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Morays are capable of seriously wounding humans, many divers have lost fingers. This shot was taken from 4 inches away with a Nikonos IV with an optic lens extension.
Photo by Stewart Deats

“Hey, that hurt!”

“The sudden pain caused me to involuntarily jerk my hand backward, trying to escape.”

The reflexive action only made things worse.

My wife Diane and I were at the West end of Catalina for several days on our little vacation. We had sailed over from Marina Del Rey aboard the Ranger 33, a well founded sloop we had used several times before. We were having a grand old time, sailing, sunning, paddling the dingy ashore to go hiking, and lots of diving. Lobster were present, in-season and delicious fresh-out-of-the-water. We had taken a few of them and cooked them in the little galley aboard the Ranger. But now we were nearly out of food, down to the spaghetti and we needed some protein to keep it company.

Morays are capable of seriously wounding humans, many divers have lost fingers. Morays have a second set of jaws called pharyngeal jaws in their throat, which also have teeth. Morays launch these jaws into the mouth, to grasp their prey. This shot was taken from 4 inches away with a Nikonos IV with an optic lens extension.

As most divers are aware, the California spiny lobster does not have pinchy claws like their Eastern cousins, but they often have a cranky room-mate in the form of a green moray eel. I have been well aware of this for a long time. Some divers wear gloves to protect them from sharp barnacles, spiny urchins and bitey things, such as the green moray eel, but I prefer to go barehanded and take my chances.
As I worked the steep incline of the island, peering between boulders into dark crevices for a lobster dinner, I spied the tell-tale, gently waving red antennae and beady little eyes of my quarry. If I could just ever so gently… slide my hand into the hole… just far enough…

Wham!
The green moray darted out of the shadow to lock onto the three large fingers of my extended hand. I instantly recoiled from the pain. “Hey! That hurt!” I shouted, my voice garbled by the regulator in my mouth. By violently pulling my hand through the razor sharp teeth of his clenched jaws, I had shredded the flesh of my fingers, kind of adding insult to injury. Well OK, adding injury to injury. My hand ached deeply; I was angry. And there he was, out of his crevice and confronting me with unblinking, glassy eyes. I couldn’t help myself, I bonked him hard on the head with my heavy abalone iron. He looked dazed, if he could have been cross-eyed he would have been, which satisfied something deep inside me.
I am not cruel and I know that the eel is just a poor animal. I didn’t really hurt him, or her, at least not as much as I was hurt. I figured the salt water was good for my wound, and after it bled for a while and I was back on board, and Diane found some tape and wrapped it up for me. What’s a little flesh wound now and then?
We did have lobster for dinner!

Photo caption:
Morays are capable of seriously wounding humans, many divers have lost fingers. This shot was taken from 4 inches away with a Nikonos IV with an optic lens extension.
Photo by Stewart Deats

Photo caption:
Morays have a second set of jaws called pharyngeal jaws in their throat, which also have teeth. Morays launch these jaws into the mouth, to grasp their prey. Photo by Stewart Deats

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