August 4th – Jellyfish Day

Today Buentoille will witness another effect of the heatwave last month; an enormous quantity of gelatinous, translucent creatures washing up on its shores. Last night fishers out beyond the bay were stymied by the great quantities of the creatures they pulled from the water, instead of the fish they were trying to capture. Given the currents and tides of the Buentoille bay, the moon jellyfish, which do not have any real means of self-propulsion, should be beaching from around 6am this morning. At other times of the year the occasional pod of jellyfish might appear, but the vast quantities we see today are down to the heatwave creating large amounts of plankton, their primary food, which in turn leads to a yearly population boom.

To those whose work and leisure is primarily conducted at sea, these creatures are generally considered a frustrating and somewhat creepy hindrance, a general fouling-up of nets and beaches. Whilst the clear bell-shaped blobs with bright blue or purple horseshoe shapes within (these are actually the jellyfish’s reproductive organs) are generally not considered dangerous, their mild venom can leave those handling them with a rash, and those swimming beside them are also occasionally affected. It’s more that they are gross and tend to get in the way. There has been only one recorded death due to moon jellyfish, and it was unrelated to their venom; a seaside rock-pooler slipped over on one and cracked his head on a sharp rock.

The name ‘moon jellyfish’ has been a point of contention amongst naturalists and etymologists for many years now, since the publishing of Estim Gallelas’ controversial Seventy Sea Words, in which the author claims that the name was invented by the Alchemist Tintagee Vesptracker, who claimed that they appeared in concordance with the full moon, and that the ‘brakkish liykwidde that duse leetch from the fysh uponne the aplikashun af salte and allum’ could be used for the treatment of ‘lunarcey and unnaturalle compolshions.’ Summen Welt, the celebrated etymologist and scholar of Helica, contested that the moon jellyfish had been in most probability been named as such before this text, which was by no means widely read. According to her they had been named after their round, whitish appearance, rather than any alignment with the lunar cycles, which we know from basic observation varies year-on-year. The argument has been simmering for many years now.

The beaching is so significant that most of the bay turns into an odd purple lagoon with the quantity of jellies floating in it, and on some of the beaches you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere clear to stand. As soon as the tide turns later today, many folk will be out with snow shovels, scraping the oozing, sagged jellyfish back into the sea. They die pretty quickly after becoming beached, so the efforts aren’t to save them, but instead to stop the stench of rotting jelly flesh and to deprive scavenging pests of an ample food source. Whilst the jellyfish do little but foul up the shores, the crabs that eat them are a pernicious and aggressive pest that can cause great harm, especially to children, if left unchecked.

Of course the wobbly alien bodies that coat Buentoilliçan shores today are a source of some fascination for children, and there are plenty who receive painful but harmless stings in recompense for their curiosity. Vinegar stalls are set up around the beaches and harboursides by the Orderlies of Good Health today, and will persist for the next week or so until the gelatinous invasion is resolved. Vinegar inhibits the venom-applying structures which attach to the skin, ensuring that they keep their payload from touching or being injected into the skin. Another way of avoiding the sting, whilst still investigating the squishy creatures, is to wear thick gloves or even close-knit tights over your hands, as the stinging cells will stick to them instead.

Knowledge of these two counter-measures to the sting amongst children has led in the last fifty years to a now-traditional Jellyfish day activity: an enormous jellyfish fight. Children from all around the City will don thick clothes, slide tights over their heads and ensure that they are generally well covered, and then sling jellyfish at each other for a number of hours. The scenes are extremely messy, with all of Island View Beach being left uncleared for the purpose. The Orderlies of Good Health will of course be on hand with water pistols full of vinegar for any children unfortunate enough to have their defences breached. Sometimes the fight is a free-for-all, other times distinct war bands form within the flying maritime gore bursting all about. The position of ‘hose bearer’, a child in charge of spraying down the other children after their gloopy battle, is a highly sought-after position within the Union of Children, perhaps because of the opportunity for mischief it provides.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Direct Route
  • The Festival of the First Signs