Despite the advances in deep-sea technology, just 5 per cent of the world’s oceans have been explored. Over the years, we have learned of such things as the depth of the Mariana Trench (35,000 feet below sea level) and the existence of the Blob Fish (1926), and in 2004, Japanese researchers took photographs of a massive squid that was 60-feet long.
These “firsts” excited us, but in fact, are only a fraction of what we know that lies beneath the surface of the oceans. In fact, it is the vast unknown that draws us to the oceans and inspires us to create myths and legends.
The Victorians loved mystery and horror, and it was in the writings of their fictional novelists that many of our ocean myths were born. The classic story Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, written by French novelist Jules Verne in 1870, was one such inspiration.
But ocean stories were not solely the domain of the artificer. Many newspaper editors over the years have begun investigations of real-life, ocean-borne mysteries, especially around such cases as the Mary Celeste.
The Atlantic Ocean was the first sea to be crossed by boat and now hosts several busy shipping channels. But, in its roughest state, the ocean can make ships disappear. Its size is also phenomenal and not be reckoned with — it’s 6.5 times bigger than the United States and covers 1/5 of the world’s surface.
Because of its reputation, the Atlantic abounds with myths and folk lore, but here are 15 Real-Life Ocean Oddities That Still Remain A Mystery Today.
15. The Sargasso Sea And Man-Eating Seaweed
Thanks to the vivid imagination of a 19th century writer, the Sargasso Sea is said to be the place where giant carnivorous seaweed eats sailors and their ships. It is unlikely that carnivorous seaweed exists, but even so, there are good reasons for mariners to avoid the area. The Sargasso is a region in the middle of the Atlantic that has thrived on the heat and chemical flows of strong opposing ocean currents.
It is several degrees warmer than the surrounding ocean and consequently, a number of large species of seaweed grow beneath the surface. Here too have there been a glut of ships reappearing on the western edge without their crews. In 1840, the French ship Rosalie was found with its sails set but nobody on board. Whether the seaweed is responsible for these widespread disappearances is uncertain, but stories of ships getting into trouble in the Sargasso are being told even to this day.
14. Apollo 11
While not necessarily “unexplained,” our next story, nevertheless, is a mystery that has plagued some NASA specialists since 1969. In July of that year, the Apollo 11 module sitting on top of a Saturn V rocket was jettisoned from Kennedy Space Center into outer space; its occupants were soon to become the first men to walk on the moon. Travelling at 7 miles per second, it would take Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins three days to reach the lunar orbit.
Seven hours after lift-off, Saturn V detached from the lunar module and dropped back to Earth, although no one was certain about where it landed. It wasn’t until 2013 that the rocket’s engines were found by an oceanic expedition. During a painstaking salvage operation, the engines were recovered and are scheduled to be displayed at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.
13. The Nazi Silver
Allegedly carrying tons of silver stolen from the Nazis during the Second World War, the SS Gairsoppa was in a small convoy of ships that begun the perilous journey from West Africa to Great Britain in 1941. The route would eventually follow the coastlines of Spain and France, even though ships that made this passage were regularly targeted by the Luftwaffe and German U-boats.
The 61 tons of silver on board made the SS Gairsoppa slower than the others in her line, causing her to separate from the rest while travelling through heavy seas. Running low on fuel, she was forced to head for the south-western tip of Ireland, but before her crew could steer the vessel to the shelter of the base, she was torpedoed by a U-boat. Only the second officer, R. H. Ayres, survived the explosion. In 2012, an expedition was planned to salvage the silver.
12. A South Atlantic Anomaly
Off the eastern coast of Brazil lies the South Atlantic Anomaly. The phenomenon is not found in the ocean, but rather in the atmosphere above it and is said by some to be the Bermuda Triangle of space. The area of the atmosphere in question is intensely radiated and highly charged. These are the effects of the nearness of the Van Allen Belt: a collection of charged particles, concentrated in one place by the Earth’s magnetic field. The strength of the Belt is determined by levels of solar radiation.
