I like jellyfish and feel we have something in common. Not so much that they are exotic and mysterious, but because they have no brain.
Up till now I have come across six different species:
Common, or Moon jellyfish.
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Barrel Jellyfish. These are the first ones to appear in April and are up to the size of a dustbin!
Crystal Jellyfish. These are supposed to be very rare, or have been up till very recently, and are like something out of Avatar.
This autumn I have heard about some Cornish beaches being closed because Portugese Men of War jellyfish had been washed up, but I wasn’t expecting to see one while out paddling because typically only a handful turn up each year.
I was hopeful for an encounter when I did a circuit of Mount’s Bay starting at Marazion. It was a bit choppy but I still went straight across to Mousehole. I had a brief view of a couple of porpoises and was very lucky to see a handful of Common Dolphins which passed just in front of me and stayed alongside for a couple of minutes. There were a couple of silvery-coloured youngsters in the group. Photography was very difficult and this is the only half-decent shot I managed:
Spotting cetaceans in choppy conditions, let alone photographing them, is quite a challenge.
As I was watching the dolphins I drifted towards a floating translucent bladder with a mauve tinge….a Portugese Man of War jelly. I was actually a bit disappointed because it struggles to live up to it’s very dramatic name and I thought at first it was a discarded plastic bag. However I treated it with respect as I knew the dangling blue tentacles can pack a nasty sting, and recoiled in horror as it seemed to suddenly come towards me although it had probably just been caught by a gust of wind.
Over the next six hours I came across fifteen Men of War, up to about ten inches long and some without ‘tentacles’.
And my encounters with ‘Floating Terrors’ (another of it’s superb names) didn’t stop there. A couple of days later while kayaking between Looe and Polperro, Dave, Paul and myself passed another twenty or so of the much-feared siphonophore (technically the Portugese Man of War is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore consisting of three types of medusoid and four types of polypoid grouped into cormidia beneath the pneumatophore. Jelly would be so much easier).
To be honest some looked more like a shortcrust top-crimped Cornish pasty.
The sea was quite lumpy again but it didn’t interfere with our jellyfish spotting and, as usual, a good time was had by all.
The ultra-sheltered narrow harbour of Polperro provided a bit of a break before the paddle back to Looe.
Incidentally, the unluckiest jellyfish I have ever seen is this one that was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was accidentally inhaled by a Basking Shark who usually prefer a diet of plankton. Maybe it was having the jelly for afters.
This strange, windblown visitor from the subtropics is probably the most dangerous sea creature I have yet encountered. I have had a few tussles with quite large fish with impressive teeth while doing a spot of fishing, but I think the Man of War just about takes the biscuit in terms of health hazard.