What kind of things can I expect to see underwater? What are the dangers to encounter from marine life? In short, what is this underwater world like? These are some of the questions that have undoubtedly come to your mind as you have thought about diving in "live water" in the very near future. We will answer as many as we are able.
First, remember, that a man is an alien creature in the underwater world. He, not the fish and animals he encounters there, is the intruder. Therefore, the novice diver should not be too surprised to find himself the object of much curiosity on the part of the natural denizens of the underwater world.
Many of these fish and animals are so equipped as to be a danger to the diver, but most of them are not considered as such. Surprisingly enough, the top threats to the diver in salt water areas, particularly the Keys or Caribbean, are sun, jellyfish, and sea urchins.
The sun, because of its terrific brightness and because of the divers lack of shelter from it, poses many problems to the diver, as you can well understand if you'll imagine putting a lung on over very tender shoulders. Add to this matter of discomfort the very real possibility of receiving first or second degree burns, and you can. readily see the problem that the sun poses. The usual means of prevention used are the wearing of a tee shirt or similar garment to protect the diver from the sun.
Jellyfish are something else again. There are many varieties of jellyfish, all of them unpleasant. The diver may submerge in water relatively free of them, only to return to the area of his boat a short time later to find the surface virtually covered by them.
The only easy way out is to wait them out until they drift away. If it is necessary to surface while they are still present, clear your path with your hands to avoid stings on the face or, body. A pair of canvas work gloves come in handy here, as well as in many other instances.
While ordinary jellyfish are painful, there is one variety which is actually a major menace to the diver. I refer to the Portuguese Man of War. This variety of jellyfish, much larger than most other varieties, inflicts a venom which may be fatal, and usually hospitalizes its victims. The best advice if jellyfish wounds are inflicted, see a doctor.
Sea urchins are animals who live in the sea, who appear very innocuous, and are, except by their omnipresence. They are ball shaped, with innumerable brittle quills protruding from their surface. These quills penetrate readily and break off flush with the skin, where they then fasten. They are extremely painful, uncomfortable, and a thorough nuisance. Because of their omnipresence, the diver should look well before he grabs, rests, sits, or leans on anything underwater.
There are certain types of coral, too, which make salt water a little hazardous. For that matter, any scratch from any coral is almost certain to become infected, therefore canvas gloves are almost a must for the salt water diver. In addition to this type of infection, the novice salt water diver must be careful not to come in contact with fire coral, which when touched by the bare skin imparts a searing pain, leaving welts, and infects.
Some of the most often heard of fish for a diver to be concerned with are sharks. There is no safe rule of the thumb for dealing with sharks. They are predators, almost invulnerable, of a very uncertain disposition. Probably the safest kind of rule to make concerning sharks, is to leave the water when they are in the area. Most certainly do not try to outrun them or create a commotion at the surface, as this seems to excite them and to provoke attack.
With a little common sense, you can enjoy the marine environment you encounter, and not feel threatened by it. Have fun!
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