To say the ocean is a big place is an understatement. It wasn’t until 2010 that a group of scientists used satellite measurements to estimate how deep the oceans are and how much water they hold. It’s estimated that less than 5% of the world’s ocean has been explored and that the entirety of the Earth’s oceans consist of 1.35 billion cubic kilometers and have an average depth of 3,700 meters. We rarely think of the ocean as massive, but it contains 99% of all the living space on Earth! That’s absolutely massive — so massive that we don’t even know exactly what’s actually in the ocean. Species we thought were extinct for millions of years turn up. The most notable instance of this happening was in 1938, when a coelacanth, thought to have been extinct 66 million years ago, was found off the coast of South Africa. Knowing how massive the ocean is has given some people thalassophobia.
Thalassophobia is the fear of the large bodies of water, sea travel, and what lurks in the depths of the ocean. It’s more common than you would think. As someone with thalassophobia, this article was tough for me to write. Looking at these photos of the ocean gave me more anxiety than paddling out to an open lake in a wobbly canoe. After you look at these 15 photos, you’ll be just as terrified of the ocean as I am.
15. You’re A Small Fish In A Big Pond
Photos like this one make me realize just how vulnerable we are when put in the water. This scuba diver is taking a photo next to one of the largest animals to ever exist. If the whale were to turn sharply towards the scuba diver, it could literally crush him. The sheer force behind a whale’s movement would be enough to knock someone unconscious. If that happened, the scuba diver would need to be rescued immediately.
If the fear of being crushed by a whale isn’t enough for you, just look at the area around the diver. Everything a few meters past him is a cloudy mess. Imagine only being able to see a short distance in front of you. Imagine hearing the faint noise of a whale, only to see it slowly entering your line of sight. It’s terrifying. Whale noises are terrifying. I would cry if I was underwater and heard a whale. Even that scene in Finding Dory made me feel uncomfortable.
14. The Deeper You Go, The Scarier It Gets
The goblin shark is an example of one of many deep-sea creatures straight out of your nightmares. The goblin shark has existed for about 125 million years which has led some researchers to refer to it as a living fossil. Some goblin sharks have been found in shallower waters, but most inhabit areas deeper than 100 meters (330 feet). I would literally cry if one of these things swam up next to me.
What makes the goblin shark more terrifying than any other shark — besides its hideous appearance — is that the shark can extend its jaw to lunge at prey. You may be familiar with a gif of the goblin shark biting an object given to it by researchers to measure just how wide the shark can extend its jaw. It looks like the alien’s tongue in Ridley Scott‘s Alien movies. I don’t want to be anywhere near one of these things.
13. Whales Are MASSIVE
This photo shows you just how large some of the creatures in the sea are. I’m not entirely sure if this photo has been altered, but it isn’t completely unrealistic. After all, the ocean has been home to massive creatures throughout history — for example, the megalodon, a prehistoric shark that’s thought to be extinct. It’s believed that the megalodon could grow up to 18 meters (60 feet) and had teeth nearly 8 inches long, twice the size of a great white shark’s. There are some people who believe the megalodon still exists, but there isn’t any proof as of yet.
The ocean is home to some of the largest animals on the planet. The largest of these is the blue whale, which measures up to 29 meters (98 feet) in length and weighs around 170 tonnes. It is the largest known animal to have ever existed, and, if it really wanted to, it could absolutely destroy anything in the ocean. But blue whales are peaceful creatures and find mankind to be just as curious as we find them.
12. The Giant Squid
For centuries, the giant squid was nothing more than a myth. Many historians believe that sightings of the giant squid are what fueled the stories of the Kraken, a massive sea monster that used its tentacles to sink ships with ease. Due to the elusive nature of the giant squid and because of its size, many experts believed that the giant squid didn’t exist. After all, the only evidence suggesting the existence of such a creature was first-hand accounts from frightened sailors and pieces of squid inside of sperm whales.
In the late 1800s, giant squid carcasses began washing up on the shores of Newfoundland. Over the next century, fishermen and other sailors caught giant squid and gave their bodies to scientists to research. The first photo taken of a living giant squid was in 2002 although the squid was found near the water’s surface and outside of its natural habitat. The photo above is the first photo of a giant squid in its natural habitat. The photo was taken at 900 meters (3,000 ft) deep and is one of the most haunting images I’ve ever seen. Everything about this photo scares me.
