The surface of our planet is 71% covered by oceans that account for 97% of the water in the world, yet a vast majority of them remain a mystery. It’s easy to let your mind wander as to what else might be beneath the seas.
Underwater mysteries are not new but can be absolutely enthralling. Beneath the ocean there are many things we can’t even begin to imagine.
For your viewing pleasure, we compiled a list of personal accounts from some of the most shocking and amazing occurrences to ever take place on the water.
42. Dolphins Leaving Bioluminescent Trails
We were sailing on a 134′ double-masted steel brigantine through an area of high biological productivity in the north Atlantic one night. My shipmate was on bow watch; I was on the quarter-deck assisting the mate with whatever needed to be done. I suddenly heard my shipmate yelling my name and saying I needed to come up to the bow as quickly as I could. When I got up there, I saw seven or eight bottlenose dolphins swimming through the bioluminescent water right under the bow of our boat. Every inch of them glowed green. It was like something out of a dream. They looked like glow in the dark torpedoes. When we looked out across the horizon, we saw green spots everywhere. There must have been close to 30 dolphins swimming around. We got almost the entire crew out of bed to come watch. That’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
41. A Ritual That Actually Summoned Fish
My buddy that grew up in Hawaii has a ton of crazy tales of the sea. He told me one about this old man that survived from bringing in fish from the sea. My friend went out on the boat with him and he watched the old man do some sort of ritual of hitting the boat and the water. He said he saw bubbles starting to rise to the surface and an old barracuda came up, along with many smaller fish. The man collected the smaller fish, thanked the barracuda, and it returned to the depths. He did this every day and sold the fish as a way of living.
40. Nature Is Happy To Show Off
I was out on Lake Michigan early on in the summer. It was a really warm day but the water was really cold still. Much like a hot day on Tarmac this created mirages. The only difference was that the mirages were inverted since the air was much warmer than the water. So if you looked at a boat in the distance or the Chicago skyline across the lake you would see a mirror image of the object in the air above the actual object. It also made the sand dunes in the distance look like a sheer cliff that was painted in watercolor. It was really trippy.
39. Their Eyes Weren’t Playing Tricks On Them
I was sailing in the Caribbean for five weeks a few years ago when I was 16, somewhere between Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago. It was nighttime, and I was on watch with a fellow kid and our head instructor.
We’re sailing along, looking at the stars and talking about stuff, when all of a sudden a very bright light appears in the sky. In the blink of an eye, it had lit up everything we could see for miles around as though there had been a full moon (there was no moon).
We couldn’t discern anything about the shape of the source of light; it was just a bright dot flying across the sky. Our best guesses were that it was a satellite or meteor, but I’ve never known either of those things to be that bright. I also saw it again one or two nights later, but neither of those people was on watch with me.
38. What He Found At Sea Changed His Life
I worked at a boat rental rock during my late teens. I was sailing around my local harbor for a quick little lap after work. I got out to the middle of the bay and saw something struggling in the water. I sail closer and take a pass—it was a puppy. I tack back to do another pass and I get close enough to grab it by the scruff of its neck. I took it home; it was the best dog my parents have ever had.
37. You, Too, Can Find A Message In A Bottle
I was maybe eight or nine. We were boating around the San Juan Islands and my sister saw something glinting in the ocean. My dad pulled the boat up next to it, and pulled a freaking letter in a bottle out of the water. It said basically to go to these coordinates (on a nearby island) and get his “treasure”. We went there and found a chest under a log.
36. Eerie Darkness And Complete Quiet Showing No Signs Of Life
Navy sailor here. Two deployments to the gulf. My ship found two “ghost ships”—one was drifting with no power in the Indian Ocean. No response on bridge-to-bridge and no visible signs of life or electricity. The other was stuck on an outcrop of rocks off the coast of Oman. Completely abandoned. Wound up using it as target practice for an F-18 to clear a structural hazard to the waterway.
35. A Manatees In Disguise
I was canoeing on the coast of Florida and my wife said, “Let’s paddle up to that log.” We did. Right before we reached it the log snorted heavily and swam away. It freaked me out. My wife laughed because she knew it was a manatee and knew what would happen. She grew up in Florida.
34. He Wasn’t Trying To Surprise You…
I almost hit a sea turtle the size of a mattress off the coast of Washington. It suddenly appeared and I threw the engine in reverse and swerved hard to port throwing passengers off their seats. I looked out the starboard window as I went by and saw two eyes staring at me on a head the size of a basketball.
