Alone at Sea with Jellies and Stingers

Portuguese Man of War.

For many years I had very little love for these creatures. Their stinging tentacles may reach at least 50 metres long and can be as fine as cotton and near impossible to evade. On contact with ones skin the pain is instant and often excruciating, many a time I have had the pain travel up my arm and into my heart area making me feel quite ill. On one particular day there was ‘millions’ of them in the water everywhere and even though I was wearing rubber gloves I could feel the sting getting me between my fingers. Because I was wearing rubber gloves I decided to use mind over matter and just get on with the job at hand. By the end of the day the pain was intense and when I finally removed the gloves I discovered that I had bear flesh between my fingers, the stinging poison had permeated through the rubber gloves and eaten the skin away to bear much for mind over matter.

Another day I was quietly sitting eating a sandwich when I notice a Portuguese Man of War floating past and I was astonished to see it had caught two small wriggling fish with its tentacles and was slowing reeling them in. I watched as it reeled its catch in until the fish were under the bottle where they would be consumed. I even managed to have some success of photographing this and everyone I showed the images to expressed amazement.


It was not long before I was taking more shots of these sorts of things and I was thrilled that it had opened up a whole new world to me. I noticed that the creature would reflect any colour of what was nearby, like the yellow side of my boat.

I wondered what marvellous colours I may obtain if I could capture the colours of sunset through the bottle of the creature. I really thought that it would not be possible but one afternoon all the conditions were just right and there in front of the boat was a magnificent specimen, very large with a brilliant sail up, just tempting me to have a go. Even on this calm sea I quickly found that in the fading light attempting this sort of macro photography at 300mm on a moving platform was near impossible. However I was seeing such magic colours in the viewfinder that I persevered just hoping to get lucky. 

I did get lucky with just three or four shots and I was really astounded by the gorgeousness of the colours of sunset clouds reflecting off the surface of the ocean together with the beautiful coloured light which filtered through the creature’s sail illuminating the creature like leadlight.


At a later date I had similar success with a capture of sunrise light through the sail and bottle.

Now I can see real beauty in these stinging creatures and think of them as little jewels floating on the ocean however I still do not enjoy being stung.


Portuguese Man of War can raise and lower their sails, and I have noticed they prefer to lower their sails on very hot and calm days when I guess they would suffer from dehydration and like the By the Wind sailors are born as ‘port’ or ‘starboard’ tack sailors.



By-The-Wind Sailor 

  One can see the tiniest bow wave and a following small wash as this little guy manages to harness only the smallest zephyr of a breeze and ‘sails’ across the current pushing aside plankton size specks of marine algae bloom. Interesting thing here is they cannot jibe but are born as left hand or right hand sailors. I’ll call this one a left hand Sailor because it is ‘sailing’ on a port tack in a northerly wind and would had sailed seawards, prospered and reproduced a another generation of left hand and right hand sailors. A right hand Sailor would have sailed on a starboard tack and washed ashore and died. Is not Mother Nature wonderful?





I see many strange creatures drift past my boat. Occasionally if I peer over the side in the pre dawn light I see tiny, about 3mm across, bright blue iridescent neon lights, like fairy lights drifting past.

I see the strangest jellyfish which appear to come in an endless array of shapes and sizes. From the huge one metre across brown Jellyfish which fisherman call snottys whose thick horrible ‘slim’ clings to everything they touch to beautiful small neon jellyfish encircled in an array of flashing coloured ‘neon’ lights. Many jellyfish appear to have onboard shimmering, reflective or neon type light systems as they drift past in the current. Although they appear to be just drifting if one looks closely most are in fact swimming and I have been amazed to watch them consciously swim around objects in the water.

It has been a real challenge to photograph these creatures from above the water but if the sea is dead flat glassy calm I do attempt to shoot through the water and focus on the image below. I found such images I attained were a little ‘flat’ however by carefully processing the RAW image file in a way to darken the darks and lighten the light I am able to produced an image akin to what I see with my eyes.

I adore this image of a jellyfish. I have to admit to being a bit of a ‘Trekkie’. With a little imagination the light reflecting on the water becomes Nebulae, the out of focus plankton become stars and planets and this little amazing Jellyfish becomes the Starship ‘Enterprise’ complete with flashing lights on the bridge...”Beam me up Scotty”. These Jellyfish reflect light in a way that they appear to be producing the light themselves. 

 Richard Freeman.

Framed Prints of Jellies and Stingers



Alone at Sea with Humpback Whales.

Alone at sea with Sharks.

Alone at Sea with my Dolphins.

The Wreck of the ‘’SS Dickey”.

Alone at Sea with my Gannets.

Alone at Sea with my Fairy Prions.

Alone at Sea with my Albatross.

Alone at Sea with Jellies and Stingers.

Alone at Sea with my Giant Petrels.

Alone at Sea with my Storm Petrels.

Alone at Sea with my Terns.

Alone at Sea with Jaegers and Skuas.

Alone at Sea with the Shearwaters.

My 5.6 metre Shark Cat.

Weather at Sea.