(HONOLULU ADVERTISER) -- An influx of box jellyfish is expected to peak today in nearshore waters, and the city's Ocean Safety Division has issued a box jellyfish warning through today.
There were 86 box jellyfish found and 10 stings reported in Waikiki as of yesterday afternoon, according to the Ocean Safety Division. An additional 12 box jellyfish were found at Ala Moana Beach.
Swimmers were advised to stay out of the water.
People stung by box jellyfish should flush the stung area with vinegar and see a lifeguard for help. Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing, muscle cramps or persistent pain should seek immediate medical attention.
When I visited Queensland, Australia, I noticed warning signs about "sea wasps" on the beaches of the Coral Sea. A local told me they referred to box jellyfish and said their sting could kill a person within minutes. I thought it was a tall tale to scare a Yank and I went swimming in spite of the signs.
After I returned to Hawaii, I looked up box jellyfish in the public library. Turns out the Aussie wasn't joking. Box jellyfish venom is one of the most deadly in nature, far moreso than the bite of a cobra.
I was accustomed to occasionally seeing Portuguese man-o-war (a type of jellyfish) on beaches in Hawaii. Their sting is painful, but not fatal. I had no idea box jellyfish existed in Hawaiian waters until a few years after I visited Australia.
I learned Hawaii also has two other deadly sea creatures found in Australia -- the tiny blue-ringed octopus and the cone shell, both living in tide pools. If I had ever seen either one before I learned how dangerous they were, I'm sure I would have picked it up to examine out of curiosity -- which might have cost me my life.
The Pacific Ocean is full of critters that are a threat to people, but they were there first, long before humans evolved.
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa