Sometimes, we go to the beach and it isn’t the best day for swimming. There can be numerous reasons for this. Perhaps it is too cold or raining. Maybe there are too many jellyfish in the water and you don’t feel like getting stung. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a beach.
I was introduced to a new beach this Summer. The beach is Pondville Beach on Isle Madame. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with tropical looking warm water. The day was nice – a little overcast but warm and with the sun shining through the clouds every once in a while to really emphasize the green-blue water. I did go in for a quick dunk but I decided not to swim. The reason – a flotilla of lion’s mane jellyfish were invading the beach.
Stop! We’ll get back to the story in a second. First, it’s time that I shared some information about those beautiful but much feared (and perhaps hated by some) jellyfish. The breed of jellyfish we have around here is the lion’s mane jellyfish. They are the largest jellyfish on the planet and they occupy the waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific. The further north you go, generally the larger they grow. Some lion’s mane jellyfish are larger than humans. In fact, I have a picture of one on my computer that is floating in the underwater world with a SCUBA diver. The jellyfish dwarfs the diver, who happens to be a full-grown man. I once saw a giant jellyfish in Iceland that was so big I was reminded of the movie Mothra. Anyway, the lion’s mane jellyfish have really long tentacles that they sting with. They’ve been known to stretch up to 120 feet – making them longer than a blue whale! Their sting is painful but not deadly. The jellyfish are very beautiful as they float on the currents of the ocean. They don’t propel themselves. They simply go with the flow. They take it easy – purple pulsating jelly in a blue-green sea – entering our waters early in July and usually leaving sometime in August. And there is one more important fact about these amazing creatures. They are the diet of leatherback turtles. The reason that we have the endangered leatherbacks in our waters is that they follow the jellyfish here. So, next time you find yourself on a beach cursing the invading purple horde, remember that they are helping to sustain one of the world’s most amazing at risk species. Back to the story…
So, I didn’t really swim on Pondville Beach but that was okay. It was a new beach and I was alone – the perfect conditions for exploring. The beach has a wetland and fast flowing river behind the sand dunes. On the beach side, it is all sand. It starts at an old wooden dock and runs about one kilometre to a beautiful rocky area. The rocks start on the shore and then stretch out into the ocean – little islands dotting the sea out to the horizon. The rocks in closest just barely stick out of the water during low tide and are probably covered at high tide. They are covered with life – sea grasses and snails decorate them and make them look like punk rocks. This of course is a big draw for sea birds. I walked down to the rocky end of the beach and started snapping pictures of the small life forms. Suddenly, I heard the mournful melody of sandpipers. They blend in with the surroundings and are difficult to spot at first but you can easily hear their whistling cry. Every once in a while, one would take off and there would be a flash of white from the stripes on its wings. Terns were also flying over the water – doing their acrobatics and dive-bombing for food every once in a while. The cacophony of bird song was forlorn and uplifting all at once – capturing the yin-yang of the spirit. A bald eagle soared over my head at one point. The entire scene was amazing – peaceful and beautiful for me but perhaps not for the birds’ prey. I started running back down the beach. At a certain point, I noticed that everyone was exploring in the same way that I was. It was a day for looking at the little things – an amazing thing to do on the beach during any season – and this was the perfect beach to do it. When I arrived back at the other end of the beach, by the dock, I waded in the water a bit to take some photos of an interesting piece of driftwood. I wanted to capture it from below and kneeled down in the waves and put my camera as close as possible to the water so that I could capture it from below. As I was doing this, I lost track of the jellyfish and one bumped into me. It didn’t sting me but it alerted me to their presence. So, I decided to take some shots of the amazing creatures. They are a great subject for photography and amazing to study. The jellyfish, which caused me to leave the water originally, brought me back in at the end of the day. I had come full circle and it was time to get back to Sydney.
Isle Madame is a great place to go for coastal adventures and this beach is a great asset. They also have beach volleyball games every Monday evening arranged by Richmond County. So, I encourage you to take a day trip to the island and explore. In addition to Pondville Beach, there is Martinique Provincial Picnic Park which has some trails and there is the amazing Cape Auguet Eco-Trail. You won’t be disappointed. For more information on Isle Madame and Richmond County, visit http://www.capebretonsheritagecoast.com/
Until next time, I’m off on another Beach Bum Adventure!