Folktale Friday: Lusca and the Blue Holes

Photo by Julia Kadel on Unsplash

A creature of Caribbean folklore, the Lusca is said to be a monstrous half-shark, half-octopus hybrid.

Fast moving and aggressive, the Lusca has been blamed for the disappearance of scuba divers who dare to explore marine caverns, or blue holes, in the warm, azure water of the Bahamas.

Lusca FAQs

“What are the blue holes?”

The Blue Hole Lighthouse Reef Belize Aerial View to the famous diving site and natural phenomenon the Blue Hole in the Lighthouse Reef, East of the Turneffe Atoll in Caribbean Sea, Belize, Central America. blue hole stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
photo: istock

Mysterious and otherworldly in their own right, blue holes are basically sinkholes in the sea (not to be mistaken for Islands in the Stream) surrounded by a carbonate rock coast.

Found all over the world, blue holes were formed during the ice age and are said to be deeper than sea level itself.

What makes blue holes intriguing are the underwater caves that branch off horizontally from the main shaft. These caves provide intrepid divers with the opportunity to boldly scuba where no one has scuba-ed before.

They love that stuff.
Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

But this opportunity is not without its risks. The most obvious being the fact that:

a) they’re caves

and

b) they’re underwater.

As divers travel further into the intricate cave system, the darkness and lack of current creates a stillness that can quickly become disorienting.

Photo by Shane Stagner on Unsplash

Add something called “the Martini Effect” to the Ladies-and-Gentlemen-we-are-floating-in-space sensation and you have a recipe for disaster.

“The Martini Effect” or nitrogen narcosis, is a feeling of intoxication caused by the combination of water pressure and inhaling compressed air. Whimsically dubbed ” the rapture of the deep” by Jacques Cousteau, nitrogen narcosis is typically experienced at depths of 100 feet and below. It causes euphoria, dizziness and anxiety, all of which impair the judgement of diver causing them to swim to even greater deadlier depths. When they do, they either become hopelessly lost within the cave systems or succumb to oxygen toxicity.

That’s if they’re not eaten by a Lusca of course.

“So how do I know I’m looking at a Lusca?”

The biggest clue would be the long tentacles wrapped around your body dragging you to the murky depths. Although you could just be looking at something less mythological, like a giant squid or octopus (see below).

“What are the origins of the Lusca?”

Endemic to the Caribbean, the Lusca was most likely used to dissuade people from venturing into the blue holes and to explain the disappearances that have occurred there.

According to biologist and professional fish-fiddler Jeremy Wade, the Lusca is less likely the love child of a shark and an octopus and more likely just a plain old, giant octopus.

pff, lame.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As he explains in an episode of his River Monsters series, the whole shark with tentacles thing was probably a case of seeing the head of an octopus take on a more pointed, shark-like shape as it moved swiftly through the water.

So what have we learned?”

A possible influence on the Sharktopus movie trilogy, the Lusca is a tentacled Bahamian sea monster that stalks its prey in the blue hole cave systems off the coast of Andros in the Caribbean. It, like so many aquatic legends, originated as a way to deter people from venturing too close to a dangerous area. In this case the largely unexplored blue hole cave systems just off the coast.

As with the Bunyip of Australia, the legend of the Lusca is a reminder to think twice before entering an environment that already has a host of tangible threats within it. Although why you need a reminder about the dangers of places that are clearly dangerous is perhaps the greatest mystery of all.

There be monsters here. And also hypoxia.
Photo by Elianne Dipp on Pexels.com

RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING

https://www.blueholes.org/The%20Rob%20Palmer%20Blue%20Holes%20Foundation/Welcome.html

https://scubadiverlife.com/recognizing-and-addressing-nitrogen-narcosis/

https://southernmostghosts.com/monsters-of-the-deep-the-luscas/

https://www.liveabout.com/martini-effect-in-scuba-diving-2963261

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