Friday, June 30, 2006

Huge, Dangerous Creatures Invade Southern New England's Coastal Waters!

“My initial impression was, it was some kind of vine that was creeping and surrounding me. It was a very penetrating, burning sensation.” – Phillip Beauregard, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Now that the sun is out you might be thinking about going for a swim at the beach, except that if you go to Rhode Island or adjacent parts of Massachusetts you should worry about encountering a Portuguese man-of-war.

At least 15 of these enormous, dangerous siphonophores have been seen at beaches in Little Compton, Rhode Island, in the last few days; they’ve also been in Westpost, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported that the 15 at Little Compton compares to about a half a dozen in the area over the past decade:

Portuguese men-of-war traditionally live in tropical and subtropical waters but drift to the north Atlantic on the Gulf Stream, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium. While not common in the region, they are occasionally spotted off the southern coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, off the south-facing side of Cape Cod, and off Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, as water temperatures rise in late summer, he said.

The recent, unstable weather patterns could explain their early, more frequent arrival on New England shores. Warmer air has been moving up from the South for nearly a week, said Alan Dunham, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Taunton.

… The tentacles can sting even when the man-of-war is dead and washed up on the beach. Although its sting is believed to be potentially fatal, the man-of-war has no known record of killing people. But the danger is that some people could have an allergic reaction to the venom, could go into shock, panic, or drown.

Sounds like something worth avoiding.


Blogger Sam said...

Good grief, Tom, we deal with those Portegee Man-O-War all the time in Texas and it's no big deal. I was wondering where they all went, though, since they're not washing up on our beaches in South Texas, as they should.

There is a suntan lotion called Safe Sea that works on many jellies and we always just use ammonia to neutralize the tentacles, although there are many other home remedies such as vinegar (any kind) and meat tenderizer (Adolf works like a charm).

You are correct that the real danger is from people freaking out when stung. Panic kills, not these little critters (enormous, what?). The biggest "most enormous" jellyfish I ever saw was a plus two-foot wide Lion's Mane Jellyfish (Red Jelly) in Long Island Sound.

Now those, they hurt like the dickens and can sneak up on you underwater! Bwahahahaa ...


1:09 PM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

Interesting times. If only we hadn't become so dependent on such a fragile infrastructure in the industrialized world (and so overpopulated in many places around the world), we could enjoy the changes accompanying global warming, instead of seeing them as more evidence of our impending doom.

10:02 AM  

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