Dangers Of The Deep – Part 1

We know how dangerous the oceans are with their fierce winds, violent waves and treacherous currents, but when we are anchoring in clear, shallow waters, wading ashore from a dinghy, clambering over partly submerged rocks, or taking a cooling swim, we tend to feel quite safe. Not so! There are some dangerous creatures lurking just below the surface to take us unawares. Take a look at an A – Z of some of the most deadly.

Alligators and Crocodiles

Lurking just below the surface in marshes and lakes in the tropics, they pose a threat to divers or people in small boats, such as canoes. Crocs in particular are very territorial and can move extremely fast for their weight. They have been known to attack fully-grown buffalos and even sharks, pulling their victims down into the water and drowning them before they are devoured.



A large ray-finned, carnivorous fish measuring up to 7 feet and found in large schools in tropical and subtropical oceans, it is found near the surface of the water and near coral reefs and sea grasses. It doesn’t feed on humans but has been known to accidentally attack people wearing brightly coloured items such as watches, necklaces or dive lights and may mistake snorkellers for large predators, tearing off chunks of flesh.



Belying its cute, whiskery appearance, this is a dangerous creature if provoked. When threatened it raises three barbed spines from its back and side fins, containing debilitating venom which can cause severe pain, although it is not usually deadly. Even in refrigerated specimens the venom remains active for several days, so they must be handled with care. They rarely attack humans but there have been a few cases over the years when attacks proved fatal.


Crown of Thorns Starfish

This is a carnivorous predator measuring up to 60cm in diameter with 13 to 16 arms covered with sharp spines or thorns and a crown shape which gives it its name. Living around coral reefs, it releases digestive enzymes to liquefy the coral tissue and it can consume six square meters of coral per year. The thorns can pierce through clothes or wetsuits causing severe pain, possible bleeding, nausea, vomiting and inflammation which may continue for weeks or months if the spines are left in the wound.


Fire Coral

Often mistaken for coral or seaweed, with its brown or yellowy-green colour, Fire Coral is a type of marine organism living in large colonies and closely related to jellyfish and anemones. It can deliver a powerful sting with its invisible tentacles, causing anything from mild irritation to severe pains, nausea or vomiting. It is fairly common and should be handled carefully.


Jelly Fish

The Box Jellyfish is found in the warm waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and sometimes referred to as the Box of Death (an apt title). It is one of the most deadly sea-creatures; frequenting many popular beaches but hard to spot because of its translucent body. It can have up to 60 tentacles which may measure up to 5 metres in length and have around 5,000 stinging cells. It is one of the largest jellyfish but its relative fragility means that its venom has to be very strong, able to kill an aggressor at first contact. It has been known to kill a victim within 4 minutes, even faster than a snake. A fully grown adult needs to come into contact with only 3 tentacles to risk death and even if he is lucky, the sting will be so excruciating that the body may go into shock and the victim may drown. Immediate treatment should be the application of vinegar, followed by medical attention and CPR may also be required. There is no anti-venom so it is important to seek help quickly.

Most of the common jellyfish don’t seem to cause too many problems but the Portuguese Man-o-War, often encountered off the Spanish coastline, can spark heart attacks or death in those allergic to their poison. The best remedy for a mild sting seems to be removing any tentacles with tweezers and applying white vinegar, but severe reactions need hospital treatment.


Lion Fish

Found in the Caribbean and Eastern Atlantic, it is one of the most beautiful fish in the oceans with its showy pectoral fins and venomous spiky tentacles. It is a predatory fish with venom causing vomiting, fever, sweating and even death in some cases. Lionfish do not usually attack humans unless provoked, but once stung the victim should soak the injured part in hot water and seek medical attention.


Moray Eels

At 6 to 8 feet in length, with razor sharp teeth, they are scary looking creatures, but although their bites can lead to profuse bleeding and bacterial infection, these eels are not usually aggressive toward humans. They tend to hide in rocky cracks and crevices during the day and hunt at night. They do tend to be territorial, so should be approached with care.


Octopus, Blue-ringed

This small octopus, no more than 20 cm across, is found in shallow waters and tidal pools in tropical areas. The blue rings can change in intensity according to its mood and although its bite is not particularly painful the effects can be catastrophic, causing paralysis and death within a very short time by injecting a neuromuscular paralizing venom. There is no known antidote but there are instances where victims have survived by being put on a respirator before cyanosis and hypotention develops.

Read Part 2

Author – Dee White

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