gulf coast

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.