33. Hey, Penguins Need Vacations Too
I saw a penguin swimming around in the Gulf of Mexico. A friend invited me fishing offshore when I went to visit him. While out there, he pointed out the funny black and white bird in the distance that that would occasionally dive down. He proclaimed it a penguin. I calmly explained there is zero, zilch, NO way that was a penguin. I explained currents, geography, water temperature, etc. We floated closer to it. It was a penguin. We snapped a few pics of it. Back at home, a trip to Wikipedia told us it was “Spheniscus demersus”. Go figure.
32. Sea Creatures Falling From The Sky
I was on a yacht delivery leg across the Gulf of Mexico heading from the Dry Tortugas to Key West when there was a series of wap, wap, wappapa wap noises above us. We looked up in time to see a bunch of flying fish hitting the sail, just as the first of them started falling and flopping all over the deck.
31. The Water Has A Mood That’s Quieter Than Quiet
The most amazing is the non-sound of wind. When you’re on shore wind rustles through the trees, moves wind chimes, makes birds chirp…etc. Way off shore, none of those sounds exist. It’s very eerie to feel the wind but have it make no noise. Just a force that moves across your skin and then gently leaves without a sound.
30. A Whale’s Hole In One
I was walking along the beach with my girlfriend, when all of the sudden I hear someone scream “Is anyone here a marine biologist?!” Being a marine biologist myself, I ran over to the commotion. What I saw was a beached whale, with a golf ball stuck in its blowhole. I removed the golf ball and me and the beach-goers pushed the whale back into the ocean. The sea was angry that day, my friends.
29. A Sweet Visitor Isn’t Afraid To Say Hello
This isn’t too amazing but it was really cool at the time for me. While in Cape Cod, right off the shore of Nauset beach near East Orleans, about seven years ago, I was on the family boat, a 24-foot Grady white. We were sitting there looking at the seals in the water feeding on some sort of bait fish when we saw one of them split off the pack. Now, keep in mind that we were almost 100 yards away, so we were surprised to see that this seal was headed in our direction; he must have been very interested. It didn’t take more than 30 seconds for this guy to come right up to the side of the boat we were on, and, I kid you not, it just treaded water and looked at us for about five minutes. We were all taking pictures and “talking” to this kind visitor as most people would do, all while he calmly watched us. After we had put down our cameras and sat back down, still watching our new friend, he swam off and went back to his seal buddies to continue feeding. It was truly an amazing experience for me.
28. Sheer Terror Floating By
I was on the Ronald Reagan during the Fukushima disaster (tsunami, subsequent reactor mess) and watched peoples’ entire lives float by in the middle of the ocean. Toys, roofs, houses, entire trees, etc. Everything you could think was washed out to sea and was floating by our ship.
27. Culprit Of Passenger Trauma
When I was a kid we used to get the hovercraft across the English Channel, which I hated, even more so after the particular day of the force-nine gales. I remember waiting to board but being told that it was too rough for the crossing. Then eventually they said they’d do it, and we all got on. But instead of just being the usual 25 minutes, it took much longer because the hovercraft had to go along the English coast first to try and find a safe passage across the channel. I remember quite vividly the usually beautiful white cliffs of Dover careening up and down past the spray-covered porthole windows, feeling very very ill.
26. The Ocean’s Misleading Aura Of Comfort
I got to swim in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I’m a very good swimmer and have never had any fears of the water ever. As soon as I jumped in (the water is very clear when you’re away from the shore line) I couldn’t help but notice how deep and big the ocean is. It was a very unsettling feeling so I got out immediately. I would never do that again.
25. Surrounding Sounds In The Deep
It’s not about what I saw but about what I heard. I was on a 688i second flight class boat for part of my career in the US Navy. We were heading from Hawaii to Japan deep and fast and you tend not to see a whole lot on sonar because of flow noise unless it’s close.
SAWS (Situational awareness systems) reported a transient sound and said it was weird but there was no trace on the screen so it wasn’t a distant source. It was all around us. I switched my station over to broadband so I could see and hear what SAWs was and started listening. Sure enough, I hear it too. It was a sound like crystal bells ringing with no defined source except I had more sensors at my disposal because I could flip through any configuration. The sounds, whatever they were, were deeper than we were and were all around us by the end of it.
I still don’t know what it was but we always called them the deep ones in reference to Cthulhu. It was the type of thing that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up to listen to, though. I was in one of the deadliest hunter-killers, powered by a nuclear reactor, and that kind of sound made you imagine something much bigger out in the depths.
