Having clear waters around Thanet is quite uncommon and it has given me a window in the UK to meet rare crystal jellyfish along with lots of others too! With the chalk reef giving lots of sediment and busy shipping areas into London and across to mainland Europe, it is often a murky waterway. But usually once a year, in high summer, we get a window of warm, calm weather that brings clearer seas and it often aligns with when the jellyfish are most abundant. It arrived over the weekend and I have spent about ten hours in the sea with my underwater camera, absolutely mesmerised by our blue planet. I've not experienced seas this clear here and have only been able to get images like this in the crystal clear waters around the Scottish Highlands until now.
It does feel like there are more jellyfish than ever before here in Thanet and worryingly this is an effect of climate crisis. With extreme weather and cold snaps in winter creating the idea breeding conditions for jellyfish and surprisingly, shipping areas and human-made structures (hello Walpole Bay Tidal Pool wall!) in the sea benefit jellyfish breeding in the polyps stage, as they need to settle on a hard surface. The impact of the accelerating climate crisis is seeing warming of the sea waters, lower oxygen levels, coupled with fertiliser run-off from agriculture into the sea, plankton and algae populates explode, which is perfect sustenance for opportunistic feeders like jellyfish.
Given our global interconnectedness, it is an entirely plausible theory that the shipping industry is moving these jellyfish polyps around the world and when detaching, they are finding themselves in warmer waters to be able to survive in their medusa phase. Jellyfish are fast evolving to keep pace with the pressures on the ecosystem posed by climate change which will be decimating other species and should be seen as an alarm bell from the deep blue planet when 'rare' species are sighted in regions they're not native to.
There are six very common jellyfish in the UK and over the last few days I have seen lots of Lion's Mane, Blue jellyfish and moon jellyfish. Other common ones I've yet to meet in Thanet are compass, barrel and mauve stinger jellyfish. However, there was one species that I must have seen a dozen or more of in the tidal pool, which are rare crystal jellyfish (aequorea vitrina), in fact they are extremely rare in UK waters and are only normally found in the East Pacific! I have seen a variety of sizes between 1"-6" in diameter and they have been there across different tides. And I somehow met one last year paddle boarding in Loch Baracade, which took me a long time to identify, with thanks to Scott Morrissey.
Interesting fact about Crystal Jellyfish.....they have the capacity to eat other jellies that are bigger than themselves and consuming other sea creatures! In some of the images you can make out a sea gooseberry or comb jelly has fallen prey to one, caught in the medusa of the crystal jellyfish!
The first few images in this post are of some of the crystal jellyfish I met - I've reported the sighting to Thanet Coastal Project, Kent Wildlife Trust & Marine Conservation society. It is really important to report sightings, the Marine Conservation Society are logging sightings and monitoring blooms etc, to feed into wider data.
Let me know if you see any jellyfish while you are out and about and if you are using the water be careful! Whilst I've been shooting these, a lot of sea swimmers have been getting stung, likening it to pins and needles or a stinging nettle sensation. To shoot these I always wear a rash vest and neoprene gloves and boots because this acts as a barrier to the stingers. Sea salt is good at soothing stings, along with vinegar. If you have any bits of the sting stuck, it is important to use tweezers as the stinger is active and never hesitate to get medical support if you're worried, folk can be allergic to jellyfish stings and only find this out the first time they are stung.
I feel quite awestruck to have captured the rare crystal jellyfish right here locally! And in exciting news, I have added this collection of images to my Print Shop - Walpole Bay Tidal Pool - all images are created in loving dedication to our iconic Walpole Bay Tidal Pool in Margate, connecting us to the unseen beauty of our blue planet right on our doorstep. If you'd like to welcome some of this nature home, fine are prints are available and images are proudly printed to order on sustainable Hahnemühle bamboo paper at the UK’s first fine art and photographic printing service that is 100% end-to-end carbon neutral. 10% of profits are donated to Marine Conservation Society. Order online here & prints are delivered to your door within 5-7 working days, view the collection here.
You can find out more about my underwater photography here.
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