Astronauts are forbidden to perform EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activities) over the area, and airplane pilots that have traversed the Anomaly have reported serious electronic malfunctions, which seem to disappear once they are clear of the Anomaly. While the Van Allen Belt is usually too high to interfere with normal operations, it is nearest to the Earth in this area.
11. The Mary Celeste
Travelling from New York City to a port in Europe, the wine clipper Mary Celeste was captained by Benjamin Briggs. He, his family, and his crew began their voyage in November of 1872. After being tussled by storms for the length of the crossing, Captain Briggs and his people were relieved to be moored near the Azores coastline. After the crew had rested, the captain planned to leave the Azores for their final destination of Genoa, Italy.
But about a week later, the ship was found drifting unanchored hundreds of miles east from where she had been moored. Captain David Morehouse, who had one week previously dined with Briggs and his family, reached the vessel and clambered on board with a group of men. They found no trace of Briggs, his family, or crew. A dinner, which appeared to have been recently cooked, remained on the table uneaten.
10. The S.S. Muskogee
The S.S. Muskogee, a merchant ship pressed into delivering oil to war-torn Britain during the Second World War, left its stateside port in February of 1942. The captain of the ship, William Betts, bid his wife farewell and began the treacherous Atlantic crossing. A few weeks later, Mrs. Betts received a telegram informing her that the S.S. Muskogee had been lost at sea and that her husband and his crew were most likely dead.
Captain Betts’s son George would soon become a merchant seaman himself, and was forever haunted by the mystery of his father’s death. By chance, he befriended another seaman some years later who, during the war, had a keen interest in the Nazi offensives of the Atlantic. He showed George some pictures taken through the periscope of a German submarine which had just torpedoed a merchant vessel. The destroyed ship was none other than the Muskogee.
9. US Navy Flight 19
A US Navy training mission called Flight 19 left its air base in Florida on December 5, 1945, and never returned. The fleet, which consisted of five Navy Avenger planes and several support aircraft, had taken part in intensive training earlier in the day without any trouble. But, as they headed back to base and were nearing Fort Lauderdale, pilots reported being disorientated and they noted that the instruments of their planes were going haywire.
After several minutes, flight controllers lost all contact with the pilots and could not understand how 27 navy airmen could disappear from the face of the earth. The coastguard and the navy searched for the men for five days, yet in the end, found no wreckage or bodies. The navy’s summation of the accident was lacklustre, and the investigation left questions unanswered. The final official report is troublingly inconclusive.
8. The Carroll A. Deering
The five-mast schooner named the Carroll A. Deering was found empty and abandoned on a North Carolina beach in January 1921. The ship’s captain William H. Merritt had been tasked with the transport of coal from Rio de Janeiro to Virginia. Prior to his departure from Rio, the captain and his first mate, who was also his son, fell out publicly, which led to an awkward homeward-bound journey.
At some point during their return through the Bermuda Triangle, a call was made from the ship by unknown persons explaining that the schooner had lost its anchors and would need assistance on reaching port. To this day, no-one knows who made that call. What is clear, though, is that somewhere between Brazil and Virginia, the crew of the Carroll A. Deering vanished into thin air.
7. The Titanic
Perhaps one of the most famous shipwrecks in the Atlantic Ocean is that of the Titanic. On May 1, 1912, the massive liner sank with the loss of 1,503 people. It has recently been suggested that the cause of her sinking was due to an onboard fire which had gone unnoticed for three weeks. The fire gradually weakened the hull until its hardness had been compromised. When the ship struck the famous iceberg, the metal of the hull was so brittle, it caved in immediately.
Prior to 1912, there were several fictional stories written that seemed to foreshadow the disaster. These included a book by Morgan Robertson called the Wreck of the Titan written in 1898. The story is about a large liner with an insufficient number of lifeboats that hits an iceberg and sinks with all souls on board lost. There was also a book serialized in a German newspaper which recounts the tale of a liner similarly fated.
6. The Fortunate Isles
In a similar vein to the myth of Atlantis, the Fortunate Isles held a legendary status among ancient Greeks. But, there was something even more special about the population of this island — it consisted of gods, heroes, and immortals. The Fortunate Isles — their name suggests — were reserved for those who had previously chosen to be reincarnated and had now lived three whole lives. Having done so, such people were deemed especially pure and holy and were thus welcomed into the Elysian.
