Ah, the ocean. Vast, loving, home of all life on the planet we call home. Each wave calming and terrifying, the power of the ocean is not to be underestimated. It’s a truly alien environment, and one we may never fully understand. After all, we know more about the surface of the moon than the abyssal depths of the sea, and the moon is technically easier to reach.
Strong currents and crushing pressures have so far stymied our attempts at exploring its depth, leaving entire ecosystems and species undiscovered and unknown, as well as losing much of our own heritage to its anger. Sometimes it gives them back. A tsunami might reveal a long-lost temple, or a deep sea trawler might haul up something that would put the toughest fisherman off fish for life. When it does give us a clue to what lurks in the darkness, all too often, it’s frustratingly vague, hinting at totally alien life that has survived since before the dinosaurs and could quite easily squash you like a bug.
And sometimes, we find lost cities, temples, civilisations, frustrating hints at what came before it was washed away in a flood or when some ancient priest angered the wrong god. So much of our own past is a mystery, and we are constantly finding relics and clues as to what came before.
It’s a deep, dark world, full of beautiful and terrible things that could reduce a grown man to tears. Whether they be tears of joy or terror depends on what you find.
16 Diving Bell Spider
Spiders. Bane of women, small children and newspaper publishers alike, they spin their webs of horror to ensnare their prey and the occasional idiot blundering around blindly. They have colonised the Earth, and continue to merely tolerate our continued existence. At least we can take comfort in the fact that they can’t survive underwater yet.
Meet the Diving Bell Spider, the first in a new line of spider super-soldiers. They build webs that specifically trap a days supply of air, which they only leave to hunt and restock on oxygen. As a result of living underwater, they’re bigger and stronger, with longer legs to dive deeper, probably to better storm Karl Stromberg’s underwater base.
15 The Bloop
Well, at least we know what spiders are and can plan accordingly. Stock up on glasses, pieces of paper, feather dusters, we know what they’re capable of.
Enter The Bloop. The unexplained, extremely powerful sound of something underwater going “bloop.” Terrifying, no? Bloop!
The sound detected was many times louder than the blue whale, the largest-known animal in the ocean, detected by sensors almost 3000 miles apart. That’s loud.
Officially, it was caused by an icequake, or a large iceberg scraping the ocean floor, probably somewhere between the Bransfield Straits and the Ross Sea. That’s the official story, at least.
14 Kiwa, God of Shellfish
Also known as the “yeti lobster,” Kiwa hirsuta is a crab with fluffy pincers. It’s probably blind, lives on hydrothermal vents and is absolutely adorable until it’s fluffy wufflers rip your nose off to lay its eggs inside your headmeat.
Although it’s described as a lobster, it’s closer related to crabs. Another member of the family was discovered in 2011, named kiwa puravida, which actively feeds it’s symbiotic bacteria by exposing them more to the hydrothermal vents to give them food and oxygen. It’s unique in this behaviour. Another family member was discovered only this year, the Hoff Crab, the only one we’ve found so far outside of the Pacific.
13 Vampire Squid
The vampire squid can survive at depths of more than 3000 feet, which is where the ocean hits the OMZ (the oxygen minimum zone). Few animals can survive at such depths, and the vampire squid can survive quite comfortably at such depths. Their blue blood carries oxygen better than other cephalopods, and rather than ink, it shoots “a sticky cloud of bio-luminescent mucus containing innumerable orbs of blue light.” More Twilight than Dracula, true, but sufficiently theatrical to keep even the most brooding of billionaires happy.
It pre-dates the dinosaurs and hasn’t really evolved since. It hasn’t needed to.
12 The Largest Waterfall on Earth
The Denmark Strait Cataract sits between Greenland and Iceland. It is an underwater waterfall that utterly dwarfs every waterfall on the surface.
The way it work is as follows. Cold water is denser than hot water, so it sinks. When cold-water basins pour into slightly warmer ones, the cold water goes down. All the way down.
At the Denmark Strait Cataract, Arctic water hits the warmer Irminger Sea, where it sinks almost 11,500 feet, three times the height of Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall on the surface, and it carries an estimated 175 million cubic feet of water per second, or 2000 Niagara Falls at their peak flow.
Due to the enormous pressures faced by fish and deep-sea dwellers, their bodies have adapted in certain ways. Once they are removed from their familiar territory, their bodies could have unusual and disturbing reactions.
Hence the Blobfish. They mostly hang out in the abyssal zone, 4-6,000 meters below sea level, around Australia. We don’t know a lot about how it works, since its idea of a comfortable environment would crush a human to the size of a doll, but it’s thought to be an ambush predator. It’s so ridiculous nothing takes it seriously until biff bam!
10 Dumbo Octopus
Everybody loves Dumbo. That silly, floppy elephant with his horrifying mutation that would either get him killed at birth or turned into some kind of stud elephant to breed a race of flying elephants. We’ve seen him fly, now we get to see him swim!
The Dumbo Octopus is a group of octopi that live 3-4,000 meters below the ocean, the deepest of any (known) octopus. The largest recorded was almost 6 feet in length. They come in a variety of colors and ear sizes. It’s an umbrella octopus, and has been found off the coast of Oregon, New Zealand and New Guinea. We still don’t know a lot about them, since they live so deep in the ocean.
