Jellyfish Smuckdown

Last night at dinner, I asked whether a group of jellyfish was called a 'smuck' or a 'smack' to settle the debate on the blog last week. Though Wikipedia cites collective jellies as a 'smack', the three scientists I was eating with agreed it was 'smuck' and we even went to a big, tattered 1993 Webster's dictionary that confirmed a group of jellyfish was known either as a 'brood' or a 'smuck'. Knowing this term will become increasingly important, so we should settle it once and for all here. Does everyone agree on SMUCK?

If so, might some jelly expert volunteer to change the jellyfish page in Wikipedia as well as this one on collective nouns (which, sillly Wiki, even states: "The term given for a "Smack of Jellyfish" may not be correct. There is very little reason or evidence to suppose that Jellyfish even require a collective noun.").

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So, the debate continues. As I mentioned previously, my limited experience involves more encounters with "smack" than "smuck". I also prefer "smack" because it's a pun on what can actually happen if jellyfish gang up (both the salmon and the salmon farmers in Ireland felt a heavy "smack" last week). So, I am afraid I cannot support settling this debate with "smuck" at this point. However, as I plan to be immersing myself in the world of jellyfish in the coming months, I will be on the lookout for any clues that will help put the issue to rest.
There also seems to be extensive use of the phrase "jellyfish bloom" in recent years. Even our good friends at Shifting Baselines have added it to their flagship slideshow as an "ominous new term for the new millenium". The need for these terms is all too obvious of late, but ironically what actually constitutes a jellyfish "bloom" is not well defined. Stay tuned, I'm sure we'll have lots more to discuss on the subject in the near future...

However, as I plan to be immersing myself in the world of jellyfish in the coming months,...


By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 28 Nov 2007 #permalink

Well, I feel a little bit better now. I was beginning to think I'd dreamed the discussion of "Smuck" in 2000. I'll ask around my colleagues who were at the conference. If I can get confirmation that the collected jellyfish scientists of the world, at the "International Conference on Jellyfish Blooms". decided it's "Smuck", will that settle it? :)

@Lucas -- Good, good. On a separate note, had you ever run across the story of the North Sea oil platform diver who ended up sharing his wetsuit with a jellyfish? >_<

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 28 Nov 2007 #permalink

Luna - I haven't heard that one. Pray tell...


I did some research on this, (as you might imagine from my website), for a children's book I hope to publish on the collective nouns for an alphabet of animals. According to, groups of jellyfish can be referred to as either a smack or a smuck. I believe I found this one in an almanac as well. I like them both!


Ah, right. heh.

This was in 1998, on (I seem to recall) Miller Platform. You know that the North Sea, away from the coast, is not exactly a normal diving environment -- survival time when exposed to water temperature unprotected is about 3 minutes before the hypothermia kills you, almost 4 if you are extremely fit and hardy. Normal wetsuits are completely inadequate. (When working on the rigs and platforms in the North Sea, workers are now required to have emergency dry suits to hand at all times, in case there is a fire like on Piper Alpha and people have to escape. If you work offshore in the North Sea, you are required to be able to get those suits on in under two minutes. But I digress.)

Anyway, rig divers are a special breed of crazy. These are the guys who get paid a great deal of money to do underwater maintenance on the platform legs. The REALLY crazy ones are the ones who do the deep work; because it takes them 28 hours to depressurise properly when coming up from the depths they work, they just live in a pressurised tin can attached to a platform leg for 2-4 weeks at a time. But because it takes them 28 hours to depressurise, they're no good for dealing with issues less than 15 meters from the water surface. So there are the "emergency rig divers" for the near surface work. And because they don't go down as often, they don't get the really expensive full astronaut-type drysuit. What used to be done as the cheap solution for near-platform work (maybe still is? I haven't been offshore since '99, so I don't know) was that they were provided with special, rather more expandible wet suits, and water from the sea surface was pumped up into generators on the platform, heated, and then circulated through lines to the suit, so that they had heated water circulating around them constantly. There were of course filters before the water got to the pump so that the water was clean.

Except for that one instance where the filter section had been removed from the hose because it was too old, or faulty, or something, don't know what, but the hose had been reattached to the pump without a replacement.

So, as the diver in question told it, the first he knew there was a problem was when he started to feel a line of itching down his back. And then his ass crack started to itch like crazy.

So the poor sod scratched.

THEN he knew something was really wrong. I suspect that he had an intuition as to what.

Anyway, he started the panicked signalling to come back up NOW, but the guy manning the pump at the platform got from him that it wasn't a life-threatening emergency, and he'd been working at near 15 meters, so they made him do his safety stop on the way up. By the time he got to the platform he was visibly in absolute agony. The thing had wedged itself deeply into that particular crevice of flesh, and gotten mashed there.

It wasn't helped (I wasn't there, but he was vocal about this part) that when he got to the medic, she was laughing too hard to get it scraped off/dug out/washed down for a minute or two. She ended up giving him steroid cream to take down the swelling, but from the diver's own testimony, his asshole was swollen closed and so extraordinarily painful that he couldn't take a dump for a week.

I remember this story when I think I've had a bad day at work.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 29 Nov 2007 #permalink

Sarah,Thanks for weighing in. Your website is beautiful as are your designs. Please keep me abreast of your publication!

I wonder when we'll decide (as a world) to settle once and for all on smuck or smack (having both out there seems a little odd). Should we have a survival show? What about a vote?

Luna - that's a crazy story - thanks for sharing. I'm guessing a lot the deeper work on rigs must now be done with rebreathers to shorten the deco time?

I would wonder, would a jam of jellyfish be a possibility?

( as a term for a whole mess of em. not as a component of a sandwich... little quick on the submission button today.)

Lucas -- I know that the rig divers go down for at least two weeks at a time, but I don't know about rebreathers. I would assume they use the best technology available, but the bulk of their work is done at 100m and lower so I would also assume that decompress time (not depressurise, decompression, duh) is still long.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 03 Dec 2007 #permalink