Tag Archives: sea snakes

And you thought hammerhead sharks were bad

When I was flying the rather unfriendly skies of North Viet Nam the one thing that scared the bejesus out of me was snakes. Sea snakes to be specific. If your plane got hit, your best strategy (most of the time) was getting “feet wet, ” get somewhere out over the Gulf of Tonkin before taking the nylon decent.
Pelamis Platurus Costa Rica
Yellow-bellied sea snake (You gotta like the name, though it may rile the snake if you mention it. By Aloaiza (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I never jumped out, but we all had to be prepared. And the thing that scared me the most was the prospect of landing in a swarm of sea snakes. Forget Snakes on a Plane (which I didn’t see because I’m sure it would have scared the pee out of me). These snakes are inquisitive (like water moccasins, which reputedly just strike for the helluva it) and have cobra-like venom.

If you read this morning’s LA Times you know that El Niño has brought some variety of these critters to our shores. Silverstrand to be precise. And the snake, to be precise, was a yellow-bellied sea snake, Pelamis platurus to sound scientific.

The expert said it probably wouldn’t bite you if you didn’t pick it up. Wikipedia (the font of all knowledge) adds that though the snake has neurotoxic venom, no human has ever been killed by “envenomation,” which leads me to suspect that they have some other killing mechanism. The Wikipedia report adds that the snake is helpless ashore BUT can be found in the water in “aggregations of thousands.” Maybe they can smother you.

My nightmare has followed me home. Fortunately people are no longer shooting at me, but “feet wet” is where I live.