70% of the world’s surface is covered by water. The depths of our oceans are vastly unexplored, and we know very little about the mysteries lurking below. Here are 8 of history’s creepiest ocean facts and discoveries.
Number 8: The Basking Shark After the whale shark, the basking shark also known as Cetorhinus Maximus is the world’s second largest species of fish. The largest known specimen was measured at approximately 40 feet and weighed almost 20 tons. One of the basking shark’s most distinguishable features is its massive cavernous jaws which are more than 3 feet wide. It is a passive feeder that uses its enlarged mouth to filter zooplankton, invertebrates or small fish. When they feed, basking sharks swim at or near the water’s surface with their large mouths open, filtering their food from almost 2000 tons of water per hour. The food is caught by their gill rakers. They are located in temperate oceans and the fact that they feed close to surface makes them look like they are basking in the warm water and that is where their name comes from. Despite their imposing size and frightening appearance, they are not aggressive fish and are considered to be harmless to humans.
Number 7: Barbeled Dragonfish The Barbeled Dragonfish is the best known species of Deep-sea dragonfish, and it belongs to the Strombidae family. It lives in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean where light does not reach and plant life is absent. The Barbeled Dragonfish produce light through organs called photophores and their skeletons are adapted to life in the deep ocean. They usually live at depths of 4.920 to 13.000 feet but some have been found at 16.500 feet. Barbeled Dragonfish live in the Bathyal zone in complete darkness in a completely still environment that is unaffected by storms or ocean currents. Unlike most deep sea fish which can only produce blue light, the deep-sea dragonfish can also produce red light from a suborbital photophore and it has two different visual pigments. The light producing organs are placed along the body, on the pectoral fins and on the barbell, which is an extension of their lower jaw. Their bodies do not have scales and they have two sets of jaws with large recurved teeth. Except for the parts that are used for feeding their skeletons are minimal in order for them to deal with the high pressures of their deep-sea environment.
Their heads have increased flexibility allowing them to eat larger prey. They are carnivorous, predatory fish that use the light they produce to attract deep sea invertebrates or marine fish which they then snap up in their jaws.
Number 6: White Shark Café In an area located halfway between the Hawaii Islands and the Guadalupe Islands, male, female and juvenile white sharks gather during spring and winter. The reason for this behavior is still unknown. The area has a radius of around 160 miles and in 2002 researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute gave it the unofficial name of White Shark Café. The researchers had tracked the sharks to the area using satellite tracking tags. They had initially believed that the sharks travelled there for mating purposes. However, continuous study of the area revealed that juvenile sharks also travelled there and thus the true reason for this migration pattern remained unclear especially given the fact that great whites are coastal sharks. They took around one hundred days to arrive to the mid-Pacific area and as they were travelling, the sharks would make periodic dives to depths of 3000 feet.
While loitering at the White Shark Café, they dove to depths of around 1000 feet even as often as once every ten minutes. No one knows what’s purpose the dives, whether they took place in the area or throughout the trip, held. Moreover, when it comes to food sources, the White Shark Café is the equivalent of a dessert. This also eliminates feeding purposes as being the reason behind the gathering. Despite the fact that food is scarce, many of the sharks linger in the area for months before returning to coastal areas.
Number 5: Heracleion Approximately 1.500 years ago the Ancient Egyptian city of Thonis, which the Greeks later named Heracleion, was engulfed by the Mediterranean Sea. It was once a prosperous port, according to 5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus, which had been visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her Trojan lover. The legend says that the mythical hero Heracles, also known as Hercules, had once passed through the city as well.
In his honor the Greeks renamed the city Heracleion. The city represents one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 21st century. In 2001 a team lead by Frank Goddio, a French marine archaeologist, found the relics of the lost city under the waters of Aboukir Bay, approximately 20 miles north-east of Alexandria. Goddio’s team found numerous artifacts which indicated how thriving Heracleion had once been. Among the most impressive finds were three massive statues of the Egyptian god Hapi, an unidentified Egyptian pharaoh and the goddess Isis. The statues measured 16 feet in height and were in perfect condition. Hundreds of smaller statues representing Egyptian gods were also found, including the ones guarding the temple of Amun-Gereb, where Cleopatra was crowned Queen of the Nile.
Many mummified animal remains were also found in sarcophagi and they are believed to have been sacrifices to Amun-Gereb. The discovery of over 64 ships and 700 anchors reflect the importance that Heracleion had as a port while its economical significance was underlined by the unearthing of gold and lead coins. Pillars inscribed with hieroglyphs were also found and they were in immaculate condition. Translating the inscriptions may offer an insight into the political and religious lives of Ancient Egyptians. The fact that such a large city was discovered as late as 2001, serves as a reminder of how vast and unexplored the ocean truly is.
