Deep Sea Divers Are Sharing Their Most Horrifying Experiences And I've Never Been More Afraid Of The Ocean Than I Am Now
IDK how to swim, but I have no urgency to learn after reading these stories.
Being a scuba diver/deep-sea diver seems like one of those jobs that's super interesting but also super terrifying. Deep-sea divers proved that to be completely true when Reddit user u/ahelpfuljakeparkmain asked, "Deep-sea divers, what are your horror stories?" they had tons of bone-chilling stories to share.
So brace yourselves, because here are just 25 of the wildest experiences people have had while deep diving:
1. "I was 18 meters down when my air went bad. It had a weird metallic sugary taste to it, and I started losing consciousness. I pointed myself up and pulled my BCD (buoyancy compensator), and about 6 meters from the surface, I blacked out."
2. "When I was 15, I took the family boat out and dove the reef myself to clear my head. That was mistake number one. I was down at a depth of about 90 feet when I was only rated for 60. While diving, I spotted a 3.5-meter mako shark coming right at me. For those who are unaware, makos are basically the cheetahs of the ocean, and they only have two speeds: curious (harmless) and lunch (very much harmful). This guy was in lunch mode. So I hovered, as I had been trained to do since there was no way for me to escape it."
3. "Fifteen years ago, I was on a four-person dive. There were two novices, me with 80-ish dives, and the dive leader. We swam in a diamond shape, me bringing up the rear. But one of the novices was all over the place with a camera, burning through his air, swimming up a storm as it were. He lost grip on this shiny new camera, and it zipped upwards, got caught in his snorkel, but he couldn't see it. So he kicked out, hard, for the surface thinking, I assume, to chase down his camera and went right by me, upwards. I grabbed his fin and hauled him down. I signaled to him to stop and calm down. I untangled his camera and handed it to him. Only he didn't move. Instead, his reg fell out of his mouth, his eyes wide but unresponsive."
4. "I'm a rescue diver, and I was diving in a submerged blue hole in The Bahamas, and a diver went missing. After an hour or two of searching, I went back into the blue hole to see if there were any signs of him. I saw a glint of his watch on this arm sticking out near the bottom. I started descending to the bottom to recover the body, and on the way down, I realized that the 'bottom' was actually a school of sharks that must have been there for breeding."
5. "I was on a beach dive with my parents, having swum from the beach out to a small reef and then descending. It was only a few minutes after getting down to the reef that something started going on with my parents. My mother was agitated and clutching her chest. We surfaced, and she started spitting up dark liquid and was struggling to breathe. Fortunately, it was a busy beach, and after we inflated an emergency buoy, lifeguards rushed out and carried her back to the shore where an ambulance waited. It turned out she'd had swimmer's edema induced by the greater pressure."
"Things turned out fine, but having a medical emergency underwater in the ocean is a special level of scary. It wasn't exactly a deep dive, but it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life."
6. "I was diving with a friend at about 82 feet when her old, beat-up BDC started to inflate on its own. This has happened to me before as well, but I just disconnected the air hose and carried on. She didn't think to do that and didn't have time to. She was upside down, kicking to try to stay down, but in the few seconds it took for me to realize, she was already at the surface."
7. "One time when my parents visited Mexico, they went diving and my mom was slightly lower down than my dad looking at the ocean floor. My mom had on a gold necklace that was floating in the water around her. It was a sunny day and a fairly shallow dive, so it was sparkling. My mom looked below at all the critters when my dad grabbed her and started frantically shaking her arm to get her attention. She looked up, and a barracuda was directly in front of her staring intently at the shiny necklace."
8. "I got the bends once. I was careful and followed my charts and computer. I had appropriate depths and surface time, but I didn't drink enough water, so I was all out of whack. I felt fine until I got home and had a mild headache. Then I woke up, and it was just pain in my left arm, elbows, and fingers. I was then rushed to the hospital."
