Jellyfish, all the way down.

There seems to come a point every year, when, having been forced by weather to mostly swim one spot, I just need to get to a few different locations.

On Monday the relentless southerly winds of the last few weeks abated for the day, and switched to light offshore northerly, and the tide was high in the afternoon, so I headed to Clonea to have my first swim out to Carricknamoan this year. Black Rock is directly beyond it, across one of the navigation channels, and thanks to the camera foreshortening, looks closer but is further from Carricknamoan than Carricknamoan is from the beach. Ā Carricknamoan is a rocky islet out to the south-west of Clonea. I headed directly out (sometimes I go from Ballinacourty Lighthouse). The water was still cold though. It took me about 30 minutes to reach the island, and then I decided to swim around it. As I came around the southern side the temperature dropped sharply. It was freezing.

Carricknamoan & Black Rock beyond - 30 minutes swimming directly out, looks closer

I decided, what the hell, I’ve been out here quite a few times, but I’ve never climbed onto the rock. The seals and birds on usually on the northern side, closer to the beach, though I saw no seals that day. It was a bit difficult climbing out as the swell was more pronounced on this side, but still small enough to climb once I found a ledge. It was made more difficult by the layer of tiny petrified shells covering everything. Too sharp to walk around, it was fun to stand up, watch all the guillemots take off and wheel around. Then I dove back in and headed back toward the beach, this time swimming into the small chop driven out here by the offshore.

About halfway back, passing over one of the deeper areas, I swam into the biggest jellyfish bloom I’ve ever seen. And I realise I’ve already said that once this year. This was jaw-droppingly astonishing. For about three hundred metres I swam through not just thousands, but tens of thousands of jellies, almost all Moon jellies but with another species intermixed, (another that once again I don’t recognise), similar to the Moon jelly, but with vertical white lines and (non-stinging) tentacles.

The sun was shining from behind me. This is always special because it sends striking rays of light into the sea-green ahead, making the water luminous and ethereal. And in this oceanic glade, the light was captured and rapturously diffused by the myriad gelatinous bodies, each mostly translucent but with small opaque central areas of ochre, sienna cyan, or pale lunar white. So dense that beneath me there was no bottom, no down. All that was below me was a cloud of overlapping jellies, jelly over jelly over jelly, transmuting the light. Like the turtles on whom the world is rested, it was jellies all the way down.

It was one of those priceless intervals. I stopped swimming a few times, just to float amongst them. This is the adventure of open water, to know that no-one else will ever swim through that bloom. Next change of wind or tide, and away it would go or disperse. And no-one would swim though this particular bloom in this particular location in this particular wind and light. But others will have their own little adventures. Where is the adventure in a pool?

I got back to the beach at just under 90 minutes, both hands Clawed. Totally worth it.

Carricknamoan, a better idea of the distance


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