This Article is From Jul 23, 2010

Jelly fish stings even after death

Rye, New Hampshire, US: The culprit sat in an open trash bag baking in the hot sun, raked to shore by a pitchfork-wielding lifeguard who paddled out on a surfboard.

Staring down in wonder -- and disgust -- at the huge jellyfish carcass at Wallis Sands State Park, Simon Mayer of Rye asked, "Is that the monster?"

It was to some, and it was doing plenty of posthumous damage. About 150 people were stung Wednesday by what officials said was a lion's mane jellyfish weighing nearly 40 pounds, which turned the tranquil beach into a frenzied sea of screaming children and aching adults with red, sore feet and legs.

It was not the blob of dead jellyfish, but rather pieces of its stinging tentacles that stung the waders, scientists said. Jellyfish can still emit toxins when dead or broken apart, said Renee Zobel, a marine biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

"The cell type will keep on firing in the tentacles," which also remain alive when separated from the animal, Ms. Zobel explained.

Alycia Bennett of Hampstead, N.H., who was stung while wading with her 10-year-old daughter, Emma, said, "When we got to the bathhouse it was complete chaos, mayhem." It took a while for the severity of the sting to set in, she said.

"By the time you got up to the bathhouse it burned," she added. "There were a lot of little kids, and understandably they were hysterical. It was so bizarre. So much for a peaceful day at the beach."

Officials said there were no serious injuries, though five children from a camp were taken to the hospital as a precaution with skin irritations but later released.

"There were five ambulances and a hook and ladder here," said the park manager, Ken Loughlin. "Seeing a hook and ladder was almost comical." Lifeguards were sent to a nearby grocery store to buy vinegar and baking soda for emergency medical technicians, who set up a triage area.

Mr. Loughlin and others at the beach said it took a while for everyone to realize what was happening, because jellyfish stings are so rare at the beach.

"You couldn't see it in the water coming at you," said Kim Raiti of Atkinson, N.H. "You couldn't see anything you would know to avoid." Two of her four children were stung.

"Everyone was getting stung at the same time," she added. "Kids were crying. It was like a scene from a movie."

New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said lion's mane jellyfish, which are common to the Gulf of Maine, rarely show up on beaches as far south as New Hampshire.

Tides often detach tentacles from jellyfish that are washing toward shore, scientists said, but raking the jellyfish "probably broke it up into quite a large number of individual tentacles, still healthy, because these things don't disintegrate," said Larry Harris, a professor of zoology at the University of New Hampshire. The tentacles are like "loose spaghetti" floating around, he said.

"When you're talking about thousands of tentacles and little kids splashing about, it's a recipe for chaos," Professor Harris said.

The beach reopened Thursday, and swimmers were back in the water. The tide washed all the tentacles out to sea, leaving only the carcass, which was guarded by a young beach employee who said he was not authorized to give his name.

"I'm going to have to start charging you guys," he said to the curious crowd gathered around the Dumpster, snapping photos.

Lynn Nicholson, of Methuen, Mass., wanted to name the jellyfish Wally. "Wally from Wallis Sands," she said. Ms. Nicholson told Mr. Loughlin that she should put the jellyfish under glass and preserve it as a tourist attraction.

"No one wants to come see a pile of puke," Mr. Loughlin said.

"Yes they do," the young employee shot back.