Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Portuguese Man-of-War Blowing in the Wind

A news account last week quoted someone from the Connecticut DEP, I think, opining that it was unlikely that a Portuguese man-of-war would be able to make it into Long Island Sound because the Race – the Sound’s connection to the Atlantic – was too narrow.

Plenty of these planktonic siphonophores are around this summer, but so far they’ve been limited to the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and their offshore islands. Portuguese men-of-war rely on the winds and currents for mobility, so for one to reach the Sound, a wind would have to funnel it through the Race.

The unlikelihood of that seemed reasonable to me, until I read this story, in the Block Island Times. Two Portuguese men-of-war have been found on the island – one in Dorry’s Cove, an open cove on the west side, the other the island’s Great Salt Pond, the inlet of which is almost narrow enough to throw a stone across. (The Great Salt Pond is the big blue water body on the accompanying map; the inlet is on the west side.) Obviously it took a combination of luck and favorable winds, but if a man-of-war can make it into the Great Salt Pond, it can make it into Long Island Sound.

The personal bad news is that the winds blew the creature to the north, where it ended up on a beach near a dirt road called Andy’s Way. That part of the Great Salt Pond is one of the most benign and beautiful locales I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been planning to spending a fair amount of time there in two weeks, digging clams, watching shorebirds, and feeling the minnows swim over and around my feet.


Blogger Sam said...

Hey you like andy's Way to? Darn, it is a small world after all. Anyway, we were doing the "clam dance" out there because we were using our feet to find the quahogs ... and her comes ole Bo Gemp the clam cop. So be sure you have the license, the plastic measuring thing, and a bucket that holds the right amount ... Bo was better than the mean old "Clam Lady" but I think these days they hired some kids for the job.

Anyway, have fun ... my "secret" place for clamming is a little deeper (knee to thigh at low tide) and closer to the old Coast Guard Station away from most folks, just keep that under your hat, OK?

As to the M-O-W getting into the race, perhaps a tide current chart could show you how Block Island Sound currents reflect a pattern that at times seems clockwise circulation, sometimes confused. So if the current are right and a mass of M-O-W get anywhere near Plum Island and Fishers Island, they would get sucked right into the Race on a heavy, 3-6 knot incoming tide, right?

In that case, I would say the the DEM official might have added "but thousands could get stuck in LI Sound under the right conditions."

10:36 PM  

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