Bluebottle Beach

January 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Posted in Nature | 1 Comment

The long wide stretches of wave-washed beach are usually speckled here and there with small pieces of kelp, pebbles, an occasional shell and water-worn coal wash. Today, the water lines are also marked with irregular rows of invaders. Bluebottles, tumbled and washed ashore by the rolling waves, have been defeated by the sand. In ones and twos and in groups, they lie dead, their long tentacles bunched, broken or stretched towards the retreating waves.

Bluebottles on the beach

We walk carefully, because we don’t want to get stung, and we keep out of the water near where they are gathered and where more swirl in the waves. I take photos of them as we pass; their blue, deeper than a cloudless sunlit sky, contrasting with the sand, whose colour I cannot name.

Bluebottles are common on Australia’s ocean shores, especially along the eastern coast. They are marine invertebrates with an air-filled bladder that allows them to float wherever wind and tide take them.

One long tentacle, up to about 80cm, and several smaller ones hang from the bladder. These tentacles have rows of stinging cells along them that can deliver an intense, painful sting. They are used to kill small marine animals (eg shrimp) and are retractable, bringing the food up to special polyps to be digested. During periods of constant onshore winds, coastal beaches become the last resting places for the bluebottles.

One short stretch of beach is clear of the stingers.. The contours of the beach and the direction of the wind have created an oasis where we can safely splash about in the wate. I can take photographs of the waves and the foam and the sun-bright ripples.

© Linda Visman January 2011

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  1. Linda, I love this description. Felt as though I was walking with you, and you reminded me of some of the lovely beaches we saw during a visit to the Seychelles in 2002. Incidentally, in Zimbabwe a “bluebottle” is the colloquial term for a rather large fly that feeds on rotting meat…

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