30 ‘Horror Stories’ From Sailors, Scuba Divers, And Surfers Who Have Seen Things In The Ocean They Wish They Could Forget
While most people can’t wait for summer to start so they can finally have a refreshing dip in any body of water available and leave all their worries behind, some have seen the not-so-pretty side of nature.
So anyone with thalassophobia, a type of specific phobia that involves a persistent and intense fear of deep bodies of water such as the ocean or sea, may want to skip this post because today we’re diving into real-life ocean horror stories. Think of submarine scientists, scuba divers, surfers, Navy seals, sailors and anyone who’s no stranger to deep dark waters who all shared some of the most disturbing and unusual experiences they had out there.
“Sailors, scuba divers, surfers, and others… have you seen or experienced anything on or in the water that gave you the creeps? What is your creepiest ocean-related experience?” someone asked on Ask Reddit, and below we wrapped up the responses that are virtually impossible to read without your heart rate speeding up.
a large Octopus came and huged me from behind while i was free diving. i tried to take it away from me but it keeps making more pressure till its gone.
it dosent sound that creepy but i was really freaked out when it did, because i didnt even see it coming.
One way to explore the deep dark waters is probably one of the most extreme types of diving known as cave diving. It’s the type of underwater diving in water-filled caves that can be done as an extreme sport or a way of exploring flooded caves for scientific investigation. To find out more about it, we spoke with Redditor and cave diving explorer Helodriver87, who shared some incredible insights into what it's like.
“Cave diving is a mental game. You really have to have your emotions under control and allow the rational part of your brain to be in control. The truth is you have a decent amount of time to solve most problems (less true as the depth increases, however) and panic will only make it worse.”
Was doing a deep dive certification with an instructor in Dahab, Egypt. We went down to 40 meters and i did a math test to check if i was thinking straight or narced on nitrogen. I aced that test! Performed it faster and better then on the surface in the comfort of an air-conditioned classroom. My instructor was happy and we carried on with the slow ascend. Little did i know that i was completely narced and confused the button that blows the BCD up with the one that dumps the air. Basically i was sinking vertically without even understanding my mistake. That’s when the instructor came to my resque and everything ended up well. Best part of the whole experience - it was all on film and the people in the dive center saw it and kind of congratulated me on being alive. When i saw the video i was amazed at how happily stupid i looked. Smiling and kicking my fins thinking i am going up while actually descending deeper. That was a good lesson for me not to underestimate the nitrogen narcosis and the effects it has on the mind.
Scuba dive at night. Started feeling a tapping on the back of my head. What exactly could be doing that 30ft under water?
Turned around and was face to face with a Hawksbill turtle. Guess my hair looked like an anemone or jellyfish tendrils, one of its favored foods.
Moreover, it takes a lot of training and the right kind of equipment to do it in a way that minimizes risk, the explorer said. “But at the end of the day, you're responsible for making the decision as to what's an acceptable level of risk and how much uncertainty to plan for. A well-trained team that sticks to their training has a really good shot at getting out of most bad situations, but only if they keep their cool and work through the problem rationally, which can be hard to do when you allow yourself to focus too much on how hostile the environment is and how much trust you're placing in your gear and your buddy.”
Shine a torch over the side of the boat at night, 5km from the land, and 100s of tiny sea snakes. Everywhere I point the torch was a writhing mass of snakes.
I've posted this before but it's been a year, so f**k it haha
So this is proper babby's first free dive material and I've since learned I'm terrified of the ocean, so this probably isn't that scary to most people. However...
I was on a boat tour that stopped off in a small bay with f*****g beautiful, crystal clear, light turquoise water and nearly white sands. We'd just finished swimming with some sting rays when the tour guide offered to take some of us out for a swim in deeper water.
I was hesitant as he said the current can get quite strong and I'm not the best swimmer, but he said I could join them for as long as I felt comfortable, so I came along.
