On one side of the US, beachgoers have been contending with shark attacks; on the other side, at least one tourist has had a confrontation with what appears to have been an eel. Maryland resident Kristen Porter was vacationing in Waikiki, and on Sunday she was kicking back in a float in about 5 feet of water at Kuhio Beach. Suddenly, however, she knew "something bad" had happened, she tells KHON-TV. She felt something latch onto her foot, and "it hurt like hell," she tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. When Porter pulled her foot out of the water, there was "blood everywhere," per KHON-TV, and her son and two other people had to help her back to shore. A lifeguard's assessment of what attacked her, based on the type of bites she drew: likely a moray eel, which experts say only attacks humans in rare situations, such as when it feels threatened.
In fact, an eel attack in the area is such an uncommon event that locals told her they were "flabbergasted" to hear about it, she tells the Star-Advertiser. Andrew Rossiter, the director of the Waikiki Aquarium, tells KHON-TV moray eels can grow to be 10 feet long, launch fast attacks, and can swallow their prey whole. "How fast are they? Just like that," he says. A marine biologist who saw pictures of Porter's wounds backs up the lifeguard's analysis and thinks it's more likely Porter was bitten by an eel than a shark. Porter received treatment at a nearby urgent-care site but declined to get stitches at the hospital. Her experience won't keep her away from Hawaii, she tells KHON-TV. "Statistically, there's no way I can be bitten twice, I think," she says. "The odds are in my favor." (Read more eel stories.)