A couple of years ago I featured a link of a clip from BBC program featuring conger eels on the west Irish coast, and admitted that whilst other fear sharks or jellyfish, my irrational open water was conger eels. I’ve only ever seen them in aquariums but their predatory ugliness tends to remain in the mind.
The relevant part begins at 1:40. Monty Don has a different idea of beauty than I do.
That video clip implies congers are not as dangerous as their reputation. However a recent case of an unprovoked conger eel attack on that self-same west Irish coast would seem to indicate otherwise, that while exceedingly rare, conger eel attacks can occur. While on the way to the Skelligs swim last weekend one of the Irish tabloids had the front page headline … wait for it …Devil eel ate my face. I’d heard the interview of the scuba diver who’d been attacked on the radio, but the podcast of it didn’t last long enough I’m afraid. However one of the Irish papers carried the story also.
Mr. Jimmy Griffin, a scuba diver from Galway recounted the attack in Killary Harbour, which is actually a long fjord on the west coast (a beautiful location and centre for at least two outdoor adventure centres):
“Suddenly I got hit with what felt like a really strong punch in the face,” Mr Griffin told the Herald. “I felt like a rag doll. It gripped onto my face and threw me about violently. It was biting, pulling and twisting on my face,” he said.
“I got this horrendous feeling of numbness in the left side of my face,” he added. “My regulator fell out and my vision became really cloudy because of the blood rising in the water in front of me.
“The blood looked like octopus ink, very dark.”
The owner of a bakery shop on Shop Street, Galway city, Jimmy has over 200 logged dives to his name, so knew that he had to remain calm in the situation.
“I couldn’t panic – we were 25 meters under water. My regulator (breathing apparatus) had been knocked from my mouth, so to panic would have made the situation a whole lot worse with the risk of drowning.
“When it finally let go I could see that it was a conger eel swimming away from me, bigger than myself, so over six feet in length,” said Jimmy. “It was about the width of a human thigh, so it’s a very strong.”
The good news for Mr. Griffin is ”[t]he plastic surgeons have done a fantastic job. I don’t even know how many stitches I have on both the inside and outside of mouth but they say the scar will eventually be unnoticeable,” he said.
I always like the line in the video above, a third of their weight [becomes] gonad. Sweet dreams.