You’ll be delighted to know that, so far this year, there hasn’t been a plague of jellyfish at Cala Deia. According to sculptor Joanna de Deia, who has been swimming every day since mid-May, ‘there have not been many and on plenty of days none at all’.
Although this is great news, there is still the outside possibility that you might get stung by jellyfish. So what do you do?
To pee or not to pee?
We’ve all heard the stories about people peeing on jellyfish stings. But does it actually work?
Sadly, no. Applying urine makes a jellyfish sting worse. The only things you can do if you’re stung are pour on vinegar to prevent more venom being released, soak the afflicted area in 45C water or apply a heatpack to stop blood cells being killed.
If you want to avoid being stung in the first place, all the experts agree that the best thing to do is not go in the water. Quelle surpreez. Fortunately, down at the Cala, an inflatable jellyfish swinging from the entrance to Ca’s Patro March restaurant will warn you if the real thing is around.
The best way to be sure you can avoid jellyfish at Cala Deia is to go early in the morning, when it’s still cool and parts of the water are in shade. According to Joanna, who has been swimming at the Cala for 38 years, ‘the medusas seem to come up from the bottom when the sun hits the water’.
If you didn’t already know, medusa is the Spanish name for jellyfish. It’s rather more appropriate than the English word for the horrors, which can make them sound a little too benign.
Even though I’ve had some horrible encounters with medusas, I can’t help but find them fascinating in the abstract.
Medusas have been in the ocean for around 650 million years, which probably makes them the real rulers of planet earth. They don’t have brains but their nervous systems, or nets, respond to environmental changes – which might be why they rise to the surface when the sea warms up. If you cut a medusa in two, the pieces can regenerate and become two new medusas. The largest medusa ever found was 7ft 6in round and had 120ft long tentacles. A group of medusas is called a bloom, swarm or smack.
The Phialella zappai medusa is named after Frank Zappa. I must admit I can think of more appropriate rock stars to name a medusa after. Not to mention a few politicians.
On the plus side, you can eat medusas. The Chinese have been doing so for 5,000 years and export around $20 million worth every year. Which begs the question. But, a friend of mine who ended up in a Chinese prison – he was innocent of all charges, of course – was fed medusas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he said they tasted of nothing at all.
Apparently, eating medusas is good for your health. They contain calcium binding proteins which improve memory. Dried jellyfish are full of collagen which helps treat arthritis and gives you lovely pumped-up lips. It’s not surprising then that an increasing number of beauty products are packed full of medusa goodness.
A species found in the Med named the fried egg medusa is, it seems, a potential source of raw materials for cancer treatments and antioxidants.
Maybe some enterprising new age individual, of which there are plenty in Mallorca, could follow the lead of Chinese immigrants in Sicily who have begun to harvest medusas and create a new wonder potion.
Knowing that medusas are actually good for something doesn’t exactly take the sting out of, well, being stung. But it’s something.
And if you want to avoid being stung at Cala Deia, follow Joanna’s excellent advice and swim early in the morning.