24. Sea Creatures Can’t Hide When They’re Being Hunted
I used to work on an educational tall ship in California. One time we were lucky enough to encounter a pod of orcas. As we followed them they picked up speed and we realized they were after a huge pod of common dolphins. They split, flank the dolphins and all of a sudden we see a dolphin get knocked into the air, followed by a lot of red water.
23. Too Close For Comfort
I was pleasure sailing with a lady off the coast of Australia. A great white burst out of the ocean with a seal in its mouth and fell within six feet of our vessel. We had both been snorkeling earlier that day.
22. Hungry Dolphin Shatters Peaceful Stereotypes
I was pulling in a massive squid on the surface, letting it de-ink, when a huge black shape came out of the water and took it. I initially thought it was a shark as it was brutal, but it was a “nice, gentle” dolphin. If I ever hear another person tell me dolphins are beautiful, or gentle… I’ll point out my great-white type experience with a dolphin.
21. Modern Pirates And Their Shady Behavior
I was sailing with a couple of buddies and we came across this powerboat seemingly stranded. When we went up to it, a ton of people came out on deck with iPhones videoing us and demanding we give them a lift to shore. They were super shady-looking guys and we did not let them on. As we started sailing away, they were shouting and one guy lifted his shirt and showed us his gun. We took off.
20. Live Animals Aren’t Meant For Jousting
I own a jet ski, so I like to consider myself a slight sailor. I was speeding up and down the middle of the lake next to my house, when I hit something underwater and it causes the jet ski to come of off the water a few inches. I come to a stop and turn around to, low and behold, a gator floating upside down in the water next to me. I didn’t stick around to find out if it was dead, because gator, but I like to think I jousted an alligator that day.
19. A Small Boat Won’t Work As A Submarine
I was sailing my Splash Dinghy (11 feet) on the sea for the first time at a regatta in Weymouth (UK) back in 2012. The winds/waves were Force Six. So I was running downwind when all of a sudden the bow of my boat plunged into the water, lifting the entire rear end up out of the water. I managed to recover her and continue off but I’ll never forget the site of all that water rushing over and past the deck and mast. I felt as if my dinghy suddenly became a submarine.
18. Sea Creatures Bring Children’s Books To Life
While serving in the US Navy, in the early 90s, we were in the Adriatic. One morning at about dawn, I saw through my lookout glasses what looked like a pole sticking straight out of the water. We were in the middle of the sea, so I didn’t know what to make of seeing that out there in the mirror-like seas. As the ship approached it, I reported seeing a pole sticking out of the water. As we passed it by, I could see what it was. It was a sunfish, and having never seen one before because my home is as inland as you could get, I was super thrilled because it looked exactly how my illustrated children’s books on sea life described it. The ten-year-old in me rejoiced for having seen one.
17. A High-Powered Nightlight On The Horizon
While on a crossing from the Bahamas to Charleston, South Carolina, I was on watch in the middle of the night and saw a strange bright orange light rising up from the horizon until it flickered out. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but when we got to shore I saw in the newspaper there was a rocket launch in Florida.
16. Perfect Night To See A Synchronistic Phenomenon
I was on an overnight fishing trip and the sky was absolutely clear. I could see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and a sliver of the moon all lined up. The sea was still and black… I almost felt like I was in space. I could also see the angle of the ecliptic with the planets lined up on it, making it easy to picture the layout of the solar system compared to where I was on Earth.
15. Ice Three Stories Tall
I was on a boat in Alaska and we were right near a glacier. On our way away from the glacier, we saw a small piece of ice fall off an iceberg. About two minutes later, right in the spot where the boat had been a minute before, a massive piece of ice shot out of the water. It had to be three stories tall and at least 15 yards wide, and it shot 30 feet into the air and settled down to a height of about 10 feet above the surface of the water. I have no idea how that could have happened.
14. Leap Frog? No, Leap Spotted Eagle-Ray
My parents were out fishing off the coast of Florida when a massive spotted eagle-ray with a six-foot fin/wingspan leapt out of the ocean, flew right over the boat and their heads, close enough to touch, then splashed into the water on the other side.
13. These Eagles Have Swift Reflexes
I was a beautiful day off the coast of Juneau Alaska and we were hobby fishing for salmon when we caught a small fish. We noticed a large bald eagle soaring overhead and decided to try and throw the fish to the eagle to give him an easy lunch. My father-in-law threw the fish up in the air and the eagle swooped down, grabbing it out of the air before it hit the water. I was pretty stunned the eagle was so ready to catch a fish like that but it seems his reflexes were pretty eagle-like.
