The Underrated Terror Of The Sea?
Don't let the ray spoil your day.
What do you fear most in the surf? Is it drowning? Slamming into a jagged coral head? How about the shark?
We'll be the first to admit it, if there's a serious shark encounter somewhere out there in the wide world of surf, we'll report on it. It's not about spreading or encouraging fear, it's straight psychology. People hate to love to read about it. Even more so if a crocodile is involved.
But what about the swimming venomous spear that is the stingray? Sure, they don't kill or maim as many as the notorious apex predators, but they can.
Nine years ago the world lost dearly beloved Australian icon Steve Irwin at the hands of a ray. He and his cameraman inadvertently frightened an eight-foot wide stingray. It lashed out, impaling its barb into the Croc Hunter's heart hundreds of times in just a few seconds. He didn't stand a chance, bleeding out and succumbing shortly after.
Non-fatal stingray attacks occur frequently, something like 1,500 each year in the US alone. Rays are actually friendly characters, curious and not aggressive by nature. Most of the time they're simply retaliating for being stepped on. Can you blame them for striking back at the crushing limb of some gawky wader?
As their stinger enters a person's body, a thin sheath containing the venom breaks, allowing it to flow into the surrounding flesh. The venom contains a cocktail of neurotoxins, enzymes, and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which messes with your muscles and blood circulation, slowing breakdown of the venom. Basically you're stabbed and poisoned at the same time. Yes, it hurts.
“I felt something punch me,” recounts Michael Goldstein, who was recently attacked surfing along off Singer Island, Florida. The barb pierced his leg just below the knee. However the small incision left behind was far more serious than it first appeared. He rode a wave in and was rushed by paramedics to the nearest medical centre and straight into surgery. Due to its proximity to a nearby artery, he was close to losing his leg.
“Most of the injuries are trivial. However, it depends on where the barb actually gets you,” said surgeon Dr. Eugene Misquith. As in the unfortunate case of Mr Irwin.
According to the doc, a stingray barb shouldn't be removed. Instead he recommends applying pressure and raising above the heart. Immersing the area in hot water can help, however assistance by a medical professional is advised.
Perhaps you'd rather avoid having a toxic spike penetrate your flesh altogether? Meet the 'stingray shuffle', it may just save your life (or leg):