"The doctors got me hooked up and on fluids, checked my dive logs while the decompression chamber was set up, and then got me in there with a nurse. Eight hours in a tube about the length of a car but as wide as maybe a double bed? I was on oxygen and hooked up to an IV, and it was so loud, with all the air rushing in. As soon as I got to 'depth,' the pain vanished. It was crazy.
I’m fine now. But I wasn’t allowed to dive for a month, which sucked but hey. The dives were pretty great."
9. "I was diving in a local pond with a group of much more advanced cave divers than I was. I am leading the dive, as to get used to the pressures and responsibilities of heading the procession, they are mentoring me. The known horrible visibility makes it impossible to navigate by compass, so we follow a line put by other divers. These lines go from one sunken item to another. So I know I am about to hit a small sunken boat but don't remember which one. There are a few similar in a row in the same state of decay. I am first in the group, and I get to the boat and see someone's black army boot sticking out from the inner quarters. It looks somewhat new, not like items you find on the bottom. It's hard to see due to too much muck in the water. So I touch the boot, thinking it is by itself, but it won't lift like it is attached to something heavy. I put my hand farther in and feel the leg continuing out, pants, the calf, and I see the second leg now."
10. "I went diving the day before a hurricane on a small South Pacific island. Out of nowhere, a black and white venomous sea snake wrapped itself around my arm."
11. "When I was getting my open water diving license, we had to practice emergency procedures for if we found ourselves to be out of air. When we got to the bottom (around 10 meters or so), the instructor signaled to my buddy and I to simulate being out of air. So there are a few hand signals you’re supposed to do, like slicing your throat with your finger, etc. So after grabbing the instructor’s shoulder and having their alternate air supply in my mouth, we do the necessary hand signals and do the simulated slow and controlled emergency ascent, stopping halfway to avoid the bends. All is well, and we go back down. It’s now my buddy’s turn to simulate an emergency ascent. However, as they’re getting set up to do the drill, I noticed it getting harder and harder to breathe. I looked at my gauge, and it was completely empty."
"I was relatively relaxed at this point since I knew exactly the procedure to follow, having just practiced it. So I’m slicing my finger across my throat at the instructor to indicate I’m out of air, but she wags her finger to say no, slices her own throat, and then points to my buddy... It’s not my turn to do the drill; it’s my buddy’s turn.
At this stage, I’m getting no air at all. I start more frantically slicing my throat, which is met with more quizzical expressions and wags of the finger. So I grab my gauge, wave it at the instructor, and simultaneously grab their alternate air supply. The instructor then removes the air supply she’s breathing from and shoves it in my mouth (deviating from the procedure — this is when I start to panic a bit).
The instructor then accidentally knocks my goggles off my face, and I’m greeted with icy cold water to the face and zero visibility. I’m to inflate my vest manually. I’ve got about a 20-meter swim to the jetty, so head off while the instructor goes back down for my buddy. My buddy, meanwhile, is completely freaking out at the bottom of the ocean. She ends up losing one of her fins. After getting back on the jetty, both my buddy and I sat out of the rest of the day’s activities. The instructor went back to collect my googles and the fin.
I hate to think how I would have reacted if I had run out of air 30 seconds later, me alone down there while my buddy and instructor were ascending. I did end up completing the course but only went diving once after that. I experienced an anxiety attack on my final dive and decided maybe scuba is not for me."
12. "I free dove to about 160 feet in Dean's Blue Hole in The Bahamas. I'd never really been past 100 feet free diving, but this was the perfect place to do it because there was no current, and I had ropes to keep me straight that allowed a slight pullback. The scary part is that you become pretty strongly and negatively buoyant after 60 feet, so you're basically hauling ass down while doing nothing and using very little air. So I'm dazed out a bit, and all of a sudden, I feel pressure, like my trachea was going to collapse."
