On the saving of jellyfish
( Autumn 1997 )
A modest-sized island on the edge of the ocean.
It lies at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean and they both collide in an ill-mannered aggression with the North Sea in a place where the Viking legends placed the maelstrom. Within splashing distance of these waters nobody other than the curious assembly (Pict, Gael, Viking, Roman, Norman and refugees from assorted Germanic tribes) known collectively as "The British" would ever dream of living.
Its coastline has been battered for millenia by violent gales and storms, the glaciers of several Ice Ages, the Gulf Stream current and several other meteorological phenomena and is therefore thoroughly hostile, jagged and rugged, a long spectacular series of what the Norwegians call fjords separated by stretches of rocky pebble-covered beach.
Early one morning, after a particularly savage night of wind and high seas, a man was taking a stroll along one of the rockier and more pebble-covered of these beaches, for the good of his health.
Quite why he thought his health would benefit from a stroll in those kinds of conditions is a mystery hidden deep in the innermost recesses of the British psyche but then the British are people who still believe that a freezing cold bath on an ice-clad winter's morning is the epitome of civilised behaviour.
So there amid the dying wind and spray strode this child of Calvin, his stoic soul no doubt fully recompensed for the suffering involved by a flood of self-righteousness, when into the periphery of his consciousness came the information that the beach was littered with jellyfish, washed up in the storm. Being a typical human and therefore absolutely assured of his own membership of the supreme intelligent species on the planet, he had no fit of horrified compassion at the plight of these infinitely inferior beings so ignored them as he strolled along.
Along the far distance of the beach he noticed a moving blob which had not been there yesterday and as he progressed towards it, it took on the shape of another human.
This other human was acting in a most peculiar fashion, bending down, straightening up, waving its arm then bending down and repeating the strange pantomime. He found this erratic and unfathomable behaviour intriguing and, mildly irritated by his lack of comprehension, he found himself changing direction towards this odd person.
"Good morning", says he.
The stranger barely paused to reply, "Good morning".
"Forgive my rudeness, but I'm curious as to the nature of your endeavours" (or something similar if less ornate), said the first .
"I'm saving jellyfish."
"I beg your pardon?"
The stranger halted and their eyes met. "I'm saving jellyfish."
Our stroller looked around and along the beach. It was quite literally covered with the bodies of stranded jellyfish.
"Good God, that's idiotic!"
"There are millions of them!"
"Look!" He waved contempuously. "Millions of them! You wouldn't save even a fraction of them if you were here for a month! A complete waste of effort. What difference can you possibly make?"
The stranger reached down, picked up another jellyfish and threw it back into the water.
"Made a difference to that one."