Giant Jellyfish

Unknown marine inverteb rate.

Distribution: North Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans.

Significant sightings: In 1953, an Australian deep-sea diver watched a shapeless, brown mass engulf a shark.

Divers Richard Winer and Pat Boatwright encountered a huge jellyfish, 50-100 feet in diameter, when they were diving 14 miles southwest of Bermuda in November 1969. It was deep purple with a pinkish outer rim.

In January 1973, in the South Pacific between Australia and Fiji, the Australian ship Ku-randa collided with a colossal jellyfish that draped itself over the forecastle head. One crew member came too close to one of the flailing tentacles and died from the sting. Capt. Langley Smith estimated that some of the tentacles were 200 feet long and that the deck was covered in a slimy mass 2 feet deep. An SOS eventually brought a deep-sea salvage tugboat, the Hercules, to the rescue, and the animal was dislodged with the aid of high-pressure hoses. Samples of the remaining substance on the deck were analyzed in Sydney and tentatively identified as a lion's mane jelly.

P)ossible explanation: The largest known jellyfish is the Lion's mane jelly (Cyanea capillata) found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, most often in shallow coastal waters. Large individuals are deep-red or purple in color, while smaller ones are more yellow or brown. The nematocysts produce painful stings but are not usually fatal. One specimen examined in 1865 by Alexander Agassiz in Massachusetts Bay had a bell measuring 7 feet 6 inches across and tentacles stretching 120 feet long.

Sources: Eric Frank Russell, Great World Mysteries (New York: Roy, 1957); Gary Mangiacopra, "A Monstrous Jellyfish?" OfSea and Shore 7, no. 3 (Summer 1976): 169; James B. Sweeney, Sea Monsters: A Collection of Eyewitness Accounts (New York: David McKay, 1977); "Jellyfish Ate My Wife," Fortean Times, no. 55 (Autumn 1990): 26.

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