Byron beachgoers stinging the blues
By RACHEL AFFLICK firstname.lastname@example.org HUNDREDS of Byron Bay beachgoers had a very painful swim on Wednesday.
Lifeguards were faced with one of their busiest days all season when tens of thousands of bluebottle jellyfish washed up at local beaches.
"Our lifeguard tent was packed and there was a line of people wanting to get treated," Main Beach lifeguard Al Mactier said.
The jellyfish started to appear at the beach at 11am when the northerly wind picked up.
"They looked like little bubbles in the water and were hard for people to see," Mr Mactier said.
For the next five hours, lifeguards were flat-out handing out ice packs and treating the more severe cases with hot water. "We went through 60 kilos of ice about 12 bags or so," Mr Mactier said.
"We ran out a couple of times and had to keep topping it up."
Lifeguards had erected signs warning people about the bluebottles, but it was a hot day and a lot of people were in the water.
Mr Mactier said while bluebottles were not in most cases dangerous, their sting was very painful.
"The tentacle will wrap around you and where the tentacle has contacted the skin it will leave a welt. It feels like a burn," he said. "Every sting is different but typically, depending on the intensity, it lasts 20 to 40 minutes."
Mr Mactier said problems could arise if a person had an allergic reaction to the sting.
It could also be worse for people who didn't understand what was happening, especially kids.
"It can put them into a little bit of shock," Mr Mactier said.
"If you do get a tentacle wrapped around you, try to wash it off in the water so it's activating less stinging agent."
Although Wednesday was the worst day for bluebottles this season, Byron Bay local Woody Vidgen said it was not unusual for summer.
In fact the largest number of bluebottles he had seen at the beach was 20 years ago during the Nippers State titles at Main Beach. "We ran a single rope beyond the last set of cans, or buoys, and a when the bluebottles drifted in they got caught on it," he said.
"The guys had rubber gloves on and went round in rubber duckie just picking them up along the way."
Yesterday there were no bluebottle sightings at the beach. But more could be on their way, Mr Mactier said.
"I daresay there will be more the next time we get a nor' or nor'-easterly wind," he said.
Considering this, Mr Mactier said it was important to swim between the flags and to take heed of any signage.