11. The Story of James Bartley
James Bartley was at the center of a story that emerged in the late 1800s. The story apparently started in the St Louis Globe-Democrat and detailed Bartley’s experience of being swallowed by a whale. While on an expedition, Bartley apparently fell into the mouth of a whale and was trapped inside of it for approximately 36 hours. He was rescued a few days later, when his shipmates caught the whale. His skin had been bleached and his vision destroyed due to the digestive fluid inside of the whale. When they opened up the beast, they found Bartley alive inside. This story is obviously similar to the biblical story of Jonah.
Whether or not you believe the story of Jonah or James Bartley, it’s important to know that it’s technically possible for someone to be swallowed whole by a whale. Sperm whales are known to swallow giant squids whole, and giant squids are gigantic in comparison to the average person. The photographer in the photo looks way too comfortable being that close to a whale’s open mouth.
10. You Can’t Always See What Lies Beneath
There are a number of folktales about strange creatures lurking in lochs, lakes, and rivers. We’re all familiar with the Loch Ness monster, but a lesser-known myth is that of Ogopogo. Essentially, Ogopogo is a 40- to 50-foot long sea serpent that was first spotted in the 19th century by the First Nations people living near Okanagan Lake, British Columbia. Much like Nessie, there isn’t sufficient evidence of the existence of Ogopogo, but both myths are enough to make me steer clear of large bodies of water.
Everything about this photo is terrifying. Imagine taking the photo and seeing eyes peering at your child through the darkness or catching a glimpse of something emerging from the depths below. That would be an absolute nightmare for me. This photo is why I don’t like to swim in lakes — you can’t see a damn thing underwater. Unless you’re swimming in a crystal clear lake, it’s easy to kick around dirt and mud underwater that will cloud your vision.
9. You Can Easily Get Swarmed
If a group is staying together, like in the photo above, the fish are considered shoaling. If the fish are traveling around together, it’s called schooling. Fish do this for numerous reasons. The most straightforward answer is that shoaling and schooling improve the quality of life for the fish. In addition to the social benefits, fish will stick together to protect themselves from predators. Once a fish is isolated from its school, it’s much more likely to be eaten. Furthermore, schooling can be used to disorient predators and make the group of fish seem more threatening than it actually is.
The scuba diver seen in the photograph will cherish that moment forever, but anyone with thalassophobia would be having a panic attack. One wrong move and you could find yourself getting bombarded with the bodies of hundreds of fish. If they completely surround you, there’s a good chance you’ll become disoriented and be unable to find your way out. Even worse, you might not be able to find your way to the surface.
8. Certain Sharks Travel In Groups
Hammerhead sharks are one of the goofiest-looking animals in the water, but they’re also one of the most dangerous. Typically, these football-headed sharks lurk in deep water and are considered dangerous to humans although they aren’t typically aggressive. What makes these sharks so dangerous is that they migrate in massive groups, sometimes consisting of 500 sharks. You can only imagine what a school of hammerhead sharks would do to an animal that they’d never seen before.
What makes the hammerhead shark unique as a predator is that it has a 360° view of its surroundings. Essentially, this predator can see what’s above them and below them at the same time. When food is scarce, hammerhead sharks have been known to eat each other to survive. Despite traveling in groups, hammerhead sharks hunt alone.
7. Even The Plants Are Scary
Have you ever been swimming in a lake and felt something tickle your leg? You try to ignore it at first but it happens again — and again. You imagine yourself getting pulled to the depths by a tentacled creature, and so, you race to safety on the shore, only to realize that you’ve fallen victim to a harmless seaweed attack.
It doesn’t take much to get disoriented in a field of seaweed — or worse, trapped within it. It’s happened before, too. Every few years, there’s a report of someone drowning after getting trapped underwater. In 2014, a Canadian teenager became trapped underwater and drowned. What truly traumatized me about this seemingly harmless plant is the underwater competition in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I could barely sit through the scene in that movie because I was feeling so anxious. And look at this photo. What would you do if you were in the water and saw that wave coming at you?
6. Eerily Beautiful
Civilizations have been using boats to travel for thousands of years. The progression of sailing and boats, in general, is one of the most fascinating aspects of technology and history that are often overlooked. People were able to travel thousands of miles without getting lost by mapping out their route by using the stars. Most ships arrived at their destinations without issue, but other boats ended up on the ocean floor. It’s been estimated that over 3 million shipwrecks, some thousands of years old, are sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Most of these shipwrecks are destined to rust away on the bottom of the ocean because of how expensive and borderline impossible it would be to raise a sunken ship. More recently sunken ships can be retrieved, but a boat as massive as the Titanic will never be rescued. There’s just something a little eerie about seeing a sunken ship in the water. It makes you think about the people on the ship who were sailing it when they sunk. Did they get off the boat safely? Or were they trapped beneath the deck and drowned?
