Reminded of an old open water fear

The subject of open water fears has come up here and elsewhere occasionally, and I often get asked about dealing with it, whether it’s fear of deep water, jellyfish, cold or sharks. Particularly sharks. And anytime I ever mention sharks, you all go for it like people for whom the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week just isn’t enough.

So here’s another shark pic to keep you going.

But that’s not what this post is about.

I don’t have really suffer many of these fears myself (except when I do stupid things, like parts of Project Copper) so there’s rarely much constructive advice I can offer. Because I know we have no bitey fish here in Ireland, I don’t worry about them. I’ve been stung too often to worry about jellies, and I’ve spent too long in cold or deep water to fear it.

A lot people mention one thing specifically: the movie Jaws. One guy told me it almost ruined all open water swimming for him and it took him years to return to the water after seeing it.

Recently, on a break from writing here, I was watching the BBC’s Monty Hall’s Great Irish Escape, with the eponymous biologist/broadcaster. Great program, by the way, the BBC brings its fantastic camera work to Connemara and the West Coast, something our State Broadcaster seems incapable of, and as such has always annoyed me. We live in a spectacular country, if RTE had any intelligence they’d keep showing it to us, and to others, instead of throwing money at tosspots like Ryan boring-and-ignorant-old-man-in-a-young’s-body Tubridy. Am I right Lisa? Lisa? Back to the subject, okay, okay. Monty Halls was out on what he’d heard was the best dive location in Europe, around Roundstone. Why was it so good? Because of the Conger Eels.

Oh, Dagon. Just writing eels. Ugh. Watching the program a very old fear came back. So old I’d forgotten it. After Jaws, Peter Benchley’s next book was called The Deep, about giant Moray eels, which book I’d read when I was quite young, and still remember the fear of the notion of giant eels latching on to me with their ugly faces full of sharp teeth, and not letting go.  Actual shivers up my spine right now.

Anyway, until the BBC hunts me down and makes me remove it, here’s the clip.

What can you say about a creature that is ugly as sin, bites and is one-third gonad? Did you get that? One third gonad. Lovely. I have no idea why that in itself is so disturbing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve known some men who act like that.

Sure Monty, you can put a nice tourism spin on it but I know, I KNOW, that that eel is the spawn of a Great White Shark and the last fictional snake kicked out of Ireland (apart from the remaining two-legged political kind that is).


2 thoughts on “Reminded of an old open water fear

  1. G’day from FNQ (Far North Queensland), Australia.
    I wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and photos. I am an open water swimmer myself, though not in your league, but just the same I love the ocean and all that go’s with it.
    I envy you living in a non”bitey” part of the world, (sharkless), though the water temps you encounter are very alien to me.
    I have read with interest your views on sharks and solo swimming and the low percentage of shark encounters and dangerous wildlife.
    Here it is a very different and dangerous situation, and swimming in open water alone is a very silly thing to do. Sharks are a very real threat here as also are salt water crocodiles, and in the summer (wet season), transparent and deadly jelly fish, (the notorious Box Jellyfish and Aracanti), stone fish and sea-snakes.
    In the last two weeks we have had two shark attacks and both victims died of massive blood loss. One attack was a Tiger Shark and the other a Great White. On the beach where I swim (with caution) I see whaler sharks feeding on every in-coming tide. In the rivers and mangroves big crocs lurk and encounters are common. No one swims in the rivers.
    Jelly fish are suspected of causing diving related deaths on the outer reefs of The Great Barrier Reef. Their stings are so painful and severe that they can cause heart failure. In summer swimmers wear “stinger suits”, like a fine wet suit and the beaches are netted.
    In our favour the water temps often range in the mid to high 20’sC.
    Despite all this there are groups of “blue water” swimmers and events are held regularly.
    Down south it is a different story and swimming is much safer, but the Ocean is still a formidible place and of course Australia is famous for it’s large (and often perfect) surf. On the Shipwreck Coast of Victoria swells of 8mt are common.
    Anyway, Keep up the writing and I particularly like the Gaelic translations and flora photos.
    As I write, early evening, 27dC and the tide is rolling in and small sharks 2/3ft are swimming in ankle deep water chasing fish into shallows.


    • Thanks for the compliments Shane.

      I wish I had more comment of this quality, that bring other places so alive to me and others. When I was in Dover last week, the WA Swim Smooth guys were there also waiting, Paul Newsome from Perth soloed in a very tough swim on Thursday last, in a still fantastic time for the conditions. Andrew Hunt hopes to swim this Thurday, conditions look good. We spent some time with them, great guys and Shelley Taylor Smith is fantastic fun and told one of the other WA guys in Dover, was swimming when someone was taken recently in Perth. As Lisa and I said to them, we’ll take the cold water over the sharks anytime.

      The recent Irish place names post was (surprisingly to me) very popular, so I’ll return to the subject at a future point, thanks.

      Your swimmingly!


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