Portuguese man o’ war, floating terror, bluebottle,
with venomous tentacles delivering a painful sting.
Not common jellyfish, not single multicellular organism.
A colony of specialized minute individuals attached.
Well-armed surface sailor incapable of independent survival.
Here is a bit of background to accompany today’s little ronka poem. I was inspired by news reports of man o’ wars appearing in the ocean off New Jersey recently.
The name “man o’ war” comes from the man-of-war, an 18th-century armed sailing ship, which this creature resembles if you see a Portuguese version at full sail. Like a well-armed ship, they pack a punch with a sting that can last for about an hour after a human comes into contact with the marine cnidarian. People who are allergic to the species’ venom often need to be hospitalized.
Their appearance off NJ can be blamed on the Gulf Stream which took a sizable population of them that with a few days of strong northeasterly winds, pushed them on shore in New Jersey. A rare but not unheard of visitation.