13. "I was 16 years old, scuba diving in Grenada at a shipwreck on my final five on one of my Padi qualifications. I think it was 20–30 meters underwater. The instructor told us that there could be sharks. When we were down, he swam through a hole, and I went to follow him. I then scraped the edge and cut open my hand, and I saw blood pouring out in a Jaws kind of style. I started breathing heavier, thinking a shark was now obviously going to come and eat me, but I continued swimming with my hand clenched into a fist as an attempt to stop the blood."
"“After about 10 minutes, everyone had split up to do a bit of exploring, and I checked the amount of air I had. It was in the red zone on the meter, pretty much empty. The only person I could see was my brother, who was more experienced than me. He saw it and quickly swam over to the instructor, who was quite far away. I was just staring at it, not knowing what to do, as in the moment I'd completely forgotten any of my training.
When the guy came over, it was all fine. I used his spare mask and swam back up to the surface using his air and then waited for me to get picked up by the guy in the boat as he went back down. It was all fine in the end, but I just remember being at the top waiting for a shark to come still and eat me. I think I was more scared of the sharks than the lack of air, even though that was the bigger problem. It was also annoying 'cause I missed out on a pretty gnarly eel that everyone else saw."
14. "I had two experiences with cave diving in one dive that stopped me from going into the water for almost a year. First, our guideline was snagged, and we lost it. We had to backtrack through a few chambers until we found it. Then my diving buddy and I both ran out of air. We planned a two-hour dive and had tanks for each of us that had double that amount, but finding the guideline took so long that we had to use our emergency tanks."
15. "I was around 14 at the time and a relatively inexperienced diver; however, I was still comfortable diving. My dad, brother, and I were heading out to the dive spot about 45 minutes away and I started to feel sick. I went along and put my tank and fins on and got in the water. We got down to maybe 20 meters, and I began to puke into my regulator. I took out my regulator and kept puking into the water. As I was doing so, a bunch of fish just swarmed around my face, eating my vomit."
"At the moment, it was pretty scary to figure out what to do, as no one on my dive was within arm's reach. I purged my regulator, took a breath, then puked more and repeated as necessary. Still, no one noticed, and I went along with the rest of the dive. It turns out I actually had poorly timed food poisoning, and the seasickness just added to it."
16. "When I was 13, we went drift diving out in Mexico on a very small boat with an outboard. After surfacing, there was no boat to pick us up. We were out of sight of land, and we bobbed around for a couple of hours. It was starting to get dark and pretty cold with the waves picking up. We also had no lights or any way to signal anyone."
17. "One of my first dives was in shitshow conditions. There was a strong current and so much sand/debris everywhere that visibility was at about 12 inches. For some reason, the divemaster was like, 'It'll be fine once we get below 40 feet.' We started descending on a guidewire, and after getting to about 55 feet, my brother and I could not see anyone else in the group. We waited at the bottom of the wire for 10 minutes, and after no one showed up, we started to think the rest of the group waited on the surface. We came up, and one guy from our group was at the buoy looking confused, and the boat was gone."
18. "We all got in a little speed boat and then took a short five-minute trip out to another boat that had all of the equipment. Instead of having a scuba mask to breathe out of, though, we had a very heavy helmet placed on our heads. I went first, and the procedure was straightforward. They put the helmet on me, and the second that it was on my body, I felt its weight forcing me to the bottom of the ocean. My friends followed suit, and then a scuba-diving man came down to be our guide. As I breathed, there was a constant, loud sound as water whined in through the tube. It was kind of annoying, but it meant that I was getting air, which is very good. That’s why it was so scary when the sound suddenly stopped. I was confused, but it quickly came back on after about four seconds, and I could breathe again. I rationalized it by assuming that my tank had run empty and they were switching it to a different one, no big deal."
"After about 10 minutes, the guide pointed at me and indicated that he wanted me to climb over the railing. It was hard to see any peripherals out of the masks, so it was easy to get lost. I looked back behind me to make sure that my friends saw where I went and didn’t get lost. We made eye contact, so I assumed we were all good and then turned back around to follow the guide. He had me walking in a very small path between two corals, so I went very slowly to make sure that I didn’t cut my legs on them. It was hard due to the strong underwater current, my unwieldy helmet, and an occasional tug by the air tube as I pulled it taut.
