1,000 jellyfish invade Makaha Beach
The huge jellyfish influx pains more than 100 beachgoers
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About 1,000 box jellyfish washed ashore at Makaha Beach yesterday, the largest influx there in 10 years, according to ocean safety officials.
While Makaha's amphibious landing was the largest on Oahu yesterday, no one reported being stung. A month ago, lifeguards counted 50 jellyfish at Makaha.
At other Oahu beaches, hundreds of jellyfish turned up, and more than a hundred people were stung yesterday.
"Lifeguards are being extra-aware to warn all of the beachgoers and remind the public to take notice of the signs that are up," said Matt Miller, the Leeward Coast lifeguard captain.
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Box jellyfish invaded several Oahu beaches yesterday from Hanauma Bay to Makaha, stinging more than a hundred people and forcing three people in Waikiki to seek medical attention.
But the usual monthly influx changed course yesterday, inundating usually quiet Makaha Beach with its worst influx in 10 years. Lifeguards there collected about 1,000 box jellyfish that washed ashore, enough to fill a 5-gallon bucket.
"It just shows that we really don't know what to expect," said Matt Miller, Leeward District captain for the city Ocean Safety Division. The invasion was probably the largest since 1997, he said.
Leeward lifeguards also gathered 500 jellyfish at Maili Beach, 35 at Pokai Bay and 30 in Nanakuli. No one reportedly being stung.
Others elsewhere were not so lucky.
On East Oahu, lifeguards picked up 350 box jellyfish in Waikiki, where jellyfish stung 96 people, and picked up 20 at Hanauma Bay, where jellyfish stung eight people. Of the three people requiring medical attention, two were taken in serious condition to local hospitals, and a third was treated at the scene.
Landy Blair, an Ocean Safety Division administrator, said yesterday was the main day of the influx, which should continue in smaller numbers today.
Blair, who started forecasting jellyfish influxes in 1993, said box jellyfish, or Carybdea alata, have a spawning cycle that matches the lunar cycle at about 29.5 days and arrive in Oahu shores eight to 11 days after a full moon. Blair, however, said he could not predict the numbers in which they come.
"They pulsate in," he said. "They make a beeline into shallow water. That's when they spawn." After spawning they swim down or away from the sunlight, he said.
Angel Yanagihara, a University of Hawaii biochemist, said the creatures arrive at the same time every month because it is prior to the new moon, allowing embryos to start life in the least amount of moonlight and avoid predators.
Yanagihara, who studies the jellyfish's toxin and contributed to the National Geographic Explorer episode "Jellyfish Invasion," said scientists do not know what causes the variations in jellyfish influxes on Oahu's beaches, but she surmised that deep sea eddies or shifting currents could play a role.
On Oahu's beaches today, lifeguards will search for signs of box jellyfish and post signs where they are found.
Those who might be allergic or do not want to be stung should stay out of the water, lifeguards advise.