The velella velella is a species of bluish purple jelly that floats on the surface of the ocean, feeding on the microscopic plankton that lives there. They have no fins or tails — just a super rad "sail" that sticks above the water. This sail catches the wind and moves the jelly around.
This awesomely chill way of getting around sounded pretty exciting to me… until I realized that it means that the velella, or "purple sailor", literally goes wherever the wind blows. Even if that means getting ashore with thousands of your equally lazy purple-sailing buddies. Where you all dry up and get stranded. Geez, thanks for nothing, wind!
Meanwhile in the world of humans, last week beachgoers in parts of Florida discovered a series of closures thanks to this very phenomenon — poor colonies of velella velella being blown on to the beach. Even though these jellies aren't dangerous to humans, the beaches were still closed in case of a hidden danger. The related (and very poisonous) Portuguese Man O'War can sometimes wash ashore in groups of velellas, so better safe than sorry.
In case this all seems quite incredible, it's actually a fairly common thing, not just on Florida's beaches, but on ones in Spain, California, British Columbia, and many other coastal areas.
As the Facebook page for the City of Hallandale Beach said, "This happens about every three years." At least I didn't plan my Florida beach vacation for last week. Yuck!