They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. They do not say that about the Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia physalis), which Domenic and Lauren Narducci learned the hard way while snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
“Oh yeah, that’s one of the good ones!” Lauren remembers the boat’s captain exclaiming as he pulled the iridescent venomous tentacles off her back and shoulders. Once the searing pain subsided, she was ready to jump back in. “What are the chances of it happening twice?” she wondered to Dom, understandably wary. Quite good, as it turned out: Dom was soon man-of-war victim #2, sustaining painful stings to his shoulder.
While this animal encounter might have spurred less intrepid snorkelers to permanently hang up their masks, the Narduccis were undeterred—and far more stung by something else they saw that day. The coral reefs of their beloved Keys were bleached and barren, nothing like the teeming, technicolor wonderlands Lauren fell in love with during her Florida childhood. Witnessing the dramatic decline of Florida’s fragile coral reefs over the course of just a couple decades stuck with Dom and Lauren, transforming them into tireless advocates for marine conservation—and supporters of the Academy.