E-mails reach remote locale
CAIRNS, Australia » When I'm island hopping inside the Great Barrier Reef, as I have been lately, my e-mails pile up. Fortunately, most marinas these days offer wireless Internet service, and when I find one, I take the opportunity to do a giant download.
That happened this week in a Cairns marina, where I spent a couple of days waiting out bad weather. After sorting, I ended up with 24 ocean-related comments and questions from readers. Just reading the subjects made me smile. Their range was as vast as the ocean itself.
One reader isn't sure what routinely stings him when he swims in his favorite lagoon, but he guesses hydroids. His interesting question is this: Will anti-jellyfish sunscreen help prevent further stings?
I know a little about this lotion, which is being marketed as a sting-preventing sunscreen. The problem with that is the testing protocol for the product was flawed, and its effectiveness and safety are as yet unproved. I wouldn't put it on my skin.
To reduce my chances of getting stung, I like to swim in a Lycra body suit, called here in Australia a stinger suit. The covering also cuts down the amount of sunscreen I have to slather on.
On the topic of stings, another reader wrote that while in Mexico he got an acutely painful marine sting that the doctor told him was caused by an anemone. He applied hot vinegar and saltwater wraps to the rash, and it somewhat abated.
But it wasn't treatment the man wrote me about. Instead he offered to send me photos he took of his welts as they progressively improved.
Since I'm the co-author of a medical book on Hawaii's marine stings, I'm interested in his pictures. But they won't help in identifying stings for several reasons. First, no one knows for sure what stung the victim. Second, each of us reacts differently to stings. And finally, Mexican anemones are different from Hawaiian anemones.
Still, it's a nice offer, and I look forward to seeing those welts.
Speaking of seeing things, another reader swears he absolutely, positively saw a sea snake in a tide pool on the Big Island.
I have two words to say about that: snake eels. Hawaii hosts several species of snake eels that look like sea snakes to some people. But it's an important distinction. Snake eels are fish and not poisonous; sea snakes are reptiles and deadly.
People love informing me that I'm wrong in stating Hawaii has no sea snakes, because I get a letter like this nearly every week. Still, I'll only believe it when I see it.
I have seen a yellow-bellied sea snake in Hawaii. It got caught in a net, and the angler had the foresight to bring the live creature to the Waikiki Aquarium. The snake was injured, but while it lived it was a fabulous exhibit and I went to see it several times.
Yellow-bellied sea snakes are offshore drifters and occasionally get here on wayward currents. Other than that, Hawaii has no sea snakes. Really. Those wiggly striped and spotted things are eels that want you to think they're snakes, a common defense strategy in the animal kingdom. Those rascally eels are fooling you.
Several e-mails I received are from people thanking me for sharing my adventures through this column. To those who take the time to write me, I thank you, too.