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A Gigantic Jelly Fish - Harper's

Few excursions can be proposed more acceptable to young folks than going a-fishing, and perhaps the most delightful sort of fishing is to be had by accompanying some old fisherman out into the broad ocean.

There are many circumstances that contribute to make a day's sport of this kind more enjoyable than pond or river fishing, and not the least of these consists in the wonderful variety of the creatures to be caught.

In our inland streams and lakes in any given locality the kinds of fish to be caught are well known, and, comparatively speaking, there are not many different sorts; but in ocean fishing the oldest fisherman, and those most accustomed to the sorts of fish generally found in their fishing grounds, every once in a while happen upon creatures the likes of which have seldom, perhaps never, been seen before. Only a short time since a Nantucket fisherman, rowing slowly along, buried the prow of his boat in some partly yielding substance that brought him to a stand-still. Somewhat startled, he went forward, oar in hand, to find his little craft imbedded in the body of an enormous jelly-fish, the largest ever seen. The soft and yielding body of the creature offered so little resistance to his oar when he tried to push off, and he saw himself so hopelessly entangled in the mass of slime and tentacles, that, instead of attempting to free himself, he determined to tow it ashore, which he did by passing a sail-cloth under its body and rowing slowly homeward.


Of course the rough encounter with the boat had considerably mutilated the jelly-fish, and torn away portions of the long thread-like processes or tentacles that hang from the central mass; yet these, when the creature was laid along the sand of the ocean beach, measured over two hundred feet in length, and it is conjectured that, uninjured and stretched to their utmost length, they could not have been less than three hundred feet long. The great shield-like body of the animal was found to be over nine feet in diameter, two feet more than the largest heretofore known, which is described by Professor Agassiz, who measured it while it was floating lazily on the surface of the water. This specimen was so large that the professor feared his account of it might be considered exaggerated.


The monster when alive looks as much as anything like an immense circular plate or dish of glass floating bottom upward on the sea. The color of the body is a brownish-red, with a rather broad margin of creamy white edged with blue, while the tentacles—pink, blue, brown, and purple—hang like skeins of colored glass threads from the under parts of the shield. Very beautiful are these threads, glistening with a silky lustre beneath the waves, but they are extremely dangerous, too. Each of these threads, in fact, contains myriads of cells, in each one of which is coiled up, ready to be darted forth on contact with any living substance, a whip-like lance finer than the finest cambric needle. Millions of these stings entering at once cause a sensation like that of a violent electric shock, paralyzing and often killing the creature with which they come in contact.

This gigantic creature grows from the small one, called a hydroid, represented in the small cut. You see the hydroid does not in the least resemble a jelly-fish. Perhaps the strangest thing about these wonderful lumps of animated jelly is that their young are not jelly-fishes at all, but an entirely different sort of animals. Sometimes they take the shape of a pile of platters, which finally separate and become individual jelly-fish; sometimes they grow into living plants which bear eggs like fruit, which eggs hatch and finally become jelly-fish. No fairy tale can afford instances of transformations so surprising as do these animals—more like animated bubbles than anything else to which they can be compared; transparent and exhibiting the most brilliant colors, they dissolve away when stranded so completely that no trace of their substance seems to remain.