Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Lion's Mane Jellyfish of West Cumbria

Imagine coming across this on the beach. When I found my first, I took a photo and back in my caravan at St Bees, tried to identify it on google images. I guessed it was a jellyfish as it wobbled slightly when touched with a shell, but it could have been a giant eye, it looked like a giant eye washed up after the night's storm. It was surrounded by smaller blobs without the luminous red and tan colours. Those smaller clear jellyfish I'd seen before on other beaches, but my creature looked like it might be a lion's mane jellyfish. And the smaller clear ones? Moon jellies that the lions feed on! The lions that haunt Arctic waters can grow to be the largest jellyfish in the world, but these ones in the Irish Sea are more modest, the largest I found was a foot across.

Since then I've been obsessed by these sea-cats and the process of seeing them is quite strange. Once I see one I look around and usually find others scattered nearby. What's more, my feet seem to know where to walk, as if they've developed eyes. I think I've seen about fifteen by now, and some are striped like tigers or mint humbugs. Maybe one or two were compass jellyfish? Some have more mane to them and these larger ones have 'eyes' that look more like organs, bloodied even, like they've met with a violent death. I want to see more but I'm also aware these are freshly dead creatures and I don't want them to die.