It has to rate among the oddest living things I’ve ever seen.
We couldn’t snorkel at Magic Passage when the divers went down. The current was tearing into the harbour at five or six knots, and getting into the water it was all we could do to hang on to the tow line and feel the water pour past us. It was like floating in a flowing river. Pascal went for a swim, pounding away at the back of the boat as though he were in one of those tiny exercise pools with the water-jets, swimming for all he was worth and staying perfectly still. Looking for all the world like the aquatic equivalent of a hamster in a wheel. The rest of us just lay on the boat and gently crisped our skin.
When the divers surfaced (nicely worn out), Jan cruised us over to the anchorage at the northern end of Tab Island, a spectacular sandy-bottomed lagoon and an old favourite. The diving and snorkelling around Tab remain some of the best in the area. No sooner was I in the water than I was in the midst of a shoal of little blue fish whose name I must learn someday given how fond of them I am. They are a metallic blue-green colour and shimmer beautifully in the rippling sunlight. Can’t get enough.
Paddling further around the little harbour, I saw Rich signalling me. 3 weeks out of the hyperbaric chamber in POM after a fairly serious diving accident, his enthusiasm for all things aquatic hasn’t waned much- even if he is relegated to surface exploration for the next five months.
And explore he had, stumbling upon a jellified behemoth bobbing- or perhaps blobbing- in shallow water just off the beach. I had never seen anything quite like it. A five-foot long tube about six inches in diameter, when I looked more closely I could see that each distinctive purple ‘ring’ about its circumference was in fact a series of tiny little beads, like a miniature pearl necklace. It floated there without seeming to move of its own accord. I’m quite pleased. In my mind’s eye I could see it rearing up to osmose one of us through its transparent jellyfish hide.
Rich, of course, had to touch it.
I went online to try and figure out what the heckit was or what it was called. I failed. Googling “Giant Purple Tube Jelly” came up with some entertaining results, but none that closely resembled our gelatinous companion. I did, however, uncover some fascinating jellyfish facts, such as:
•The turritopsis nutricula, a particular species of hydrozoan (don’t ask me about the ins and outs of jellyfish class taxonomy) can return to the polyp/colony stage after reaching sexual maturity and repeat its life-cycle indefinitely- effectively making it immortal. Unless something eats it.
•The Lion’s Mane jellyfish can grow with its body up to 2.3m in diameter and its tentacles over 35m in lenght (100 feet). This makes it a contender for the world’s longest animal- competing directly with the Blue Whale. I just can’t figure out how it’s going to eat something that gets snagged in its tentacles 35m away from its mouth.
•The well-known Portuguese Man o’ War jellyfish (a.k.a. Blue Bottle), infamous for its venomous stings, is in fact not a jellyfish, or even a single organism, but in fact a colony of four highly specialised different animals living and operating together in perfect harmony. For those that care, it is known as a siphonophore. Cool. Weird, but cool.
No, I do not have too much time on my hands.
Anyways, if anybody can figure out what this thing is called, please do drop me a line as I’m very curious. Maybe there’ll even be a prize. When I can think of one.
Tell you what. When I next come across whatever it is, I’ll let you touch it.