5. The Great Blue Hole
No, this isn’t fake. What you’re looking at is the Great Blue Hole, a submarine sinkhole that was formed sometime in the last 153,000 years. It’s listed as one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the entire world, but would you want to swim into the great abyss? The hole is surrounded by a beautiful reef. Explore that instead. Even though the Great Blue Hole is only 125 meters (410 ft) deep, it’s still an example of the terrifying landscape that sits within the ocean.
Blue holes similar to this one are found all over the world. There’s one in the South China Sea, named the “Dragon Hole,” which is 300.89 (987 feet) deep. People love to scuba dive in these holes, but tour guides warn that due to how dark these dives are, they’re a danger to anyone who hasn’t completed more than a dozen dives. What’s even scarier is that massive canyons exist on the bottom of the ocean. They aren’t technically blue holes, but they’re still enough to keep me away from the ocean.
4. Giant Manta Ray
The giant manta ray is the largest known ray in the world. You’ll only find it in tropical waters, but it’s been known to drift into colder territory. Massive rays are around 4 to 5 meters in length and, as a result, have few natural predators. Only large sharks, dolphins, and killer whales, are able to eat the giant manta ray. For most predators in the ocean, the giant manta ray is much too fast to hunt. The rays manage to escape some shark attacks as well. Scientists have reported that a majority of giant manta rays seen in the wild have scars from at least one attack. These guys are tough — and they have the battle marks to prove it.
Now, I’m not entirely sure what this swimmer was thinking, but how could she get so close to a creature so massive? One swift whack from the giant manta ray would knock her completely unconscious. If the ray felt threatened, it could’ve done something unpredictable. While it has a stinger like a stingray, the manta ray is unable to use its stinger. That makes it a little less scary, but still. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
The lion’s mane jellyfish is the largest known species of jellyfish and can be found in Arctic waters, as well as the northern Atlantic and northern Pacific Oceans. The largest lion’s mane jellyfish ever found washed up on a shore in Massachusetts in 1870 and had a top with 2.3 meters (7 ft, 6 inches) and tentacles 37 meters (121.4 ft) long. The above picture is not photoshopped — the lion’s mane jellyfish is really just that big.
Making the lion’s mane jellyfish a little more terrifying, it uses its tentacles to capture, sting, and pull in prey to eat. This includes fish, sea creatures, and even small jellyfish. Equipped with 70 to 150 tentacles, the lion’s mane jellyfish is one of the most terrifying sea monsters the ocean has to offer. In 2010, 150 people in New Hampshire were reported to been having stung by the remains of a lion’s mane jellyfish that had broken into pieces. Experts believe that due to the size of the lion’s mane jellyfish, all of the people were stung by pieces of the same jellyfish!
2. The Waves Are Unpredictable
Laying on the beach and listening to the waves hit the shore is one of my favorite things to do, even if I find it a little creepy. When we think of waves, we usually only think of the ones used by surfers or the ones that hit the shore. We never consider that waves are unpredictable and can destroy boats, docks, and even coastal cities. The destruction is sudden, and there’s little you can do to protect yourself.
There are a number of massive waves that have been recorded over the past century. In 1958, an earthquake, following a landslide, created the tallest tsunami ever documented. The wave was 100 feet high when it collided with Lituya Bay, Alaska. Thankfully, there were few cities or towns nearby, so the destruction was minimal. But we’ve all seen what happens when massive waves hit populated areas. Imagine what would happen if a wave that size hits New York City.
1. Sharks Are Always Hungry
A common misconception is that sharks are ferocious animals that love the taste of human flesh. This misconception can be attributed to sharks being one of the ocean’s best predators and a little film called Jaws. The movie made sharks look like bloodthirsty killers despite the fact that sharks pose little threat to humans in the water. As many surfers will tell you, sharks will only attack you if you mess up or if it feels threatened. Usually, a shark will take a bite at someone and immediately swim away because it doesn’t like the way we taste.
If you’re not convinced, there are only 19 shark attacks each year in the United States, and there is, on average, one fatal shark attack every two years. In the coastal United States, lightning strikes kill more than 37 people every year. We should be more afraid of lightning than we are of sharks. And sharks should be more afraid of us than we are of them. Each year, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. Some experts believe that number could be as high as 273 million. Nonetheless, I’d still panic if I saw a shark swimming up to my kayak.
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