There was a small group going at a leisurely pace that I could clearly see, so I decided to do some free diving. As I said, the water was gorgeously clear. I was diving down to these little reef outcrops and checking out the fish and had barely looked ahead of me other than to check on the group.
I finished inspecting another little coral group and turned around to see where the group were and suddenly saw the sandy sea floor disappear over a knife sharp drop off. The water was so deep and inky blue with no sea floor in sight and my stomach somehow dropped into my a*s and jumped into my throat at the same time.
I surfaced ASAP and got as far away from the drop off as possible and tried to pretend I never saw it.
Helodriver87 explained that you have to focus on executing the plan and monitoring your resources/location in the cave all the time. “Definitely take the time to enjoy the sights, but the focus is always on keeping the guideline in sight, monitoring gas consumption and pace, staying within allowable deco obligations, and ensuring that navigational decisions are marked.”
“Even in emergency situations, you have to stay focused on the basics, because if those drop off, a bad situation can get a lot worse. The only thing worse than some kind of unresolvable equipment failure is that same failure, but now you have no idea where the exit is because you got too focused on the emergency and lost sight of the guideline,” he concluded.
Not a professional "water person" and not horrifying but when I was kayaking on a lake somewhere in south Dakota there was a gigantic floating tree trunk with massive roots I thought it was a kraken and nearly fell into the water
Not creepy but a basic straightforward scare: was descending for a wreck dive in Roatan, Honduras when a really large moray eel emerged from the wreck and made a beeline to me and my husband. We were startled and swam away. It followed us, then dropped back.
Next, we watched it approach our dive master, who was facing the other way and distracted helping another diver. We were desperately trying to get his attention about the imminent attack. Then we saw it wind itself through his legs and twirl around him for a few pats and discovered it’s a friendly eel. We learned later that other people had been feeding it and it was habituated to humans. That’s info I would have appreciated upfront so we wouldn’t have been so scared lol.
Pretty much anything that moves under the water is creepy if my head is above water. Under the water it's the opposite. Nothing bugs me. I've gone diving with sharks many times. They don't make me nervous at all. Jellyfish do though, especially in southeast Asia.
The one time I was really spoked was skin diving in the Galapagos. I went down quite deep (for me), maybe 6-7 meters. I see an absolutely massive manta ray lying on the sea floor. Bigger than me by maybe 40 kilos, maybe more. Continued on my way, looking at the colourful fish. When it came time to ascend, I turned towards the manta again. It had been tracking my movement and moving towards me. When I looked at it, it stopped. I felt like it was up to no good. It felt very threatening. It didn't like me being there or something. Maybe it thought I was lunch. Dunno. I got the f**k out of the water and went to have a beer to calm my nerves.
To find out more about the incredible world of deep dark waters, Bored Panda also reached out to Reddit user Sbenzenzanwan, a distance-working translator in his 50s who travels all over (54 countries so far, one per year) with his wife. Many of Sbenzenzanwan’s stories have to do with skin and deep diving, so he shared his firsthand experience of what is it like with us.
Sbenzenzanwan told us that his diving adventures started when he got a temporary diving permit at 15 to go diving with his stepmother in Cozumel, Mexico. “She’s a marine biologist and ecologist. I never completed the test to get the LIFETIME diving certificate. Huge mistake,” he said. However, the Redditor has done dozens of “introductory” diving courses all over the world (Thailand, Cape Verde, Monterrey California, Ecuador, Mexico, Malaysia), but said that he just mostly just free dived for lack of equipment.
I went surfing at Malibu pier one night. As I was suiting up, a bunch of guys hanging around a uhaul truck kept eyeing us. A little creepy, but f**k it, I paddled out. Not ten minutes later I heard a motorboat out of nowhere going fast as f**k with no nav lights. Crashed right onto the beach, only to be met with a bunch of dudes with flashlights. I was worried but seemed like it was being taken care of. Got out of the water a little later and the boat was abandoned and the uhaul disappeared. Turned out it was a cartel drug run from Mexico. Just happy they let me be.