12. A Ghost In The Hall During Night Watch
I’m training on big ships right now, and on the training vessel I have to stand night watches. Down in the ships, steering gear at two to four a.m. is not fun when you’re in an isolated room. Sometimes it sounds like a girl is talking down the hall, but you know no one’s in there because there’s only one entrance. It’s the scariest thing.
11. Never Underestimate The Power Of The Sea
For me, the memory that sticks most was when I first realized just how powerful the sea is.
I was working on a boat in Japan, on my way back into port after a four-week swing. I just sat in my cabin one evening watching a film on my laptop when every now and again I noticed a bright flash from behind me. I turned around just in time to glance out of my porthole as a bolt of lightning lit up the sea. I saw an enormous wave just about to break over the side of the boat, which started getting tossed around like a toy (the boat is about 120 meters length overall). Certainly gave me the shivers anyway…
10. Traffic At Sea
When I was 11, I went on a night fishing trip with my friends’ parents. As we got about a half mile past the skyway bridge out of St.Pete, they noticed one of those big blue plastic 55 gallon barrels bobbing in the water by a channel marker. So we pull up to it and the adults lugged it into the boat to open. I remember all of the adults gasping and giggling when they opened it, immediately followed by my friend’s mom ushering us to the bow of the boat to sit down and only face forward no matter what. Well, of course the little 11 year old curious me eventually turned around to try to catch a glimpse of whatever cool adult stuff was in that barrel. Well, I turned around to see what looked like a bunch of plastic vacuum sealed bags of some sort of green herb. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what I had witnessed.
9. Poor Monkey
An acquaintance in high school had sailed around the world with his parents starting when he was in elementary school. Took them 6 or 7 years, so he was in high school when they got back. He had lots of stories of interesting things seen. One I remember was another sailor with a pet monkey. The guy kept a couple chickens for eggs on the boat too. The monkey viewed the chickens as his pets and often held them, stroking them. One chicken stopped laying and the sailor decided to eat it. He took the chicken to his cutting board in the cockpit and cut its head off. The monkey watching this screamed in terror, then scrambled to the top of the sailboat mast. It stayed up there for 3 days until thirst drove it down. After that the monkey would run to the top of the mast if the man ever got his cooking knives out.
8. Three For One
I do a lot of offshore fishing in the South Atlantic. Some cool and crazy things I’ve seen while boating.
I got caught once in the annual migration of spinner sharks. Went right through a school that I would guess would be at least 10,000 or more sharks that just happened to be working on a very large bait school. You could count no less than 10 sharks breaching the surface about ever second. It was one of the scariest experiences yet one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen and there I ended up right in the middle of the madness. I literally had one shark land in the bow of the boat and another break the cowling on the outboard while several others bounced off the sides.
Once I almost hit a dead body when returning from a trip at the end of the day. It was just turning dusk and I was coming in from about 15 miles offshore after a day of fishing. I was cruising around 25 knots when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something bright yellow just off the port side of the boat and almost made impact with it. I slowed down and turned the boat around in an attempt to find whatever it was I almost hit but was unsuccessful and it was getting late and the sun was almost down so I decided it would be best to just head back in. The next day a body in yellow waders washed up onshore about 25 miles to the North. I can’t say for sure if it was the same yellow object I almost hit but I’d be willing to bet it was.
Encountered a great white while surfacing from a dive in about 75′ of water which was extremely unusual because great whites shouldn’t be anywhere around the area of the Atlantic where I fish. This was confirmed a few days later by multiple other boats that spotted the same shark and eventually made the news.
One time I saw an Otter dragging a leather back sea turtle to shore that it somehow managed to kill.
I was en route to northern Japan after the terrible tsunami happened for disaster relief (Marines). Anyway, I had stepped outside to a catwalk for a smoke after not seeing the sun for a few days. Turns out that it was extremely foggy and snowing, which I had never thought about. The ship was basically reduced to a crawl, it was all very silent and quite peaceful. After chain smoking for 10-15 minutes I started to hear things hitting the ship. Had trouble seeing at first but once I saw the roof of a house and a crib float by I realized where we were. Ran back to my living area to grab some friends. We all get back out there and silently observe people’s lives floating by us. Not super crazy or bizarre, but it’s something I’ll never forget. Spent the next week and a half dealing with crazy weather shifts doing my part in the clean up effort.