9 Tsunami Temples
Long ago, a king refused to worship the great god Vishnu, and was struck down for his arrogance. His children built temples to honour Vishnu and soothe his wrath. As time passed, the temples were lost, becoming myth and legend. One researcher declared empathically that they are: “irrational and cannot be accounted for.”
When the tsunami of December 2004 struck, the lost temples were uncovered, 500 metres out to sea. Research indicates that they were buried by a previous tsunami sometime in the 13th century. So, we have legendary temples, wrathful gods and two natural disasters all tied together in one handy package. Where’s Indiana Jones when you need him?
8 The Baltic Anomaly
300 feet beneath the Baltic Sea, in the deepest darkness, a strange formation was discovered by Peter Lindberg, Dennis Asberg and their Swedish "Ocean X" team. It’s 200 feet in diameter, and about 13-ft thick, lies at the end of what looks like a runway, and includes a staircase for easy access.
Nobody seems to know what it is, with everything from aliens to a gun turret to even a school of fish. Long story short, very smart people are arguing about something that looks like the Millennium Falcon at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College and his colleague Brian Abbott were exploring Lake Michigan looking for old shipwrecks. While combing Grand Traverse Bay they found unique rock formations resembling Stonehenge, and rocks with strange engravings, including one that appears to be a Mastodon.
It’s been roughly dated at 10,000 years old – coinciding with the post-Ice Age presence of humans and mastodons in the Midwest United States. Stone circles and similar sites are fairly common in the area.
A 10,000-year-old temple, washed away in a great flood. It’s like the start of a Lovecraft story.
6 Gulf of Khambhat Cultural Complex
In India, we have the Gulf of Khambhat Cultural Complex, a huge submerged city off the western coast, 120 feet below the sea level. It was discovered accidentally in 2001 by Indian oceanographers who found enormous structures with sonar. Marine archaeologists found sculptures, pottery, construction material, sections of walls, and human remains, which were found to be about 9,500 years old, roughly contemporary with the Lake Michigan complex and the end of the last Ice Age,when the melting of the ice caps raised sea levels and probably submerged this ancient city in the Gulf of Cambay. It predates the earliest known cities in Mesopotamia by about 5,000 years.
Again, there’s a lot of arguments over the veracity of these claims, but come on - 10,000-year-old city lost beneath the waves!
5 Christmas Tree Worms
Spirobranchus giganteus, commonly known as Christmas tree worms, are tube-building polychaete worms belonging to the family Serpulidae. That’s science talk for sea worms that have two relatively massive crowns that look like Christmas trees.
They live almost entirely in tropical oceans, especially the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, where they mostly hang out in coral reefs, boring into the head of live coral and filter feed by using their brightly coloured tentacles to attract prey. They’re pretty common and aren’t considered to be in danger, and are a common sight in coral aquariums.
Not everything has to be terrifying to be cool.
4 Jurassic Microbes
Getting buried 86 million years ago without food or oxygen would be enough to kill most living things. A community of microbes found beneath the Pacific Ocean floor did it. E. Coli divides and reproduces once every 17 minutes. These do it once every thousand years. They evolved to survive in one of the harshest environments known to man, without food and barely any oxygen, and were successful in doing so. These microbes outlasted the dinosaurs, the fall of Rome, and David Hasselhoff.
The study of these microbes is raising really interesting questions about alien life and our own knowledge of microbial life.
3 An Ocean
More than 400 miles beneath Earth's crust, an ocean's worth of water is locked up in a blue mineral called ringwoodite in the transition zone between Earth's surface and core. Interestingly, this water is in a form we don’t fully understand- it's neither liquid, ice nor vapor. The amount of ringwoodite is estimated at one to three times the equivalent of the Earth’s oceans.
Ringwoodite’s crystal-like structure acts like a sponge, drawing in hydrogen and trapping water. The only terrestrial sample was found in a Brazilian gemstone, blasted to the surface by a diatreme eruption. It’s believed that this explains why the Earth’s oceans have stayed roughly the same size.
2 The 52 Hertz Whale
Imagine being alone in the world. Imagine being the only member of your species ever discovered. Imagine wandering the dark and cold depths of the ocean, forever seeking the rest of your family, your friends, and never, ever finding them. Imagine growing older and older, but still searching.
Imagine being the 52 hertz whale. It is the only whale of its species ever recorded, and is speculated to be a hybrid of a blue whale and another whale species, or even a unique mutation. It may even be deaf, which could be why it hasn’t found another of its species. It just can’t hear them.
It appears in the Pacific Ocean in the fall and moves out of range just before spring. It’s travelled as far North as the Kodiak Islands off Alaska and as far south as the California coast. It has never met another of it’s species.
Billed as Japan’s Atlantis, Yonaguni is an underwater complex discovered in the 80’s by local divers. Best known for its pyramid structures, Professor Masaaki Kimura believes it to have been built by an advanced prehistoric civilisation, while others believe it to be a natural phenomenon.
The Japanese government has not carried out preservation details or research on the site, leaving any such research up to internet weirdos who believe it was built by aliens (again).
The flat faces, sharp edges and right angles do seem to indicate some kind of intelligent design, and it’s estimated to be about 10,000 years old. What the hell happened 10,000 years ago that flooded so many monuments and sites? Sure, you could say the ice age, or you could listen to random internet wackos and accept that we are all doomed when the Bloop wakes up.