I’ve dove a number of wrecks that were graves (many lives lost / remains still in the wreck). Spookiest though would be diving through a large ship that was lying on its side (so easy to get disoriented). Inexperienced diver in front kicked up a bunch of silt so even with a torch it was black-out conditions and no chance to see where the guide was or know the way out.
Scuba Diving in Vanuatu on the President Coolidge, very famous wreck dive that you can walk from the shore and dive the bow from 15 meters all the way down to 70 meters.
I was 14 at the time and my parents were life long divers, we dived the Coolidge twice that day already and our guide offered a night dive to us.
We were supposed to only dive down to a depth of 25 meters and check out these flashlight fish that would school together in a cargo hold, they had these really bright green eyes that looked amazing and lit up underwater. I still don’t really know what happened that night but it felt like we were staring at these fish for forever. Suddenly I didn’t feel right, my breathing felt funny, I tried to grab my gauge to check how much air I had left, it took every bit of muscle I had to reach for my gauge connected to my waist, I slowly grabbed it and read that I had about half a tank left, relived for a split second but still concerned something was wrong I reached for my mum to signal her something wasn’t right, I grabbed her arm but couldn’t hold on, I just started sinking to the bottom. My mum quickly grabbed my arm as I fell but I had no leg movement, so I started dragging her to the bottom with me, my dad now realises somethings wrong and grabs my mum trying to pull us all up. The dive guide now is freaking out and trying to make sure everyone is alright, they all start swimming me back up and in to shore. Once we got up closer, I started to feel normal again but abit dazed and confused. Turns out I had nitrogen narcosis, and had dropped to 40 meters when I couldn’t swim anymore. For those of you who don’t know what nitrogen narcosis is, it’s when you have to much nitrogen in your body and it gives you a intoxicated effect.
Nothing to hectic but still a vivid memory of thinking I was gonna sink to the bottom of the ocean not being able to do anything about it.
When asked what he thinks of while diving down, Sbenzenzanwan said that he tries to maintain a calm, relaxed state of mind. “You can’t rush. If you rush, you’ll need to come back up for air soon and you won’t really get to see much. The water only allows you to move at a certain speed, so you need to adapt to that and ‘go with the flow.’”
There are many skills a diver needs. The Redditor told us that you not only need to be able to hold your breath for a minute or so, you also need some basic knowledge of diving, “things like knowing to breathe out when you ascend so you don’t get the bends, how to plug your nose and equalize ear pressure as you go down, how to remove and put your mask back on underwater, etc.”
“I doubt I’ve ever been down for more than 90 seconds. You need to remember that it’s a lethal environment,” he said and added that “If you’re not back on the surface in a relatively short time, you will die.”
The creepiest for me was seeing a 12 ft tiger shark swimming in the distance when I was diving in Hawaii. The water was clear but there was a little haze. It was just far enough away that i kept losing track of where it was. Then i would turn my head around and see it behind me again
I was Scuba diving at a shipwreck, awesome experience. Very dark though which had me on edge. Not a very well preserved wreck but it was awesome to see everything down there.
There was a huge expanse of open water to the side of the wreck that kind of began to slope off, and as we left the wreck we saw a huge tiger shark floating in that open water. My friends and I just swam back to our ship slowly and it didn’t really follow, but if you know anything about tiger sharks, you know how aggressive they can be, and how menacing one would look in dark water.
Seeing something like that, in that environment, with that level of darkness (it was the evening) is terrifying. The fact that it could hurt you if it wanted and you can’t do anything about it makes it 10x worse. All you can really do is keep calm and keep your distance. Remembering this around large dangerous aquatic creatures has always worked for me and I’ve never been harmed. In hindsight, it was a very beautiful moment but I def didn’t think that at the time.
Worked as part of a LE dive squad.
