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Sailing by the Wind
Stella M. Turk MBE

Velella velella the By-the-Wind Sailor


Velella velella the By-the-Wind Sailor

This sailor has neither motor nor oars

But only a keel, pointing left or right

And set diagonally at just the right height

To catch every breeze with the greatest of ease

Enabling it to abound in all warm-water seas.

It has polyps for breeding and polyps for feeding

And low-powered polyps that it is needing

To sting tiny prey that it finds in its way.

Drifting thither with wind, and hither with tide

Oft to be ship-wrecked on shores far and wide

Where it may occur in millions on millions.





Authors notes

Its prey and its predators also drift freely forming part of the great ‘Blue-water Community’.Velella velella is blue in colour and its predators include the violet sea-snails Janthina of which there are several species world-wide, whilst there is only one species of Velella.

It can reach a maximum of 10 cm but is usually much smaller. Indeed specimens a few millimetres long have been found in recent years, suggesting that warming waters are allowing it to breed in more northerly latitudes than formerly. Note that this open-ocean community often includes the Portuguese Man-of-War, Physalia, (sometimes called ‘the Bluebottle’) to which Velella is more closely related than it is to jellyfish.


Stella M Turk MBE

April 2005