony we call the Blue-bottle. Then I pop them with a stick
so they won’t refloat on the incoming tide.
Hey, they might be beautiful,
but they’re still toxin-laced booby traps
of pain and horror, and tomorrow
I want to go swimming.
The Reverend Hellfire is ..