Tasting the change in the water when you’re near a body. Takes a few whiskeys to cleanse the palette.
The Redditor argues that diving is about keeping your wits about you, remaining calm, not going inside anything and not taking big risks.
On one such adventure, Sbenzenzanwan recounted diving in Las Grietas, a series of deep cracks on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos where sea water seeps in and mixes with rainwater, creating a unique micro-ecosystem with all kinds of fish (parrot fish), turtles, and other sea creatures. “I free dove down to the bottom, which was really quite deep (10 meters?), near the outer limits of how deep I can go, and saw the floor was covered with a strange bubbling fuzz,” he recounted.
The Redditor continued: “Some kind of weird organic processes going on down there. Really spectacular place. You need to go at the right time to see well underwater because of the position of the sun in the sky and the walls of the grietas.
I encountered a moray eel chomped in half on a night dive. Eel was still swimming.
I do a fair bit of cave diving in North Florida and help out with exploration projects. I've got a couple. One is mine, one is a friend's.
So my friend was checking a lead in an offset sink to see if there was any going cave one afternoon. Offset sinks are physically distant from the main cave conduit, so while a primary trunk passage may have lots of clear ground water, an offset sink won't get much water circulation, so rainwater and runoff will tend to stay there for a long time. They're typically very murky and brown, clearing as you approach main cave passage. He's about 100ft in at a depth of 40 or 50ft. Nothing insane, but it's braille diving. Trying to feel his way around while running a line to see if anything goes. He comes across a wall about a foot in front of him that looks a bit unique. Often times you'll see cool patterns of mineral buildup in cave walls/floors/ceilings. So he's appreciating this cool pattern when that pattern opens its mouth and shows off its teeth and tongue. Turns out a not insignificantly sized gator lived in that sink and wasn't happy about the home invasion. He set a new speed record getting back to the surface of that particular sink. Gators aren't uncommon down there and they usually leave you alone, but not when you get that close to them in their own territory.
My story was a bit less exciting but pretty somber. I was doing a dive in the back of a fairly regularly traveled cave system, but in an area where a body had been recovered from about a mile back the week prior. That area isn't as regularly dived due to the logistics and cave passage geometry. It's not a small dive to get back there. The recovery was really challenging and there were signs of damage to the cave as we swam along where the body had been forced through restrictions, through mud, etc. But the real reality check came when we found his mask in the mud several thousand feet back. It had been dislodged (along with his nose) while the recovery divers tried to force him through a small area. It really drove home the reality of where I was and what I was doing and the respect necessary for the environment.
I was surfing scripps pier in San Diego about 6 years ago. It was flat, onshore wind, really messy conditions but I spent 40 min driving there and said “ I’ll just get in the water and paddle around a bit”. There was nobody in the water.
I decided to paddle around the pier, going from the north side to the south side. When I reached the last pylon, a HUGE fin popped up about 5 feet in front of me. I knew instantly it was a massive white shark (12-15ft based on the size of the fin)- I’ve been surfing my whole life, I’ve been in the water with dolphins many times. This was 100% not a dolphin.
This fin was more triangular with a serrated back side (almost like a steak knife) with a sandpaper looking texture. Dolphins have more scoop in their fin and very smooth texture on their skin.
The way it swam gave me instant chills- fishy, more side to side and straight than the classic up and down, coming up for breath dolphin.
I froze. Trying to control my panic, waited for it to disappear and as smoothly as possible, turned my board around, paddled through the pier back to land.
It was absolutely checking me out but didn’t show any interest towards me. Since then, I’m not that afraid of sharks but I still get the chills thinking about that day.
”For those who’re wondering what deep waters are like, Sbenzenzanwan says it’s a completely different world. “The giant clams near Phi Phi Island in the Andaman Sea (Thailand) stand out as one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. I’m glad they are not being eaten, because it looks like something I never would want to try,” he said.