As I reached the guide, my air stopped again. I figured it was no big deal, like the previous two times, and continued. I thought to myself, Don’t panic. They always tell you not to panic. I panicked. I started taking quicker and quicker breaths, but I forced myself to stop that; I knew that was the worst thing I could do. I spun around to the guide and started pounding my fist on my chest: That was the sign for ‘I can't breathe!’ He seemed to notice and started walking away. I could only hope that he was taking me to the boat. I began to see that I was getting less and less oxygen with each breath, and water was starting to fill in my helmet. I had to look up to breathe what little air I had. I grabbed hold of the guide’s arm so that I wouldn’t lose him and also so that he would understand the gravity of the situation. I saw the boat’s ladder and knew that all I had to do was make it there and I would be OK.
I must have gotten some sort of adrenaline rush with the renewed hope because I almost forgot about my lack of air. I fumbled for the ladder for a few seconds before I grabbed it and started pulling myself up. As I broke the surface, air came rushing into my helmet, and I took a nice deep breath. Breathing had never felt better. That was definitely the scariest experience of my life; 1/10, would not recommend.”
19. "I know a guy who was out diving for crayfish/lobster; by the ocean, they hide under the rocks. As he was diving, a tiger shark emerged from a cave and rammed him, breaking his arm and ribs."
20. "After a day of boat diving in Monterey Bay on the California coast, we had a night dive planned. I was there with two friends celebrating my birthday, and we were part of a larger group of divers. My friends were too tired for the night dive, and I was, too, but I got invited to buddy with another diver whose friends also decided to stay on the boat. So I was following my new buddy through the kelp when some of it caught on my tank. I tried to pull clear but managed to get tangled even more to the point where I was unable to move."
21. "I had a dive buddy run out of air on me on a wreck in St. Lawrence. Thankfully we weren't actually inside the wreck, but the part that made it particularly challenging was that the wreck was right in the middle of the shipping lane with a really high current, so we couldn't just make an easy ascent to the surface. We had to navigate along with a series of lines laid out to give divers something to hang on to so they could pull themselves against the current on the path to the wreck and stabilize themselves during the swim back to the anchor line. We were making our exit, and everything was going fine. He was on my long 7-foot hose out in front, and I had a hand on his knee, so we were keeping in good contact. Then for one moment, I let go of his knee to deal with some gear, and in that split second, he came off the line and got caught in the current, ripping my regulator out of his mouth in the process."
"I saw him manage to grab hold of another one of the lines downstream, and he was hanging on for dear life, completely inverted, in a shipping lane, with no regulator in his mouth and no gas in his tank, flapping in the current like a flag in the wind. I bolted toward him as quickly as I could while still maintaining my own safety and gathered up the 7 feet of abandoned hose and regulator along the way. I caught up to him and managed to get the regulator back into his mouth, but since he was inverted, it went in upside down and, as a result, didn't breathe as it should. He fixed that himself but slipped off the line he was holding onto in the process. I managed to get a hold of him, but not without letting go of the line myself, so I ended up hooking both of my feet around the line to keep us both in place. Somehow I managed to pull us both back down to where we could grab hold of the line.
It was at this point that another diver in our group saw what was going on and assisted, and from there, we were able to get back to the boat without any further incident."
22. "I was maybe 15 feet down and saw the broken end of an anchor rope sticking out of the mud. I figured this might be valuable, grabbed the rope, planted my feet on either side of it, and pulled. Instead of the anchor coming up, my legs sank into the mud up to my mid-thigh. It took me almost all the air in my lungs to wiggle free again and get back to the surface."
"Later, I realized that if I hadn't been able to free myself, I simply would have died there under the water, and nobody would ever know what happened to me. Still scares the shit of me remembering that."
