attack of the aunties

Bathing is surreal in Qingdao as masked ladies hit algae-infested beaches

July 5, 2013
July 5, 2013

It’s beach season in Qingdao again. And that means the return of the most menacing sun-protection gear on the planet: the “bandit mask.” These masks are something of a local tradition among middle-aged and elderly women aiming to avoid suntans. (In China dark skin implies laboring, while fair skin indicates a life of indoor leisure.) Masks typically go for around $3, though many enterprising “aunties,” as older women in China are known, make their own.

But this year not only are they braving temperatures as high as 37 degrees Celsius, but they’re also swimming in what some are saying is Qingdao’s worst green algae infestation since 2008 (link in Chinese).

Once a sleepy fishing village renowned for its beer—it’s the home of Tsingtao Brewery—Qingdao is now a major port and center of industry. Its rapid development has seen more and more fertilizer and sewage pumped into the Yellow Sea. The combination of rising temperatures and a steady supply of nitrogen-rich effluent creates a hothouse for enteromorpha prolifera, the type of algae that has bloomed over Qingdao’s seas. Though it’s not harmful, it’s also not great for fishing activity—or for Qingdao’s beach resorts.

Luckily, the locals don’t appear to mind. Here’s a look at how some of Qingdao’s resilient beachgoers are dealing with the tide of green:

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A masked female holidaymaker, center, talks with others at a beach resort on a scorching day in Qingdao city, east Chinas Shandong province, 3 July 2013. Holidaymakers are flooding to the beach resorts to cool down in the eastern Chinese coastal city of Qingdao as heat waves are sweeping through many parts of China. A group of female swimmers are spotlighted among the others as they dress their heads up with colorful masks, making them look like masked robbers or terrorists. Dubbed as the bikini for faces, the mask is used to protect the face of its user from being tanned by scorching sunlight and stung by jellyfish. Priced at 15-20 yuan (US$2.44-US$3.26) apiece, the mask is quite popular among middle-aged and elderly women.(Imaginechina via AP Images
Keeping the rays at bay.(Imaginechina via AP Images)

This round up is via Jiangsu News’ Sina Weibo account (link in Chinese, registration required):

banditmaskweibo2

Local fishermen have it less easy:

Tap image to zoom
A fisherman pulls his boat across an algae-filled coastline in Qingdao, Shandong province June 9, 2013. Picture taken June 9, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily
A tough slog.(REUTERS/China Daily)

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