A massive dead jellyfish — which broke into pieces after officials tried to remove it from the water — was responsible for 150 people being stung at a New Hampshire beach Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported.
Most of the people stung at Wallis Sands State Park located in the town of Rye, N.H., were children. Five of them were sent to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.
Rye Fire Lieutenant, Charles Gallant, said park officials tried to remove the jellyfish, described as being about 50 pounds and the size of a turkey platter or trash can lid, but it broke up into a number of pieces.
"For this particular species, which is a Lion's Mane, they have thousands and thousands of stinging tentacles," Jack Cover, general curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore Md., told FoxNews.com. "Each tentacle is lined with a stinging cell, called a nematocyst, and that particular cell has a little trigger hair. When that trigger hair comes in contact with anything, it fires a tiny harpoon, which basically injects the venom of the jellyfish."
Cover said even though the animal was dead — its tentacles were still loaded with venom.
"When the current moves the jellyfish in, and the wave action starts to tear them apart, that's the end of them," he said. "The tentacle can then become unattached from the jellyfish."
When this happens, you end up with is a surf that is loaded with thousands of venomous tentacles.
"And all it has to do is drift into a person and it will sting someone," Cover said. "The tentacles can still sting."
Lifeguards at the beach treated the majority of people who were stung with vinegar and baking soda.
Gallant said it was rare for the area to experience just one jellyfish sting, let alone 150.
"At least for us, they’re not very common," he told the Globe.
The Lion’s Mane jellyfish is a species that lives primarily in northern waters off the Canadian coast and Arctic sea, Cover said, but they go up and down the coast with the currents.
The specimen that washed up in N.H. was pretty large, but nothing in comparison to one that came ashore along the Massachusetts coastline in 1870, according to Cover.
"The top part of that jellyfish — the umbrella part — was the size of the satellite dish, and the tentacles of a species that size can actually extend 150 feet."
Cover estimates the tentacles of the jellyfish that washed up in N.H. probably extended anywhere from 20 to 25 feet.
The Lion’s Mane is the largest known species of jellyfish.