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Jellyfish Protection In The Form Of A Wetsuit

Jan 25, 2008
The scuba diving holiday to New Zealand was due to be a one off, once in a lifetime occasion. We had taken scuba diving lessons specifically for this occasion. We had even purchased our own state-of-the-art wetsuits to take with us. You just never know what someone has done in a used wetsuit!

We took a special trip to the diving exhibition in London and crammed ourselves into tiny, makeshift changing rooms. Zipping on the wetsuits brought with it a sense of anticipation for what we would experience once we got to New Zealand.

After purchasing these, we then got a little carried away and collected together all our own equipment including fins, masks, snorkels, regulators and buoyancy control devices (BCD's). After some reigning in of the impulses, we decided it would be best to hire weight belts and tanks once we got out there as the extra weight would not be worth the extra charges in luggage weight.

Having made extra room in our luggage for our wetsuits, they were becoming a bit of a drag to carry around with us. Nicely folded and packed away in a case of their own on the trip was all well and good. But once used, wet, salty and sandy they had to be dried out.

Ok, so we would be using them again but have you ever tried to put on a wet wetsuit? It is impossible - that wetsuit clings to your ankles like barnacles on a boat bottom refusing to go any further. If you do manage to get it all the way up your body, and done up, you have got to the stage where you are so hot and worn out, the last thing you want to do is go diving!

So, there I am, complete with boyfriend and two teenagers, in a camper van. That's four wetsuits hanging around, in theory attempting to dry out but in practice just weighing us down with several extra gallons of water, a rather ripe smell and the knowledge that we have to try and get them back on a few miles down the road.

We made it down to Wellington, at the southern most point of the North Island, with a few days welcome break between dives due to the unpredictable weather. On the fourth day, we wake up to a beautiful sunny morning with calm waters and decide this is the day for the shore dive we have been looking forward to. You don't have to go far from shore to see an old ship wreck and that is what we are aiming for.

The wetsuits were relatively dry this time and we pull them on quite quickly. Swimming into what had been beautifully clear waters we find vision is a little restricted. Not in your normal sense of sand and pollution clogging up the view but a thick pea soup of jellyfish.

There are the beautiful, large, graceful jellyfish with neon colouring lighting them up. Not knowing one type of jellyfish from another, we steer clear of these larger ones who also seem to have the respect and sense to steer clear of us.

There are also the smaller jellyfish, the likes of which I have never even seen in a book. These are the ones that make up the dense pea soup that cannot be avoided but have to be swum through. They seem to be harmless, having found this out by swimming through them before we realised what they were and not the idiotic way of deliberately putting ourselves in the path of something that may be dangerous.

After an hour of this, we are beginning to feel the cold, even though we are wearing 8mm wetsuits. New Zealand may be a hot country but the currents through the passage way between the two islands come from colder waters and are far from tropical.

I signal to my boyfriend that I am going back to shore and he signals back to me. However, I am sure we went to the same dive school but he is making signals that I certainly didn't see demonstrated in class! In fact, the fuss he's making you would think he had been bitten by a shark!

As we reach shore, he pulls off his diving hood, jumping up and down shouting about a jellyfish that stung him on the lip. I can't see a thing but he creates a fuss so I try to sympathise. Apparently, it was one of the tiny jellyfish that had stung him and within an hour his lip had begun to swell dangerously.

I took him to see a local doctor who was amazed that we had been in the sea that day. You see, New Zealand do not have jellyfish, normally. Because of the storms out at sea over the last few days, deep sea jellyfish have been dragged up by the currents and washed inland. And they are all poisonous. Apparently, it is only the fact that we were wearing such thick wetsuits that we avoided being severely stung and very ill.

Maybe I won't mock the boyfriend too much then.
About the Author
Diving expert Catherine Harvey looks at the use of wetsuits and how they can be a safety aid. To find out more please visit http://www.transsurf.co.uk/
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