Many people have a profound and unreasoning fear of deep bodies of water. The idea of being immersed in the sea, a lake, a pool or a cistern can be deeply unnerving to them. For some it is worse with natural bodies of water, whereas others fear man-made ponds and catchment basins every bit as much. This common fear of the sea, the ocean or other bodies of water is known as thalassophobia. One of the reasons that it is so widely prevalent is that it is so reasonable.

There are a wide variety ancient and enormous carnivorous creatures that lived beneath the waves. Any of these animals would be capable of ending a human life in a fair fight, but when they are in their element, deep under the ocean, there is little that any person can do to fight them. An encounter with a shark or an octopus in the ocean can easily be fatal in its outcome. Even if they can be resisted, a dubious proposition at best, the dangerous nature of open water and the human inability to navigate it means that a successful defense against a beast of the deep can still end in the death of the person.

Therefore, the human terror of these cold depths is profoundly logical. Humans are primarily land animals, and on the land we are kings. The oceans contain ancient threats that we cannot defend against, and maybe some part of us remembers long ago, when our ancestors lived beneath the waves. Any way you look at it, thalassophobia is a common human experience.

Lurking Just Beneath the Surface