Portuguese Man-of-War

I just came back from my family’s annual trek to South Padre Island for some ocean time.  We live in West Texas and we always enjoy our travels to the beach in late spring and the mountains of New Mexico in late summer.  I love swimming in the warm gulf waters of South Padre.  I am always up early for a morning swim, the first person in the water as far as I can see on either side down the long stretches of beach.  I like to swim out and play in the waves that are over my head.  I love being tossed around and feeling the powerful waves cascade over me.  After an hour or so I am ready for a good breakfast.  My wife reminds me that early hours are shark feeding time, but I can’t help it, the allure of an ocean swim is too much for me to turn down.  Later in the morning I go swimming with the rest of the family, and then we also like an evening swim.  Needles to say I have no trouble sleeping at night because I am beat.  But the next morning I am ready to go again.  It is a wonderful three day visit that I look forward to each year.

            The ocean’s diversity of life is nothing short of amazing.  When I travel to Cozumel to scuba dive I enjoy the many colored fishes among the reefs.  At Cozumel the water is clear and you can see for hundreds of feet.  Such is not the case in the waters off the Texas coast.  The water is anything but clear.  You cannot see where you are stepping or what is around you.  This obviously makes most people very uncomfortable entering the water much less swimming out over their head.  I occasionally step on a crab, or I feel the seaweed rub against me, but these are no big deal.  However, what I do not like are jellyfish.  Fortunately, I do not see many at South Padre.  If jellyfish are in the water in abundance, as has been the case at other Texas beaches, it can make think twice about getting into the water.  Their sting does not feel good.  Another animal whose sting I do not like is the Portuguese Man-of-War.  They are colorful with a bluish purple hue, and they are odd looking. 

            The warm waters of the Gulf attract Jellyfish and Portuguese Man-of-Wars.  I see these washed up on the shore, not in large numbers but several dozen over a quarter mile stretch of the beach.  I continue to swim but there have been times when so many jellyfish are in the water that I have not been able to swim. I have been bit a number of times by these sea creatures and it does not feel good.

When European explorers first encountered the warm waters of the Caribbean they noticed a lot of strange sea life they had never seen before.  One was a purple creature that sort of floated in the water because it had clear air filled sacs that looked like the masts of the ships they sailed in.  Warships of Portugal were called Portuguese Man-of-Wars, hence the term the mariners used to name this strange ocean life they encountered during the 16th century.  Other historians believe the sea creatures were named after the helmets of Portuguese conquistaqdors. 

            Portuguese Man-of Wars are found in warm oceans waters all over the globe.  Their tentacles can stretch over 100 feet, and give a very strong venom, almost as potent as the venom of a cobra.  They float on the ocean carried by the wind, sometimes in groups of hundreds.

            Sea creatures are just a few of the interesting animals encountered around the world by players of Treasure Trove, a board game where players travel the world in search of treasure. 


Incan Treasure










           I enjoy watching movies involving a search for treasure.  One I caught on Netflix recently was a 1950’s movie about the search for an ancient Incan artifact high in the Andes Mountains.  The movie titled Secret of the Incas stared Charlton Heston.  This was before he became famous in movies such as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur.  He portrayed an American, a rugged, independent type of individual living in South America looking for an easy dollar to be made, especially if it could be treasure.  He wore a fedora hat, was quick with his wit as well his fists, and in the context of the movie was needed to rescue a damsel in distress.  Seemed like a precursor to the Indiana Jones type of individua played by Harrison Ford.

            In this movie Charlton Heston was an adventurer but he was no archeologist.  That was played by Robert Young who was better known as Father Knows Best of the 1950s or Dr Marcus Welby of the 1970s.  It was not exactly a great movie but tried to expose archeology to the viewer.  You have to remember the movie was made in the early 1950s.  It also tried to show the viewer the fascinating history of the past Inca Empire that the Spanish explorer Pizarro had encountered during the early 16th century.

            I loved reading about past empires discovered by the conquistadors and Spanish explorers of the 16th century when I was in grade school.  It is always fun to relive that feeling when I read a National Geographic article or watch a movie about ancient civilizations.  When I designed the board game Treasure Trove I choose to place a treasure called “Pizarro’s Lost Fortune” that touched on the explorers as well as the Incan civilization.  The movie mentioned Incan treasure but implied that Pizarro had failed to take a large artifact sacred to the Incan people.  That artifact was undiscovered until the archeological expedition led by Robert Young high in the Andes.  His diggings were also unsuccessful in finding the artifact until the American adventurer played by Charlton Heston by chance comes across the expedition.  Then in the dark of night Heston with his flashlight happens to discover the ancient artifact.  Sounds like Indiana Jones doesn’t it?

            Treasure Trove is a game about searching for treasure as well as the adventure of learning about ancient civilizations.  Please visit our website at


photo by

                When I hear the word, “explorers,” the first thing that comes to my mind are the Spanish explorers.  Nowadays, I often think of archeologists such as Indiana Jones in the context of explorers with the adventure element.  For the most part my mind is still captivated by the wooden ships of the high seas discovering unknown and exotic far away destinations during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.  

            I love history and it began for me in early childhood during the 1950’s with the Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone stories.  Then in fifth grade we studied world history and the chapter on the Spanish explorers still rings in my mind.  I recall memorizing names such as Columbus, Balboa, Pizarro, Cortes, Ponce de Leon, Magellan and many others.  The picture in our schoolbook introducing that chapter had a colorful picture of the Spanish with their swords and muskets strapped to their belts standing on the sandy seashore with the masts of their ships in the nearby blue ocean behind them.  One of the men held the Spanish flag.  They looked like they were about to embark on an adventure.  They also had those cool helmets.

Francisco Pizarro

            We all know the wealth in gold, silver and gems that Spain acquired from the New World and the fortunes to be found.  Stories of fabled gold such as El Dorado in South America and Coronado’s golden Seven Cities of Cibolo in western Texas continue to intrigue us.  Not to mention tales of pirate treasure that also emerged during that same period of European exploration in the context of world history. 

            When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to give players an option of choosing a player token representing what they might want to be if they were searching the world for fabled treasure.  For some, that might be like Indiana Jones and therefore they would want to be an archeologist.  Someone else may be fascinated with underwater diving and they might want to SCUBA for wealth such as a deep sea diver.  Others my think of an oil man exploring for black gold such as a wildcatter of the early 20th century.   A tycoon with money to invest in treasure hunts is in many ways the adventuresome individual of modern times.  For me though it will always be pirates and Spanish explorers that come to my mind when treasure is to be found.  Player tokens representing each of these give participants a choice in what they would want to be if they could travel the world hunting for treasure. 

            I choose to use a purple helmet to represent the conquistador.  You had to be of royalty to be given ships to explore the high seas and purple represents royalty.  I thought the helmet more than anything represents the Spanish explorer.  I also think conquistador is a cool name.

player token from TreasureTrove game board

           Please visit our website at