An Armada O’ Portuguese Man O’ Wars

Despite, or maybe even because it was damp and mizzly yesterday evening, Christine and Coquina and I went to Black Point Beach.

It’s always beautiful down there, especially in mists and fogs.

When we got to the walkway to the beach, C. saw a large and lovely deer in the marsh. We watched it bound to the dunes and then turn east, through the beachgrass, and then around Little Black Point Pond. It quickly vanished behind or into a patch of phragmites reeds. Coquina could not resist the temptation. She ran to the end of the walkway and stood on her hind legs to get a better view. She’s done that since she was a puppy. It looks funny, but when you’re a small dog, you can use a bit of extra height.

She tried to give chase but we hollered her back.

Over the dunes we passed. The tide was near high and the waves were strong. Eelgrass and other seaweeds were washing up, forming a wrack line.

In the wrack were blue balloon-like blobs. Lots of them.

What?????

Portuguese Man O’ Wars were washing ashore. Here, there, again and again, there were hundreds of them

In late summer it’s not unusual for Portuguese Man O’ Wars to wash up on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard.

Most people call them jellyfish, though they’re actually siphonophores.

Jellyfish, siphonophore, hatever you call them, they have long tentacles which have powerful stinging nematocysts for paralyzing prey. Even washed ashore they can still sting, and they can still sting days after being exposed on the beach. You don’t want to touch one of these tentacles. The welts they cause can be extremely painful and can last for days.

Their form can be beautiful.

Pink sometimes limns the crest of their airbag “float”.

Mist turned to mizzle turned to drizzle,

and back to mizzle,

and back to mist.

The dog was damp. We were damp.

Time to go home.

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