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Published: August 25th 2019
Today is our last day in Europe before a very long and gruelling day of travelling to Calgary in western Canada tomorrow. Issy is looking forward to this like a hole in the head, so she says we should spend today preparing for this ordeal by doing as little as possible. We sleep in, and then settle in for the day on a pair of sunlounges on Playa de Cala Barques beach in front of our hotel.
It looks like a perfect beach day; the sun is out and the wind has finally abated. We can’t however fail to notice the yellow flag on the walkway at one end of the beach, which we assume is some sort of caution. We’ve noticed green and red flags here on other days, so we consult the Google machine to see what this all means. A yellow flag apparently means “potentially high surf or dangerous currents and undertows”. I’ve seen bigger waves in a bath, so I’d be a bit surprised if that was it. I‘d always thought that the Mediterranean was relatively free of dangerous sea creatures, at least compared to our homeland. Lots of people we’ve met on our travels have
told us that they’d be way too scared to go swimming in Australia, where if they didn’t drown in the surf, they’d probably get taken by a shark or a crocodile, or stung by a deadly marine stinger, and if they managed to survive that they’d be sure to get bitten by a snake or a venomous spider. I get the impression that some of these people are a bit surprised that any Aussies live much past their teens given all these hazards.
I‘m jolted out of my comfort zone when I hear the British family on the lounges in front of us mention the word “shark”. The article about the flags didn’t mention anything about sharks; I didn’t think there were any dangerous sharks in the Mediterranean. It seems that I’m very much mistaken - another article tells me that the three most dangerous sharks on the planet, including the fearsome Great White, are all believed to be present in these waters. There have however apparently only been seven fatal shark attacks in Spanish waters in the past 120 years, and the article goes onto say that “You’re more likely to be killed by a vending machine than
Playa de Cala Barques
Clearly a very dangerous rock
you are by a shark.”
I decide to stop worrying about being attacked by sharks and move on instead to thinking about how you could be killed by a vending machine. The article implies that at least eight people have been killed by vending machines in Spain in the past 120 years, but I wonder exactly how. The most obvious method would seem to be the vending machine falling on them, but I think you’d probably need to pull it fairly hard for that to happen, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to risk pulling a vending machine so hard that it could fall on them. Vending machines in Australia at least are notorious for stealing your money and not giving you what you paid for, so I suppose if someone got really frustrated by this they might bash their head against the machine and kill themselves. I decide it might be better if I stop thinking about this and move onto thinking about something a bit more productive.
Given the sea is very calm, and the apparent unlikelihood of shark attack, we’re still no closer to solving the reason for the yellow flag. We then
notice another flag next to the yellow one with what look like pictures of jellyfish on it. Again, I thought the Mediterranean was free of dangerous jellyfish. A few minutes later we see a teenage boy limp out of the water in obvious pain and with red marks on his legs. This would seem to solve the yellow flag mystery. The Google machine says that many species of jellyfish are found in the waters around Majorca, including the deadly Portuguese Man o War, which it says is the most dangerous sea creature in the entire Mediterranean. It seems the Mediterranean isn’t nearly as safe as I‘d thought. It was a bit cool for swimming today anyway....
I see something even rarer than a fatal Spanish shark attack; the British family sitting in front of us who mentioned sharks appear to be putting on sun screen. We’ve noticed previously that just about every British person we’ve seen on a beach in Europe is either severely sunburnt, or well on their way to becoming so, so we assumed that sunscreen must have been regarded as culturally inappropriate in Britain for some reason. The family sounded British; perhaps I misheard.
go back to the restaurant we went to last night where I overdosed on sangria. They seem happy to let us in, so maybe my singing wasn’t as bad as I‘d thought....
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