A frequently asked question we get is about encounters with ‘dangerous’ animals out here. Sharks are especially appealing to a lot of us and I have to admit that it is exciting to spot the dorsal fin cutting through the waves- an event occurring roughly every week on this expedition. Unfortunately, the sharks we have seen turned out to be really shy. All of them swam away quickly. Realizing that shark bites are notorious but very rare, my fear for the animal turned into respect and I’d like to swim with one of them.
The first less funny animal encounter we had was with a jellyfish yesterday. Now, they might look less dangerous than sharks, but subspecies like the box jellyfish and the Irukandji jellyfish (found in southeast Asia and Northern Australia) and the Portuguese man-of-war, can sting with a sometimes fatal punch.
In the afternoon a dozen dolphins showed up right next to Seeker to play. We stopped the boat and me, Ty, Maria and Mark dove into the water with a GoPro to have a swim with them. While Mark was swimming over to Ben to shoot some footage he got caught in something that looked like a fishing line.
Back on the boat, his left shoulder, neck and right shoulder showed characteristics of a rash from a jellyfish sting. After making sure there was no sign of a shock, initial treatment consisted of soaking the area in heated sea water to neutralize the venom.
Vinegar might be used as well, although occasionally it makes matters worse. Since I didn’t know the precise jellyfish and symptoms were minor, I chose not to use it in this case. After this, there was some hilarity among the crew when I powdered the whole area with flour (shaving cream, baking soda or a sand/seawater paste can do the trick too!) and carefully scraped it off with the sharp end of a sunscreen tube (a credit card will do the job), thereby avoiding further envenomation by removing the stings. An example of proper expedition medicine: pragmatic and effective. One of the reasons I like this field of medicine so much. Except for a temporary silverback, Mark fully recovered.
Maks Romeijn, 28, Dutchie
Expedition Medic/ Researcher
‘Since my graduation from medical school in Leiden, I worked in several fields of acute medicine including cardiology and intensive care. I’m interested in the provision of optimum health care in situations outside the hospital. After following an expedition medicine course organized by World Extreme Medicine, it was only a matter of time before I would head off for an expedition.
Having sailed from a young age and kite surfing year round whenever there is wind, water always played an important role in my life. To dedicate my time to preserve the oceans, while being an expedition doctor on a Pacific crossing, is an absolute dream and I didn’t need to think long about joining The Swim. Together with Lauren and our on-shore medical team, I will take care of all people on board and monitor Ben during the swim. Also, we will lead the medical research projects, including imaging studies of Ben’s heart in collaboration with NASA.
Besides the safe and sound return of the crew, I hope that we make people think more about the use of plastic and the effects it is having on our planet.’