Kids, bless their hearts, will touch just about anything. Wet, dirty, slimy, it doesn’t really matter: those curious little explorers will stop at nothing when it comes to understanding everything the world has to offer, especially, it seems, if its potentially very dangerous.

Which is why in September 2018, two New Zealand parents rushed to stop their kids from touching an alien-like blob that washed up on the beach. Then, intrigued by the mystery of what the heck the purple mass lying in the sand was, the family decided to investigate…

As soon as the Dickinson family — comprised of Adam, Eve, and their two kids — stepped on to Auckland, New Zealand’s Pakiri Beach, they saw this purple blob in the sand. They had no idea what it was — or what it was capable of.

Adam and Eve Dickinson via News Hub

So naturally, the two kids, Sofia and Lucas, sprinted over to it with all the reckless abandon of children on a mission to satisfy their curiosities about something wildly unsafe and potentially dangerous.

Adam and Eve Dickinson via Newshub

This concerned Adam and Eve, who didn’t wish to see their children succumb to a purple, potentially poisonous beach blob, so they, too, approached the mysterious thing in the sand.

Eve Dickinson / Facebook

“My initial thought was ‘don’t let my kids touch it,'” Adam told the news sometime after the ordeal. With the family of four now all gathered around the mystery substance, they all echoed the same question: what the heck was it?

The Dickinson’s launched an informal investigation. The first thing they noticed? The purple blob was pulsating. Moving. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it was alive.

“It almost looked like a load of muscles contracting,” Adam recalled. “It was pretty incredible and really hard to describe.” Meanwhile, the kids were reminded of something oddly specific when they looked at the blob.

Lucas told his mom the creature looked like a volcano; it had, after all, sloping sides and what looked like a crater of bubbling purple lava. This was obviously no volcano, so the Dickinsons investigated further.

Despite their initial concerns about the pulsating creature, the family — to our benefit — proceeded to place check after check on the list of things you should not do to foreign, potentially dangerous things…

Eve Dickinson / Facebook
For instance, Lucas and Sofia blew on the thing. To the kids’ delights, the more they blew on the creature, the more it moved, confirming, yep, it was very much alive and was very much aware of outside stimuli.

With this understanding, the Dickinsons grabbed a stick and prodded the blob. Sure enough, Eve recalled the creature moved even more when the stick prodded its meat.

While the kids poked, prodded, and blew on the creature, Adam and Eve noted something peculiar about the beach: tons of jellyfish were scattered across the shore. This answered the question, right? 

2cycle2gether / flickr

See, for a moment, they thought their mystery creature was just a jellyfish washed ashore. But still, their pulsating friend looked nothing like the other jellyfish. Maybe their guy was just upside down or something?

So with their stick, the Dickinsons flipped over some of the other jellyfish that’d washed up on the shore, hoping this would prove their creature was just a really big, really upside-down jellyfish.

But even upside-down, the landlocked jellyfish still looked nothing like the captivating creature that had so entranced the family. They were back to square one, so, eventually, the marine experts chimed in with answers.

iNaturalist

A member of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Diana Macpherson, knew almost instantly what this “common” creature was.

The purple, pulsating blob that had entranced Adam, Eve, Sofia, and Lucas on the jellyfish-laden shores of Pakiri Beach was, according to Diana, the largest species of jellyfish found in New Zealand waters: the lion’s mane jellyfish!

These huge jellyfish can grow as big as seven feet wide with tentacles a hundred feet long. Those long tentacles give it a sort of lion’s mane — hence the creature’s name.

As it turned out, Adam was right to want to keep his kids away initially. While these jellyfish aren’t deadly, their tentacles carry toxins that can deliver some serious welts to those unfortunate enough to get caught in the “mane.”

This particular jellyfish was also a bit of an oddity. Normally, lion’s manes wash up on shore in the summer or spring, when plankton start blooming. This one washed up in autumn.

iNaturalist

Whatever the odds of a lion’s mane washing up in September, the Dickinsons were delighted with the experience. “It was incredible,” Adam recalled.