It is speculated that the Fortunate Isles lie somewhere off the coast of the Canary Islands; an archipelago and sovereign region of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean around 60 miles west of Morocco. It was to the Fortunate Isles that the chosen few would travel in order to live in what was essentially heaven on Earth. Some researchers believe that Macaronesia is a probable location of the Fortunate Isles.
5. The Locomotive Cemetery
A collection of old locomotives was discovered off the Atlantic coast of New Jersey in 1985. It was debatable how the trains ended up on the seabed. Some divers thought they may have been dumped there or perhaps they fell from a ship. Regardless of the causes, Dan Lieb and his fellow explorers were shocked when they spotted the two rare steam engines 90-feet deep. Although they were chewed up by various sea creatures, they were surprisingly in good condition, Lieb said.
The engines date from 1850 and are believed to be of a similar build to the Planet Class 2-2-2 T models, which was outmoded even before it was put to use. Steam engines of the time, according to the Mail Online in 2013, were being made much heavier and more powerful than the ones Lieb found, which may explain why they were dumped.
4. The RMS Republic
In 1909, the steam-powered ocean liner RMS Republic was allegedly tasked with transporting gold and currency on loan from the United States to the Imperial Russian Government. Heavy fog on the day she left New York City harbor made navigation difficult, and shortly after departure, she collided with the incoming SS Florida. The Florida hit the Republic broadside killing two passengers who were asleep in their cabin.
The use of a new Marconi radio device to call for help thankfully saved the lives of the other passengers, but the Republic and her cargo sank without a trace. In 1981, an exploration ship found her, but the depth of the intended salvage was too great for the divers. More recently, though, an explorer called Martin Bayerle teamed up with his son to try to retrieve the ship’s cargo, which today is valued at around $1 billion. The search continues.
3. The Underwater Waterfall
Just south of the equator, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is a stunning waterfall. Located between Africa and South America, the waterfall, which is around 100 meters high, flows from the top of an underwater canyon toward the seabed. The waterfall is caused by temperature differentials at the top and bottom of the canyon. Another similar phenomenon is seen in a canyon between Iceland and Greenland called the Denmark Strait cataract.
It is thought that the flow of the Denmark Strait cataract exceeds 5 million cubic meters per second. Such a torrent of underwater water makes it 350 times more powerful than any waterfall on Earth and 4,200 times more voluminous than Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River in southern Africa. With so little known about our oceans, the cataract may itself be exceeded by even greater deep-sea waterfalls we have yet to find.
2. The Bermuda Triangle
Upon the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean there lies a theoretical triangle of general interest. Its points are found on Bermuda, the Florida Keys, and the island of Puerto Rico. Within this triangle, countless planes and ships have either disappeared or been put out of action by significant, yet unseen, electrical disturbances.
The first reported incident in the Bermuda Triangle is from 1881 and concerns the ship Ellen Austin whose crew spotted a derelict ship off the coast of Bermuda. Sending a group of men aboard the ship, the Ellen Austin’s captain planned to sail both to port. However, they both somehow disappeared between Bermuda and Florida.
Since then, several other boats and planes — and their personnel have gone missing. The USS Cyclops was a particularly notable victim of the Bermuda Triangle’s lure, as was a British South American Airways Star Tiger and a passenger plane flying to Miami in 1948.
1. The Lost City Of Atlantis
The City of Atlantis was first written about by the Greek philosopher Plato in 420 BC. The city was meant to have been immensely well-fortified and possessing a strong naval force which fought the Europeans for supremacy of the Atlantic Ocean. Incredibly, Plato wrote about Atlantis 9,000 years after it was meant to have descended into the sea. How Plato knew of such a place, especially since he lived in Greece, is quite the puzzler.
The myth of Atlantis has attracted new interest in recent years, and improved underwater technology has tempted some explorers to seek the truth of its existence. Its supposed location in the middle of the Atlantic — somewhere between the Americas and Africa — continues to draw optimistic divers to various grid coordinates in the hope of a monumental discovery and possibly treasure.
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