Number 4: The Vast and Dark Unknown According to National Geographic “There are more artifacts from human history at the bottom of the ocean than there are in all the museums on the planet combined.” The ocean has an average depth of around 12.400 feet. Since light can only penetrate approximately 330 feet, most of the ocean’s secrets are shrouded in darkness.
So far only around five per cent of the ocean has been explored. There are around 1 million species of animals and plants that have been found so far, but scientists believe that there are as many as 9 million species still to be identified. New types of flora and fauna are constantly being discovered. The deepest part of the ocean is the Mariana Trench measuring an approximate length of 1.580 miles and an average width of 43 miles. It reaches a maximum known depth of approximately 36.070 feet in a point called Challenger Deep. It is so deep that if Mount Everest were to be dropped into it, the peak would still be more than a mile underwater. There have been theories regarding the possible existence of giant marine creatures some even dating back to prehistoric times. This becomes rather plausible especially when considering the fact that only one per cent of the ocean’s floor has been seen by the human eye.
Number 3: Abyssal Gigantism The largest known colossal squid specimen was discovered on the 22nd of February 2007. It weighed over one thousand pounds and measured a total length of around fifteen feet. Colossal squids also have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, measuring up to eleven inches in diameter. They are different from giant squids because they also have sharp hooks on their limbs instead of only having suckers lined with small teeth. In terms of mass, giant squids are lighter than colossal squids, but they generally surpass them in length with the females of the species measuring up to 43 feet. Many researchers believe that much larger specimens are still out there. This is due to abyssal gigantism or deep-sea gigantism. This is a tendency that invertebrate and other deep-dwelling creatures have of growing larger than those that live closer to the surface. A number of factors are believed to influence abyssal gigantism. These include adapting to the greater pressures, scarcer food supplies or colder temperatures of the deep ocean. Scarcer food supplies would mean that the time for these animals to reach sexual maturity would be delayed, thereby causing them to grow larger in size. Some species continue to grow throughout their entire lives.
Since cold temperatures are believed to result in larger cell size and an increased lifespan, some deep-sea animals have the potential of becoming truly enormous.
Number 2: Red Tide A red tide is associated with the explosion of an algae population called dinoflagellates resulting into what is commonly known as an ‘algal bloom’. Scientists sometimes refer to red tides as HABs or harmful algal blooms due to the fact that they are deadly for certain species of marine wildlife such as birds, fish and even manatees or other larger species. These microscopic algae sometimes reproduce in a cluster thus changing the color of the water in certain oceanic areas. The most common color is a rusty shade of red but it may also range from brown to yellow or pink to orange. Red tides are usually associated with three types of algae.
Karena brevia is common in the Gulf of Mexico, Alexandrium fundyense may be found from New England to Canada on the Atlantic coastline and Alexandrium catenella is present throughout the Pacific. Certain factors such as a high content of nutrients in the water, low salinity or water surface temperatures that are warmer than they would normally be may contribute to the formation of red tides. The algae contains toxins which are lethal for animals, affecting their nervous and digestive systems. In 2012 a red tide is believed to have caused the death of numerous squids in coastal California and in Florida, in 2013 the same phenomenon resulted in the death of a significant number of manatees. Red tides may also be dangerous for humans. Outside the creepy visual of the water becoming bloody red, the waves can cause the algae toxins to spread into the air, which can cause respiratory problems for the people near the shore.
They are particularly dangerous for people who suffer from emphysema, asthma or from other respiratory conditions. Red tide occurrences are also commonly associated with amnesic shellfish poisoning (or ASP) and parasitic shellfish poisoning (or PSP) outbreaks. This happens because the parasites accumulate inside the shellfish which are later consumed by people. ASP can cause disorientation and dizziness and severe cases of PSP may lead to respiratory paralysis, which can result in death by asphyxiation.
Number 1: Inexplicable Sounds Using a network sound surveillance systems called hydrophones, the USA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has detected a series of sounds, which they cannot fully explain. One of the most famous sounds was captured in 1997 and was nicknamed ‘The Bloop’. It is one of the loudest ocean sounds ever captured. It was heard by multiple sensors over an area of approximately 3100 miles. Dr.
Christopher Fox from the NOAA excluded the possibility that the sound was man-made, such as those produced by bombs or submarines. He did not believe that ‘The Bloop’ was produced by geological events that were familiar such as earthquakes or volcanoes. The audio profile of the sound was consistent with the one made by a living creature. However, it was multiple times larger than that made by a blue whale, which is the loudest recorded animal. This would mean that if indeed the sound had been made by a creature, it would have had to have been several times larger than the blue whale. Even though the true origin of the sound remains unclear, researchers believe that it was produced by a large icequake, produced by the fracturing of a massive iceberg. On the 1st of March 1999, the NOAA recorded another sound, which they named ‘Julia’. It lasted for approximately 15 seconds and it was so loud that it was heard by the entire surveillance system network. The leading theory is that it was produced by a massive iceberg, which had run aground off Antarctica. However, the true origins of these sounds and several others are still a mystery.