When it comes to scary creatures you may meet while diving, the Redditor said that jellyfish in some parts of the world are quite scary since they are extremely venomous. “Some can kill you. Others just ruin your day or week. Just the sight of one makes me want to get back in the boat or on dry land.” One of the scariest encounters, however, the adventurer had was the massive manta ray he met while diving in Academy Bay.
Super tame compared to the rest of these but I was night snorkeling in the maldives with a torch on the reef, far enough from the island that it would have been pitch black without the torch. Really fascinating wildlife down there at night. Decided to enjoy some sensory deprivation so I turned off the torch and just floated for a bit. When I turned it back on the first thing I saw was a huge reef shark headed straight for my face. They're pretty harmless but that took a sec to register
Swam around a coral structure to find my face right up against an eyeball as big as my head. Was a goliath grouper in the Florida keys, before those disappeared from hunting.
Also felt the hairs on my body surge forward then back from the displaced water of a great white passing by on the Sonoma coast in California. Very sharky waters over there. Ominous.
Submarine sonar tech here....sooo many horrifying sounds in the ocean.
But that’s not all. “Also free diving in Oregon, in a natural river hole called Wildwood Falls. Me and some friends were trying to reach the bottom. No one was able to do it until someone had the idea to pick up a very large rock and jump in. That was very deep, maybe 15 meters,” Sbenzenzanwan recounted.
“The scary part was watching the world, the sky, disappear as it was swallowed up by the darkness of the surrounding water,” the Redditor said and added that he doesn’t recommend doing this. “There are overhanging rocks you can get trapped under where there’s no light,” he explained.
I was in the Navy. Going through the Bermuda Triangle there was this intense storm. They called away low visibility watch in the middle of the night. So different people go to different places on the ship to see ahead or behind and tell the bridge if they see anything. I was in the HCO tower Aft looking over the flight deck. (Destroyer). The lighting was so intense that there were no breaks. It was like daytime. Torrential rain but the water was a smooth as glass other that the rain hitting it. It was weird.
Also, our magnetic instruments went haywire.
2. Somewhere between Oahu and Kuwaiti (spelling?) A green object appeared at night so bright that it lit up the inside of the bridge and then followed the ship. I was asleep and heard about it from the bridge watch the next day. It was logged so it happened. I will tell you that it got a lot of talk going and I learned from more senior sailors that most of them have a UFO sighting story and that for anyone that has spent a long enough time on sea duty.m, they all have seen something.
Sat right out waiting for waves in Morro Bay, looked behind me saw a huge black fin about 4 feet away. I screamed, paddled in, looked back and saw a huge seal looking at me. My girlfriend, now wife, laughed at me for being scared of a seal, I pointed out I'm not a marine biologist.
Not really creepy, but still kinda weirds me out.
First deployment on a submarine. Reactor scram drill. Lost propulsion. I get backup propulsion on line and they start restarting the reactor. Supervisor says "You feel that?" "No..?" "We're sinking out." They get the reactor back up and the engineer announces to expedite getting main propulsion on line. Normally calm but there's a hint of panic in his voice. Shifting back is a bit touchy for technical reasons, so normally you do it a bit slowly. Supervisor shoves me out of the way and does it so fast smoke literally came out of the panel. All gets well soon, but I hear later that a bunch of people were watching the depth indicator (looks like an odometer) just spinning as we went down. As I heard it, we did slightly exceed max operating depth.
Also, hearing active sonar from inside the boat is kinda creepy.
Sometimes, Sbenzenzanwan says, you really start feeling vulnerable while deep down there. “Diving masks reduce some of your peripheral vision, which can make you feel uneasy.”
Having said that, the adventurer assured us that sharks are not scary underwater. “I’ve dived with sharks all over. I was mildly concerned when I saw a hammerhead in Cozumel, but I kept it in my field of vision and it went away.”An experience of running out of tank air, however, was really frightening. “I ran out of tank air at 40 or 50 meters in Cozumel and had to use the buddy breathing system to surface. So score one for proper training (temporary diving permit). You wouldn’t want to try that without a tank,” the Redditor concluded.
