To the editor:                                           September 27,2000


From: Bill Winkler , Marine biologist

           P.O.Box 1400

           Ocean View, DE 19970


           email Bill Winkler



    Beach Alert:  You won’t here this from the State of Delaware unless it’s in a court of law.


     On August 11th 2000, I witnessed what I believed to be a Red Tide about 1 ½ miles north of the Indian River Inlet in Delaware.  The water was a reddish brown, more red than brown and clear as a strong tea.   I took a water sample(3/4 gal)  and video taped the phenomenon. One other observation: the water in the surf zone, as it washed back off the beach into the ocean, turned a bright yellow. I knew then, that something was wrong.  I called the Dept. of Natural Resources Emergency Response and reported what I saw and asked them what their truck was doing at the Indian River Inlet. The dispatcher, named Tucker, said “we think we had a spill”. I said we’ll why don’t you close the beaches?  What is this yellow stuff in the water?  Tucker said, we don’t know; but, we have received reports of this yellow stuff from the C&D Canal to Herring Point (about 2miles south of Cape Henlopen on the Atlantic Coast). Whatever the yellow stuff was, it was heading into populated swimming beaches. To cut it short,  no beaches were closed due to the reddish water , town officials and lifeguards say they never saw and red water. 


   Per an airplane pilot acquaintance of mine he said he saw this red water the week to August 14th.  He said ,as he flew off of Bethany Beach and turned north to pull his banner, there was red water all the way north to the entrance of Delaware Bay(approx. 15 miles). The pilot said the reddish water was about 500 ft off the beach, but fingers of the reddish water was taken into the bathing area by currents or waves.  I was in one of those areas.  My son, his wife and two friends were with me, surfing for about 2 hours.


     That evening , while sleeping, I experienced three spasmatic muscle contractions: the first jerked my head around so fast  I heard two cracking sounds.  I thought what the heck was that?  I really thought I had hurt my neck. After falling back to sleep, I was awaken again by now an instantaneous spasm in my back that mimiced a swan dive. It had been 4 years since I had been surfing. I said to myself, I’ve got to get in shape. Back to sleep. The third and last contraction was a quick kick of one of my legs that was totally, involuntary.


     Not until several days later, in talking to Dave, a lifeguard at the Sea Colony Condominums, south of Bethany Beach, did I connect my muscle spasms with the water, or whatever was in the water.  In researching what I thought was a Red Tide, I started asking people if they had symptoms of eye irritation/burning,  or difficulty in breathing(normal symptoms for a toxic dinoflagellate),  Dave said he didn’t notice; but, he did say that the next morning when he woke up his right jaw was locked. The muscle had cramped and did not release for one and a half days!  Dave said,  he thought he had slept on his face wrong or something, that this has never happened before.  That’s when it hit me .  My spasms have never happened before.  Since both Dave and I were in the ocean, could there be a connection?


     I had started the Red Tide Register at my store in Ocean View, Delaware.  I asked people if they had been swimming. If so, had they experienced eye irritation or difficulty in breathing. Keep in mind I am only interviewing some of my customers which may amount to .0001 percent of the total people that come to the beach.  People started signing that they did see the reddish water or had experienced eye irritation or difficulty in breathing.  Later that weekend when the winds came up a yellow-green foam piled up on the beach, moving whatever was in the water, up onto the beach.


     People coming in my store all summer kept commenting about “pieces of jellyfish” stinging them in the surf.   I said what do you mean pieces of jellyfish. Jellyfish don’t come in pieces unless you’re talking about a tentacle.  Not until the beach clean up day on August 16th did a couple of friends of mine find these “pieces of jellyfish”.  They ranged in size from about 2 inches to 7 inches and looked like shredded plastic, but it was pliable like a jellyfish and smelled like rotting clams!  I took a dry piece in my fingers and looked at it first with a magnifier loop.  I could see on one side , these things are flat like plastic wrap, that it was adhesive since sand, fish scales, seaweed was stuck only to the one side. I massaged the sand off to examine under the microscope.  As I did this, I felt a very smooth layer underneath the adhesive layer. It was so fine like a lanolin or mink oil.  Keep in mind, this stuff is about ½ millimeter thick, like the thinnest plastic wrap.  It didn't stretch. It it’s dry state it tore like rice paper.


     Underneath my kid’s microscope, in looking at the plastic like material.   I did not see any cell structure only striations.  Every plant and animal has a cell structure. I must admit, I had never put a jelly fish under the scope before; but , then again have you ever seen a flat jellyfish, with no tentacles and adhesive on one side.?  Me either. This appears to be man-made. Possibly some type of transdermal patch material. The red water could have been caused by the neurotoxin or vaccine in the patch and when these pieces hit you in the water, you got a red patch the shape of the piece that hit you. Whatever it was in theses pieces of jellyfish, instantly was absorbed into our bodies.


     My “rash” stuck around for about 3 days, dissappeared for a week came back, dissappeard , came back again and now it’s gone after about a month.  People who were hit in the eyes , experienced a severe burning.  Everyone thought they were jellyfish. But, in looking at the red areas on people, I said, that’s not from a jellyfish.  A jellyfish has nematocysts that have miniature harpoons, spring loaded with a toxin on the tip.  When a tentacle from a jellyfish rubs up against, you’ll know what hit you and have a raised welt on that spot, not a spreading type reddness.


     If anyone has experienced  the following symptoms  while on the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to Virginia , please contact me at 302-537-5334 or email to Bill Winkler . Encounter with the “pieces of jellyfish”, rash or redness, eye burning, nausea after going in the water for a long time, especially in children who may have swallowed the water, numbness or severe spasms and or difficulty in breathing. Please , only if you were in the Atlantic Ocean and encountered the “pieces of  jellyfish”. You may be the missing piece to the puzzle we need to find out, What really happened at the beach in the summer of 2000?

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