6. Passed The Test
Those moments when you dip into a swell that you can’t see anything outside of… The only one time that happened to me I was 17 taking a trip to a nearby island Bigej (Marshall Islands) we were approaching the island but first we had to pass though the Bigej Channel. In a 22 foot Boston Whaler we were completely in the dip before I had to push it out of each wave. To be short I was terrified because this particular channel was well know to have tons of sharks always waiting so I just took it nice and slow and eventually got across. But I clearly remember the few seconds in each wave looking at just how beautiful this death trap was… Really earned my boating license that day
5. Absolutely Amazing
A lot of things. I’ve seen a dolphin do the most elegant backflip you’ve ever seen. We caught a blue albatross as it went to dive for our gear. When we pulled the bird in to release it, it was so unbelievably calm, we held its wings open to take a picture. Massive birds those ones.
At the back while working gear, all of a sudden we see this black blade-like looking thing climb its way out of the water. Once it reaches a height of roughly 6 feet, it comes slamming down into the water. It does this maybe 5 or 6 times. Hard to explain how bizarre it is seeing something like this until you’ve spent days/weeks/months staring off at water and seeing nothing. It was the tail of a thresher shark that was climbing out of the water and trying to concuss the squid-like looking gear.
But honestly, one of the most amazing things is the bait ball. It’s caused by weather phenomena actually. What happens is that herring and other feed fish predominantly survive in green, plankton filled water. Their predators hate it for the most part because the plankton clogs gills and so on. But what can happen is if blue and green water mix and due to temperature differences and a large amount of clear blue boils up from below, it can expose massive schools of feed fish. Well once this happens, the entire ocean kicks into gear. Tuna come over, dolphins come, sharks, seagulls and other birds – everybody’s getting into it. Below, they create this tightening circle of doom where they travel around the ball, keeping the feed fish from escaping. Fins of all kinds breach the surface. And just when we think we’ve seen everything, a massive humpback whale crashes the party. It went directly through the center, destroying the ball, scattering the feed and all the predators.
4. When You See An Animal That No Longer Exists
Mum’s partner is fisherman.
A couple of things that came to mind:
The incredible amount of Great White shark encounters they have out at sea – obviously attracted by the bait or something. Stories of being circled and harassed by sharks for sometimes up to days, in at least one or two occasions resulting in them having to go back in.
Freak waves. Sadly, the amounts of fisherman killed by freak waves is too high. Imagine Mother Nature just unleashing a huge wave out of nowhere that obliterates a fishing boat, killing those on board. He’s participated in many searches for bodies and those of lost fisherman at sea – including hauling numerous bodies on board and liaising with police in the searches.
My favourite though, was something he actually saw on land while out at sea. On an incredibly remote and rugged part of Tasmania’s West Coast the crew noticed what appeared to be a dog on the beach. As they got closer they noticed it was sniffing around in some seaweed and walking a bit differently to a dog. As they continued to get closer they also noticed something else – it had what appeared to be the outline of stripes along its back half. Yes, still to this day they believe they saw an “extinct” Tasmanian Tiger (or Thylacine). Regular sightings are still reported in Tasmania and many local fisherman have also reported seeing them in that particular area.
3. Creepy People-Watcher Doesn’t Want To Be Seen
I was three or four days out from Antigua on a row boat. It was three a.m. with very little cloud cover and only a bit of moon. I’m in my own head thinking about food and on deck alone and rowing when I realize something is watching me off port-side, so I turn my head to the right (rowing backwards remember) and whatever was watching me ducks its head under water. Yes, underwater. And yes, a head. Whatever it was had been watching for maybe a minute or so. I only caught a glimpse of what it was and to this day have no idea. It looked like a human sized head, black pupiless eyes, no nose or ears, bleached white and wrinkly skin. Think albino seal. Scared me so much so that I stopped rowing. I’ve looked everywhere to figure out what it was and the closest I got to it was a goblin shark but… IT HAD A HUMAN SIZED/SHAPED HEAD!
2. All Alone One Minute But Not The Next
I had a friend who worked a small-ish fishing boat in Alaska. One night he was all alone in the cabin, bringing the boat back to port. He looked over and in the dim light, he saw something creating a small wake in the water. The wake got larger, and whatever was making it began to rise out of the water. He thought maybe it was a whale, but then it got too big and he could see: It was a massive submarine surfacing dangerously close to him, his boat must not have shown up on their sensors.
1. The Silver Lining Of Running From A Bear
I was paddling a canoe with some friends on a trip in Quebec (I think it was in the Lac Mistassini area). One evening, a bear showed up fairly close to our campsite, so we decided the best option was to break camp and paddle through the night to our next site, about a 10-hour paddle away. Paddling under the stars was cool enough with aurora borealis and little light pollution, but I’ll never forget the bolide (superbolide?) that zoomed across the sky and was bright enough to light up the area like it was daytime. I believe something similar happened in Thailand. It really was a once in a lifetime effect.