Any time I read anything having to do with mishaps involving snorkelers or divers, my interest is piqued. I’m a certified diver and have had a few little “incidents” of my own. 

Recently, I read about an attorney from Toledo, Ohio, who is now recuperating, grateful he still has a leg after fighting off a shark while on vacation in Hawaii. The snorkeler had been watching turtles and fish, and noticed that the fish suddenly looked “alarmed.” Lifting his head out of the water, he saw a gray fin approaching, then felt an impact that he said was like being struck by a locomotive.

He couldn’t punch the shark in the nose since it had his knee crunched between its teeth, but he did land a couple blows just below its gills, chasing it away.

Since the shark did bite off a pretty big chunk of flesh from the man’s thigh to calf, plus broke his leg, he was fortunate that someone on the beach braved the bloody water to wade in and pull him out.

I’ve never encountered a shark in shallow water, but have exchanged looks with barracuda and once had to fend off an aggressive spotted eel. More frightening, though, was the time I got separated from my dive group, decided to surface, and saw nothing around me but open ocean. No land, no dive boat, no other divers. Trained to “Stop-Think-React,” I squelched the urge to panic, blew on my emergency whistle hoping the boat was nearby, and periodically dropped my face in the water to make sure nothing large and carnivorous was coming up to eat me.

I was lucky. Even though in the waters off Cozumel, Mexico I’d drifted with the current a fair distance from the dive site, the dive boat did come back to get me.

A diver in Florida who surfaced during a storm Sunday wasn’t lucky. Diving off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, when he came up, lightning hit his dive tank, according to the Associated Press (, which says an autopsy will determine whether he died of electrocution or drowned.

Now this is, granted, a freak occurrence, but it is a reminder to heed storm warnings.

And what happened to me when I lost my “group” is a reminder to stay with your buddy, no matter how fascinated you are with the reef’s minutiae.

Divers have a joke:

Q. Why do divers carry a dive knife?

A. If they see a shark, they can cut their buddy.  

The fact is, though, that there’s safety in numbers, and a big group of divers huddled together against a reef can appear – to a poor-eyesighted shark – to be a menacing sea creature with which the shark does not want to tangle.

Here’s my favorite ocean story of all time, read years ago on the AP wire:

A man and his friend were out on a boat in the ocean when a squall kicked up. The boat started taking on water, broke up and sank. The man and his friend clung to debris, hoping to see another ship, but none appeared on the horizon. Finally, the man told his friend he was going to start swimming, hoping to reach land. The friend opted to remain behind. The man swam and swam – for six hours, he estimated – and his arms and legs felt like lead. Just as he was about to give up, he felt something very big come up under him and lift him out of the water. It was a large ray with a broad wingspan and the man was balanced on its back.

As the man lay there, exhausted, the ray eventually glided in close to shore, rolled the man off, and he staggered up onto the beach, where he collapsed. Local villagers discovered him.

When he told his story, they listened in disbelief. He told them he had memorized his coordinates, though, and they went back to see whether they could rescue his friend. The friend wasn’t there. He had apparently succumbed to exposure or drowned. But flotsam from the boat, such as a life preserver with its name, was where the man had sent them.

The distance from the wreckage to where the villagers found the man on the beach was more than 100 miles. The man evidently had, indeed, been rescued by a giant ray.

Carol Bogart is a freelance writer/editor. Read her articles at and her blog at Contact her at   

Be Sociable, Share!