Things your Mother never told you about the ocean

By Sieg Stahl

As kids, it seemed as though we were always on the receiving end of an endless stream of advice from parents, teachers, and almost anyone else in authority.  And as kids, most of us had an incredible talent for pretty much tuning out and ignoring all that well-intended advice……right up until there was blood or pain involved!  So has anything really changed?

As divers, we constantly hear things during dive briefings like; “you need to have good buoyancy to stay off the bottom, there are things underwater that can hurt you and sting you, and don’t touch anything”. But of course, that advice is always intended for those other divers – right? And besides, it’s just part of the normal dive briefing and we often file it away as just so much blah, blah, blah – just like when we were kids! 

And then someone gets stung…..that where the part about the pain and blood comes in!

As a dive traveler and expedition leader, I am always amazed at the number of divers that I come across who are basically clueless when it comes to having even a fundamental idea about marine life that might be considered potentially harmful to humans. Oh sure, they have heard about sharks (although often misinformed), but many couldn’t identify a common Fire Coral unless it tickled them on the chin….and I guarantee that is a feeling they won’t soon forget!

So don’t ignore important advice that is intended (like all advice) for your own good and wellbeing. As a responsible diver you owe it to yourself, your dive buddies, and the dive professionals who you will ultimately render first aid to you, to not only pay attention to the dive briefing, but also be proactive in learning about things that could quickly turn a great underwater adventure into a painful lesson.

But what exactly are those things…..

Well the answer to that question might depend on where you are and sometimes the season, so you should always ask the dive leader about potentially hazardous things that you should be aware of and of course, how to identify them.  Better still; do a bit of homework in advance of traveling to a particular region. I remember that prior to my first trip to the Great Barrier Reef (it was my first time in the Indo-Pacific) I did a little research on Sea Snakes and something called Irukandji since apparently I was going to be there during their “season”. Knowing something about them and their habits made my trip much more enjoyable and certainly safer, and I found that Sea Snakes tend to be a bit on the “friendly” side but I didn’t panic based on my research before the trip down under!

Although not intended as a complete list, here are some of the more common things (depending on your locale) that that all divers should be able to recognize as a potential hazard:

  • Lionfish
  • Jellyfish
  • Scorpion (Stone) Fish
  • Fire (Bristle) Worms
  • Stingrays
  • Fire Coral
  • Sea Urchins
  • Anemones
  • Cone Shells
  • Blue-ringed Octopus

At this point, we should also acknowledge that accidents can and do sometime happen, so having a basic understanding of first aid related to marine life is something that all divers should consider as well. Divers Alert Network (DAN) has published a handy booklet and slate that might just come in handy one day:  First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life

Here are three great related articles from AlertDiver.com (the DAN publication) that you might find of particular interest as you learn more about potentially harmful marine critters:  

Now that you are well studied on the subject, are you up for a fun little challenge? Then test your basic knowledge of hazardous marine life by taking this little quiz from DAN:  Hazardous Marine Life Quiz

So, it seems that Mom was right about many things after all!  There really are things we should watch out for in life that can cause us harm.  And there are definitely things underwater that can hurt us, but the answer is not to dry yourself out and stay land bound forever, rather use diving as a fascinating opportunity for learning and discovering the many mysteries of the underwater world.

So the next time you hear a dive briefing, don’t tune-out, instead tune-in and listen, because it really is for your own good…..just like Mom’s advice!

© Sea Dog Divers 2017