I often go to Fort Funston—a dog-friendly beach just south of Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Every week the beach is a little different, but this week I was absolutely stunned to see electric blue forms scattered along the coast. At first, I thought that a container ship may have spilled hundreds of plastic blue reflectors in the ocean (weirder things have happened). These forms were stacked with perfect concentric circles that looked machine-made and topped with a rubber-looking flap that may have belonged on a bike.
It took me a good a minute to realize that they weren’t plastic. They turned out to be Velella Velella: free floating hydrozoan organisms that are closely related to jellyfish and man of war. I touched one and nothing bad happened. Though they look menacing, their sting is barely felt on human skin. I called my beau, trying to describe what these things looked like and he suggested that I take a photo and post it to Instagram. I included the hashtag #velella—the first time I’ve ever used one—and had several people like my photo. I then searched Instagram using the same hashtag and discovered that a lot of other people documented these stranded creatures along the West Coast that same week. It also turned out that thousands of velellas were stranded in Italy a few months prior. Hopefully some were able to catch the next high tide back into the ocean.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Andrea Hackman enjoys the thrill of exploring new places and cultures, especially those in warm climates: Indonesia, Botswana, Nicaragua,Mexico—but Paris and London will do any time as year as well! Andrea, a native of the Washington DC area, is a curatorial assistant at SFMOMA. She is currently busy exploring the environs of her new home base, the San Francisco Bay Area. Check out her photography work at andreahackman.com.
Have you ever encountered a strange creature on your journeys? Share your experience in the reply section below.