Oceans of Opportunity

the lion’s mane

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael Lombardi

Just as the excitement of milder, but stll very clear, New England waters
kickstarts the spring diving season (yes, finally wet suit time!), we’re faced with yet another hazard – lion’s mane jellyfish.

Over a decade ago, I believe in 1999 or 2000, Rhode Island waters were heavily infested with these jellies. They were here by the thousands. Every time I would turn around, I’d be dodging either the jelly itself, or the long trail of tentacles it uses to fish for prey. This year is not quite as bad as I recall that one season, but they are here in force right now. Just two days ago, I had to time my entry into the water from a pier so as to dodge the swarm. once in the water, I would constantly fan out in front of me to make a small current that would keep them away.

Lion's mane jellyfish
Lion’s mane jellyfish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written about a number of critters here on ‘a New Life’ that I’ve had unfavorable encounters with, or at least creep me out – the American eel, the archaic horseshoe crab, sharks – but these lion’s mane take the prize. In terms of marine life aggression, they are as benign as can be, simply floating along in a near perfectly neutral state lazily going wherever the tide takes them. But they are passively fierce. Their sting is terrible, and despite being covered head to toe in neoprene, their tentacles find a way of finding what little exposed skin there is – usually your lips – and leave a trail of pain. I’ve gone full summers trying to shake the burn left on my wrists from wearing only a light pair of gloves and getting repeatedly stung as I’m working inshore.

Despite being among the underwater nasties, they truly are beautiful animals. All jellies, in fact, are like something out of a sci-fi movie. So primitive, yet clearly doing something right to have lived through so many planetary evolutions, and keep on keeping on.

So, my jellyfish advice – admire from a distance, but admire indeed.

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