A couple happened upon an astounding sight recently while strolling on the beach in Australia. At Barlings Beach in New South Wales, Brett Wallensky and partner Claudia came across thousands of bluebottles, or Portuguese man o’wars, washed up on land. Such a freaky sight could be more common as climate change impacts our world.
The couple came across the horde of Portuguese man o’wars in late October. Brett Wallensky, who said he’d been stung multiple times by bluebottles as a boy, said, “There must have been thousands of them beached and they were all alive and wriggling. It was the stuff nightmares are made of…If you fell in there and got that any stings all over you I can’t imagine you would survive…The color of them was just amazing, it is so bright – almost alien.” He said he’d never seen so many bluebottles together in his life.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, each year in Australia over 10,000 people report bluebottle stingings. The venomous creatures deliver painful stings, and according to marine biologist Christie Wilcox of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, the stinging cells can still be active for weeks after they’re beached, so even dead bluebottles can cause pain. Wilcox recommended a vinegar rinse and the application of heat to treat a sting.
Wilcox told Gizmodo mass beachings can occur when conditions are right, and that there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this specific stranding. But there’s some question of whether climate change will allow Portuguese man o’wars to thrive. According to marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershin, warmer waters amp up jellyfish metabolism, and the creatures live longer and breed more. Bluebottles could benefit from climate change like jellyfish, according to Gizmodo, and beachings could occur more often.