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Portuguese man-o-war washes ashore in South Sound

One beachgoer captured an image of a Portuguese man-o-war washed up on a South Sound beach Wednesday morning.

The hefty sting from these strange-looking sea creatures’ tentacles have earned the Portuguese man-o-war a fearsome reputation.

The Department of Environment told Cayman 27 the Portuguese man-o-war earned its name for its resemblance to the old Portuguese sailing ships.

A specimin was photographed Wednesday morning (23 January) on the beach near Cayman Crossing.

The Portuguese man-o-war can’t swim. It uses its gas-filled bladder to drift at the mercy of the ocean currents and the wind.

While they generally keep to the open oceans, the DOE said when the winds are right, they can wash up on Cayman’s shores.

If you see one, please don’t touch it.

“Portuguese man-of-war do have a rather fearsome reputation, the sting is very very painful, but rarely is it fatal in humans,” said DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin. “The sting remains active for a long time after the creatures wash ashore and are dead, and you really can’t see the sting so if you pick it up with a stick it is very easy for the tentacles to kind of blow across the skin and cause problems.”

Former amateur gymnast Sami Peene recalled her terrifying encounter with a Portuguese man-o-war at Governor’s Beach when she was just six years old.

“I started vomiting, my eyes rolled back into my head, I fully blacked out, and then just stopped breathing almost completely,” said Ms. Peene. “I just remember being a level of tired that I have never felt before, not being able to breathe at all, and then the ambulance coming.”

Ms. Peene told Cayman 27 she remembers getting an injection. Obviously she went on to make a full recovery.

The DOE said even when dead, these animals can deliver a powerful sting, so it’s best to just steer clear.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to

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