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Portuguese Man O’ War are, and I can’t stress this enough, aliens
Florida vacationers are spotting them, proving that we live in a simulation.
A Portuguese Man O' War sits on Midtown Beach in Palm Beach Tuesday March 8, 2016 at sunrise. The wind has blown many of the stinging creatures ashore.
A Portuguese Man O' War sits on Midtown Beach in Palm Beach Tuesday March 8, 2016 at sunrise. The wind has blown many of the stinging creatures ashore. [ MEGHAN MCCARTHY | ZUMAPRESS.com ]
Published Apr. 13

Today in our ongoing series “The Ocean Wants To Kill You,” let’s examine the Portuguese Man O’ War.

It’s spring in the Sunshine State, so unfortunately we need to talk about Bruno. Vacationers flooding Florida beaches have spotted the highly venomous hellions washing ashore in parts of the Treasure Coast, Miami and up to South Carolina. Revelers have endured their welty wrath of extraterrestrial violence. We’ll talk more about pain soon, don’t worry.

These unicorn phantasms are not only existential nightmares, they’re grammatical ones, too. Sometimes they’re Man of War, sometimes Man-of-War with dashes. Here, we will use the jaunty O’ construction for dramatic flourish and general end-times vibes.

An Atlantic Portuguese man o' war near the Juno Beach Pier in 2018.
An Atlantic Portuguese man o' war near the Juno Beach Pier in 2018. [ RICHARD GRAULICH | ZUMAPRESS.com ]

The plural is anyone’s guess. Portuguese Men O’ War? Portuguese Gentlemen O’ Many Wars? Grab-bag of Portuguese Suffering? I’ve seen at least one “Men of War’s,” but that person probably signs holiday cards from “The Taylor’s.” Further confusing the matter, the object in question is not even one thing. According to the National Ocean Service and this one night terror I had, they are not jellyfish but siphonophores, which is a colony of identical organisms called zooids working together in the spirit of mayhem.

Simply, they are a glob of clones. I am sweating.

Please take notes. We are living in a simulation and none of this can possibly be real. And yet, these *&^%$&*@^%s are real. Remember when Avatar came out and viewers were wistful because the physical world never could be so magical and blue? Sirs, the real world is worse.

Man O’ War have the baddest moniker of all ocean life, outdoing the blob sculpin, the red-lipped batfish and the dreaded wobbegong. Are you familiar with wobbegongs? They’re known as “carpet sharks” and are rugs with eyeballs. Go ahead, Google it. Google them all. The Ocean Wants To Kill You!

A Portuguese man-o-war sits on Midtown Beach in Palm Beach in 2017.
A Portuguese man-o-war sits on Midtown Beach in Palm Beach in 2017. [ LANNIS WATERS | ZUMAPRESS.com ]

Man O’ Wars are named for 18th century Portuguese warships, which is somehow the least scary detail about them. While these creatures do not have cannons per se, they possess an inflatable gas-filled sac with a sail on top. Beneath, tentacles stretch into the briny depths, measuring up to 165 feet. They also lie on dating profiles.

If you see one, should you panic? I mean, I would say so. The stings are rarely fatal, but it’s always best to resort to instant alarm in all situations. For James Cameron’s sake, do not touch! They can still sting when they’re dead. Do you know what else can attack you after it’s dead? Zombies.

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If you get stung, experts say to rinse the area with vinegar. Just grab your beach vinegar. It should be between the Coors Light and the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. After you douse the sting, the pros suggest scraping the area with a credit card. Portuguese Man O’ War do not accept American Express.

Next time you are staring out at the ocean buoyed by a sense of peace, step back and remember the world is completely absurd. Then become crushed under the weight of your own insignificance. Laugh maniacally at the unexplored deep, full of haunted revenants moving where the wind takes them. In this case, the wind takes them to to Florida, where all unbelievable things eventually end up.

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