It’s not what Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol Captain Randy Townsend usually sees on the resort’s beaches: a dangerous jellyfish-like creature called a Portuguese man o’war.
“It’s definitely not typical. Extremely rare for the area,” Townsend said.
Townsend posted an alert on Facebook, urging swimmers to be aware of their surroundings after finding the man o’ war near the waterline on the Hudson Avenue beach Sunday morning.
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Chrystal Geier is taking the warning seriously.
“It scared me a lot,” she said. “I feel like I will just stay out of the water until we figure this out.”
Portuguese man o’war have tentacles that grow from 10 to 30 feet long and marine biologists say their potentially deadly sting is far worse than what you’d get from jellyfish normally found at the Jersey Shore.
“Their stings are among the most painful and if somebody is allergic to bee stings or something like that, you can go into shock,” Dr. Paul Bologna, associate professor of biology at Montclair State University said.
Beachgoer Emily Merchant says she was stung by a Portuguese man o’war as a child in Hawaii. The creatures are commonly found in tropical waters but the Gulf Stream and certain wind patterns can send them our way.
“It was horrible. I thought I got electrocuted,” Merchant said.
Experts say this likely wasn’t an isolated incident and that it’s highly probable that more of these creatures will show up on local beaches in the next week or so.
“You never want to turn your back on the ocean. It’s always constantly changing,” Townsend said.