I was diving off of the coast of Okinawa (a relatively small island south of Japan) at night with a couple of buddies. We were making our way down approx 150ft when we hit the bottom and see a four door sedan just sitting down there. We all kinda gurgled at each other in surprise and made our way over to it. Inside was a brief case, a kids school backpack (in Japan all of the kids wear the same style of backpack and its very distinctive), and a couple of coffee mugs but no bodies or anything. I was familiar with the model of car and it wasn’t more than 5 years old. Everything was pretty well preserved too. In retrospect i wish I had open the potato box to see if there was paperwork for the car but it didn’t feel right to disturb the well preserved scene.
After we made it back to shore, i started doing to research into accidents in the area but there was absolutely no record of anything related to what we found. Kinda creepy but also cool. I’m glad there weren’t any bodies.
P.S. we did let the local police know about it and give them the coords on our way out of the area but we never heard anything else about it.
When a 10ft Mako swam past as we were diving with lemon and nurse sharks. A little bit of poop came out.
There were days/nights out on the Persian gulf when the sea was perfectly calm and looked like glass. The stillness always gave me the creeps for some reason.
Had a pod of dolphins swim under me and my friend, grazed our legs. The waves sucked, we were just hanging out on the boards.
Immediately thought bull shark or nurse, checking if we were food. Then we saw dolphins popping up. They were just passing through I guess.
I dive every once in a while, and I once saw a bobbit worm
Do not look it up if you want to sleep
I remember a couple years ago, a buddy of mine had rented a boat out for my birthday to go out in the sea with. It was going perfectly fine, the boat was super nice, good for fishing, had a great deck. When he told me he was going to rent one, i thought to order a new fin to scuba with. It was a mono fin since i had never gotten a chance to use one. I’ve been practicing with it, so it was perfect to use it out in the sea.
We started to go out off the coast of the cape and the water was a bit chilly, but not ice cold. we were maybe 22 miles out from the coast while still having an eye sight of the shore. My friend brought fishing baits and rods for us to use later on, but after i was finished scuba diving. I was ready to get off the deck of the boat with my wetsuit and mono fin, my tank resting on my arm before i was going to dunk in. After a couple minutes, i had this really weird chill down my spine. Not paranoia, but superstition. I brushed it off and put my tank on my back, followed by my goggles.
I felt that weird superstition feeling again but it quickly switched to paranoia when i saw a pair of glistening eyes in the ocean. At first what i thought was a shark, it had not been a shark. I’ve had my fair share of training for 6 years with sharks and other deep ocean water creatures, so i thought i’d be able to handle this. It slowly started making it way towards me when i got a better glimpse at it, it was HUGE and i mean massive, it’s teeth were poking on the side of its jaw and even had razor sharp fins. And how i know this wasn’t a shark because they have a more smooth rubbery type of flesh, this one had scales like a snake. Blood was pouring out of its mouth, it looked like it was ready for its next meal.
I attempted to hurry, but i was in shock and i thought i was to die from shock or from this thing eating me. I finally cut out of shock the moment it started to swim more swiftly, but the mono fin could only go so fast in the water. My buddy was getting a little suspicious that i hadn’t come up with anything from the depths of the ocean. He looked over the boat deck and i guess could see me attempting to swim for my life as a dark shadow was inching closer. I eventually reached the boat and out of breath i told him to book it. we ended up not using the boat for the rest of the day and went home. To this day, i have no idea what it was, but in all my years of experience, i dont want to find out.
Asked my scuba instructor this question years ago. He liked night diving. Found a cave that he measured using his divelight, moving it 3 times around to get the entire view. Seemed to look like a prehistoric turtle chilling inside.Then we went river diving.
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