Every head has its own headache.                 

~ Arab proverb

"Octopus under Old Town Pier, Bonaire," photo by Robert Dalton, courtesy of iStockphoto

I could almost touch the octopus lying still among the red and orange coral below me. My wife and I had encountered many beautiful treasures snorkeling in that isolated cay.

And what wonders they were. A sea turtle mozied across the sand, disappearing into the foam of the methodic waves. Conch shells as big as basketballs were scattered throughout the shallow bowl. Starfish and Triton’s trumpets just as impressive accompanied them. Exotic fish swam through the rainbow coral and large lavender sea fans as we approached the rocky shelf off shore. Everything radiated with a fluorescent sparkle under the sun’s penetrating rays. We spent hours awed by these beauties.

But the octopus was by far the most thrilling of all these spectacles. I’d never seen one so intimately before.

The crystal blue waters of the Caribbean made the creature seem close enough to touch. I dove toward the coral to snap a picture. In my haste, I went too deep, and the pressure of the rapid dive created sharp, shooting pains in my temples, eyes, ears, and teeth. The octopus was far deeper than I realized; his proximity, only a false illusion created by the water’s transparency.

I had to surface. The rapid ascent exacerbated the headache.

When I reached the surface, the glaring sun appeared even brighter because of the migraine. The light blinded me. The rushing waves, which seemed peaceful before, now pounded violently. Each deafening surge of water seemed to induce nausea.

With each stroke I made toward shore, my head throbbed more severely. An excruciating, unrelenting headache ensued. It lasted for hours even after my reprieve from the deep dive. My sea exploration ended because I had ventured into a crushing depth – one magnitude too fast and too far.

  • I suffered a diver’s migraine – not uncommon for underwater explorers.

It felt like that octopus had all eight tentacles wrapped tightly around my skull. I thought my brain would explode at any moment.

Jules Verne probably didn’t understand this malady when he wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.[1] Pete Martin must have when he entitled a short story, “Twenty Thousand Headaches under the Sea.”[2]

The extreme pressures of the ocean’s depths induce headaches in many who venture there. It’s like a vice-grip squeezing the skull that seems to be expanding.

  • Jonah had a rapid descent into the ocean’s depths.

I suspect that pressure surge produced a severe, unrelenting headache in the headstrong prophet. And He endured it for three days most likely.

  • The sea beast’s air cavity would’ve been like a pressure chamber.

Every sound magnified. Jonah’s screams echoed. The gurgling of the fish’s digestion became more pronounced. Each rumble thundered. Each dive worsened the anguish.

  • The acidic fumes of the fish’s digestive system burned the eyes, ears, throat, and nasal passages.

The caustic damage caused swelling of the eyes, ears, throat, and sinuses. This edema only exacerbated the agony caused by the intense pressures of the deep.

  • His eyes felt as if they would bulge out of socket.

The eardrums felt as if they’d burst. The sinuses filled with fluid, causing a constant runny nose. The throat felt as if it was closing up. And this went on for the three days he was in the fish. It probably persisted long after his rescue as well – just like my headache did.

It’s no wonder that Jonah was cognizant of the seaweeds wrapped around his head.[3] (We discussed in another post.)[4] It also foreshadowed what Christ endured in His Passion – but that’s another post.



[1] Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1946).

[2] Pete Martin, “Twenty Thousand Headaches under the Sea,” Saturday Evening Post, 6/16/1945, 217 (51): 9-79.

[3] Jonah 2:5.

[4] “The Crown of Sorrows,” www.jshanyoung.com, posted 04/28/2012.