No, that is not an immense pile of shiny aluminum cans, or a garbage net unspooled on the beach. What you're looking at is a heap of venomous Portoguese Man o' Wars -- a dangerous fish native to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans -- that an Australian couple encountered last week on a beach near Bateman’s Bay in New South Wales.
The thousands of stinging marine creatures are a relative of jellyfish and have a vibrant, alien-like blue color. Alternatively called blue bottles, their interesting sheen can easily give way to terror, as it did for beachgoer Brett Wallensky. He said the creatures looked like the "the stuff nightmares are made of" when he first encountered them with his partner Claudia, and promptly filmed the rare brush with marooned sea animals.
"We went for a morning beach walk and they were all just blowing into the bay and floating underwater," Wallensky told Story Trender. "There must have been thousands of them beached and they were all alive and wriggling. It was the stuff nightmares are made of."
Wallensky filmed the encounter with the wayward creatures, which are known to pack a painful and venomous sting that can last anywhere between a few minutes and several hours. He thought he was lucky to avoid falling into the pile of painful creatures and feel their collective wrath: "It was just horrible to look at them wriggling around and trying to sting you. If you fell in there and got that many stings all over you I can’t imagine you would survive."
In fact, falling into that many Man o' Wars would likely be fatal. Christie Wilcox, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii, told Gizmodo that related species have been known to kill. Besides, given how painful a Jellyfish sting can be, one would never tempt fate with thousands of their more painful cousins. Still, this particular species of blue bottle is far less venomous and volatile than the Atlantic Portuguese Man o' War, which is commonly referred to as "floating terror," according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Jellyfish species tend to proliferate in warmer waters, according to Wilcox, which could easily lead to speculation that climate change might play a factor in the sudden breach. Still, the sight of Australian blue bottles in that particular region isn't particularly rare, and they tend to amass in the warmer months.
But in any case, happening upon a writhing mass of venomous fish is never comforting. And that's to say nothing of octopus hordes going for midnight strolls.