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Unusual sea life washes ashore Hallandale Beach

Lifeguards fly purple flag at beach to warn public

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Thousands of unusual sea life are washing ashore Hallandale Beach.

Velella velella, usually found in the open ocean on the surface, live in colonies, which is why so may came ashore at the same time.

It's very unusual to find them on the beach, but experts say the right combination of warm water and wind will bring them in.

"This is incredible. I've never seen these before," a beachgoer told Local 10 News on Friday.

"I did not pick them up. I was actually thinking what and where did they come from," Madeline Hannewald, who is visiting from Michigan, said.

Velella velella are nicknamed "by-the-wind sailors" or "purple sailors."

"Initially, to be honest, I thought they were Portuguese man o' war because they look really similar," Ian Albertson, from Hallandale Beach Ocean Rescue, said.

Many beachgoers and even lifeguards, commonly mistake the sea life for man o' war.

A photo taken on Hallandale Beach Thursday shows a group of Velella velella with a bigger man o' war mixed in with them.

The purple sailors are harmless to humans, but the man o' war stings, and it can be hard to tell them apart.

"Even if we don't experience any stings in particular, we still fly the purple flags so the public is aware," Albertson said.

For the second day in a row, public works employees spent the morning clearing the Velella velella from the beach, but a few can still be found on the shore line.

"They're gorgeous. If you look at the texture and you look at the details of them, they're really neat," Chrystyje Novack, who lives in Halldandale Beach, said.  

Lifeguards from Hallandale Beach to Boca Raton are flying purple flags because the sea life have been found in Palm Beach County, as well.

Experts say Velella velella die immediately once it becomes beached and bakes in the sun.