The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

The fact that jellyfish have survived
for 650 million years
despite not having brains
is great news for stupid people.

Fascinating, ghostlike creatures hanging suspended in the water. Propelling forwards by expanding and contracting of the umbrella-like hood of their boneless bodies. Mesmerising in colour and translucent ness. Actually, the entire body is water, 97 percent of it. Trapped water in cells, but not all innocent. Some jellyfish have the means to defend themselves. The long tentacles pack a powerful sting. It varies among species. Some are perfectly harmless.

Jellyfish come in all shapes and sizes. It is amazing the large variation in design. Big and pink like the ill-named dustbin lid jellyfish. The burgundy red, sometimes indigo blue lion’s mane with its long tentacles trailing through the water. Very common is the moon jellyfish who live in large groups and go for mass suicide on the beach, or translucent oval shaped comb jellyfish with pink or green iridescent stripes, fit to adorn any Christmas tree.


The comb jelly (Beroe cucumis)

Because of climate change and the oceans getting warmer we see more exotic jellyfish in the Scottish waters. Paddling around Barra we spotted what looked like water bubbles on the water surface. It turned out to be a transparent membrane attached to a small indigo blue disk-like jellyfish with very small tentacles. It had its own little sail! It is called ‘By the wind sailor’. It lives in the warmer waters of the mid-ocean and sails across the ocean to the prevailing wind direction, imagine that. And just because the sail on the jellyfish is angled the wrong way for this hemisphere that has seen too many southwesterly storms, it stands on a beach and dies.


The by-the-wind-sailor (Velella velella)

In Asiatic counties, jellyfish are considered food, dried to be preserved. Revived to be eaten raw or cooked. So Alexander had to try that as well. The idea of eating jellyfish put me off a bit. There were some moon jellyfish lying on the beach. He took out his knife and cut a bit off the body. The outer layer was surprisingly though but lower down it was much softer. The texture is quite like jelly, but with a salty flavour, a bit more like the slimy stuff you might find up your nose when having a cold. We concluded that the English name ‘jellyfish’ is well chosen.

 In the Dutch language, a jellyfish is called ‘kwal’. Phonetically [ *k w ɑ l ]. It is the exact translation for jellyfish. The other meaning in the Dutch language for the word ‘kwal’ is an unfriendly person. Usually a man, I would never call a woman a ‘kwal’. I might choose the French word for jellyfish ‘meduse’, it has a more feminine sound to it.

A kwal is someone like a teacher or a driving instructor or a boss, someone higher in rank. But he has a bit of an ego problem, he pours out all his frustrations out on you and puts you down. But because you need something of him you try to stay nice and polite. Behind his back, you could do him an injury. That is a ‘kwal’ of a guy. But I would never call him a jellyfish. Or would I…

Does any person come to mind in your surrounding that fit the description? Spineless and no brain to speak of? There are plenty of people like that around, beautiful or not. Console yourself with the thought that brainless arrogance can be a survival strategy. It worked for jellyfish…

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