23. "I was doing a deep dive around 200 inches on the coast of New York, and there were two others on a dive, a father and son. After spending about 10 minutes down there, I decided to go up to minimize decompression. After 50 minutes, the father and son still had not ascended, so the captain sent me down to check and make sure everything was OK. When I got down there, the son was stuck under a piece of metal, and his father was desperately trying to get him out. After I helped lift the metal off the son, I could immediately tell that they were in panic mode. Having a dangerously high amount of nitrogen in their body, the worst thing they could do would be to bolt up to the surface. If they did that, I knew they would be as good as dead because of the bends."
24. "I was divemaster on a live-a-board in The Bahamas in 1992. The boat was a large, steel crew boat converted for diving. There were no mooring buoys back then, so we would take a line down with a wreck hook on it, wrap it around the base of a coral head, and hook it back to itself. So I took the line down around the coral head and hooked it off on itself. I laid off and watched it for about a minute, and, satisfied it was going to hold, and it was not wrecking the coral, I started to rise over the coral head to ascend back to the surface. Just as I crossed over the top of the coral head, the boat lurched, and the wreck hook broke loose, snapped around the circle like a rocket, and headed straight to me like it was shot out of a canon. I was looking down at it when it happened and, even so, had zero opportunity to do a damned thing but watch it unfold in what seemed like slow motion."
"For some time, I had been in the habit of clipping my dive computer to my BC, across my chest. It kept it from dragging behind me, bouncing off stuff, and it was always close at hand for me to check. By nothing but sheer luck, the wreck hook got me in the chest, dead center on my dive computer. It gutted the dive computer, bounced off my face mask right at the left eye, pulling the mask off my face, and went on its merry way.
I had not a single scratch or bruise. I caught my mask in the water, and my dive computer was destroyed but didn't free flow. I could have taken that hook right in the heart or in the left eye, or it could have left my air supply compromised. Somehow, I dodged all three outcomes and made a safe ascent, which is not to say I didn't suck down most of the air in my tank, hyperventilating, before I got there."
25. And finally, "On my 17th birthday, my dad took me spearfishing. I was about 75 feet down at the top of a 45-foot wreck, so the bottom was about 115 feet down when I shot the biggest amberjack of my life. I was stupid and wrapped the line from my spear around my wrist so that I could pull the fish to bring him to me on the bottom. It was much bigger than me and started flying to the surface. So I'm going up and down, and my dive computer was screaming at me to slow down. My nitrogen levels were rising faster than they were supposed to. Finally, he swam back down toward the wreck we were on, and I managed to snag my gun on a beam from the rusting hull. I took a second to breathe and realized how close to blacking out I was. My ears felt like they were going to explode from all the pressure changes, and my mask was filling with blood where I'd burst a blood vessel in my nose during the fight. I should've died."
"The fight had worn down the fish, so he wasn't able to snap the given a hard pull. I pulled my dive knife and started swimming down the line, working toward him. He was drawing lazier and weakening circles at the end of the 20-foot line. As I neared him, I saw it was inches away from shaking the spear and being lost forever. I had to pull on the spear and pin him to the sandy bottom with the pointy end of the spear. The moment I touched him, the fish went ballistic. It was like our fight was starting all over — this time in close quarters. I just wrapped my legs around him like a rodeo star and tried to find a sweet spot for my knife. I had my knees locked around the spear with the fish as a kabab in the middle. I took one jab, and it deflected off his skull. I took one more, and somehow it stuck; he went from a bucking bronco to dead in zero time. I was just done.
I was low on air and was exhausted. I just wrapped the line around the spear gun and left the spear in the fish — knife in the skull. I worked my way up as slowly as possible and took the largest decompression (safety) stop that my remaining air would allow. We had over 65 pounds of meat from that fish, ate like kings for days.”
Do you have any horrifying diving stories or know of anyone that does? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.