Swimmers As Invasive Species In The Open Water

Swimmers As Invasive Species In The Open Water

As a preview to the National Aquarium’s Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance exhibition, Bruckner Chase tells of an open water swimmer’s first-hand experience with jellyfish in northern California.

During his 25-mile swim, he hit the first jellyfish at 4:30 in the morning. He hit the next one a minute later. He takes it from there…

By 5:30 when the sun was rising, he had lost count of the stings. When I could finally see into the cold darkness of Monterey Bay, our best-laid plans for an uneventful twenty-five mile swim across the Bay in glassy conditions crashed. Below me were schools of jellyfish as dense as anything I had ever seen. As the sun rose in the calm waters, the jellies also rose to the surface. Imagine jellyfish bigger than people. Imagine competing in an Ironman triathlon with a hornets nest strapped to your back.

I do not believe there is a more intimate connection to the natural world than that experienced by an open water swimmer immersed in their environment. We can recognize temperature changes of a single degree. Like delicate coral, we can either thrive or not with the subtlest changes in the water. At the same time, humans are the invasive species. If we are striving to be ocean conquerors, we all may lose in the end.

Jellyfish have received a lot of attention both in the swimming and conservation communities as a species that may have something to tell us about the environment we love. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is committed to inspiring action in our communities to protect the world’s ocean treasures.

Their current exhibit in Baltimore, Maryland (USA) “Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance” highlights the profound impact humans are having on the oceans we share. That impact can turn negative when we do not acknowledge and embrace the role our daily actions can play in respecting and protecting that balance. From fishing practices that wipe out species that prey on jellyfish to changing ocean pH with extra CO2 from an idling car, there are a number of factors that could be impacting jellyfish populations.

Although no swimmers like the stings, the jellyfish still have a role to play in the ocean. As watermen and waterwomen who spend time in their environment, we have the opportunity to adjust to their presence while also taking a role in helping restore the balance
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Monterey Bay Swim-Attack of the Jellies from Bruckner Chase

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