Roatan is the largest of three islands off the coast of Honduras called The Bay Islands. They are located near the Mesoamerica Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea, 2nd largest after Australia’s Barrier Reef. It seems that the whole island is surrounded by coral reefs and exquisite blue turquoise water.
The underwater world is magical with all its colors, shapes and fish life. One of my most enjoyable things to do while cruising is discovering coral and sponges and fish I haven’t seen before and trying to identify them. When I was young, my mother used to call me a fish because I was always in the water.
Although the sea is amazingly beautiful, it is also dangerous. I found this out first hand. On Monday, January 16, 2017, I went snorkeling with Dana, a fellow cruiser and friend. Close to Little French Cay is a wonderful shallow area by the reef. I like snorkeling here because it’s easy to do underwater photography. Dana is also amazing is finding interesting sea life.
I was in about 3 feet of water snorkeling and put my left hand down on top of the sand. Faster than a lightning bolt, a large green moray eel attacked my hand. He had been hiding in the rocks or coral about 1-2 feet from my hand. I instinctively pulled my hand away. I stood up, saw the blood and told Dana who was nearby that I was bitten by a green moray eel. I can’t describe the pain, it was so intense. If it wasn’t for Dana helping me swim back to my dinghy, I think I could have passed out and drowned. The blood was gushing out and I was afraid sharks would be attracted. I screamed and moaned while holding my hand above my head and kicking my fins to get to the dinghy. We had to stop a couple of times, Dana was getting tired until, at last, a tourist boat heard me screaming and came to help. I highly doubt I could have gotten into my dinghy so getting on the tour boat was much easier. I was told later that the tourists on the boat took several pictures of me. I guess they have a story to tell from their vacation.
It’s a bit of a blur what exactly happened at the dive shop as I was in shock and trembling uncontrollably. I do know they poured water on my wounds and Chris, the divemaster wrapped up my wound to try to stop the bleeding. Someone also called Tim who was on our boat. They helped me walk to Chris’s car and he drove me to the emergency room.
I was given some anti anxious medicine and IV. The doctor onsite called in a surgeon from another hospital for a better diagnosis. Dr. William said that he thought my tendon was not damaged but would reevaluate in ten days. There is nerve damage but hopefully one day, I’ll get some feeling back. Normally, he would not have stitched me up however my artery and a vein were exposed so he gave me more than 20 stitches.
Well, wouldn’t you know it; I am now the talk of the town. People see my bandages and ask me “Are you that girl who got bitten by the eel?”
The marine Park was advised and on their facebook page, they put a notice not to feed the fish. Most people think the reason why that eel was so aggressive is because many tour operators feed the fish to make more tips. What we should all do is tell the operators that we will tip them if they DO NOT feed the fish.
What I read was that the bite of a moray eel can be much more painful than the bite of other predatory fishes of similar size. It was suggested that bleeding and pain are related to a toxin in the slime coat of the skin and the mucous of the mouth. The mucous of moray eels was analyzed, and not just one, but several toxic substances were found. One of these substances is hemagglutinin. This is a glycoprotein that causes red blood cells to clump (my blood looked like gel). The toxin crinotoxins of morays lead to increased pain and bleeding.
Moray eels have two sets of sharp teeth; one in the jaw and the other at the back of the throat, similar to the creature in the movie “Alien”. Contact with humans occurs accidentally (divers and snorkelers) or intentionally, when moray eels are ‘hand fed’. Moray eels are not aggressive animals, but are territorial and will attack in self-defense. Since their eyesight is poor, they usually confuse between the ‘feed’ and the hand that feeds them.
There are many people who helped me and I want to thank all of you; Dana, Chris, Debbie, the guy on the tour boat, the guy who called Tim. I am truly sorry if I missed naming you as it’s all a blur to me, but know that you did help and I truly appreciate it.
|SPROUTING BLADE ALGA|
|CHRISTMAS TREE WORM|
|CHRISTMAS TREE WORM|
|MAGNIFICENT FEATHER DUSTER|
|THREESPOT DAMSELFISH - JUVENILE|
|CHAIN MORAY EEL|
|CHAIN MORAY EEL|
|STATUE IN THE MARINE PARK|
|ORANGE SPOTTED FILEFISH|
|SPOTTED EAGLE RAY|