15 Bizarre Underwater Discoveries by Deep Sea Divers!
A step into the deep blue
15 Bizarre Underwater Discoveries by Deep Sea Divers!
The underworld of the deep sea is the home of many bizarre creatures and lost secrets of the past. These secrets are brought to light by those brave enough to delve deep into the darkest corners of the belly of the ocean, to places where time forgot. From the Cancun Underwater Museum to the SS Gairsoppa Shipwreck, here are 15 Bizarre Underwater Discoveries by Deep Sea Divers.
15. Cancun Underwater Museum
You would expect to find 500 life-sized statues in a museum or some moguls mansion, not at the bottom of the deep blue sea. However, if you were to venture along the coast of Mexico, between the islands of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, that is exactly what you would find.
The Cancun Underwater Museum has nearly 750,000 tourists paying a visit each year, making it the largest underwater museum in the world. MUSA, also known as ‘Museo Subacuático de Arte’, is an initiative created with the aim to divert large groups of ocean divers away from the Caribbean coastline as their presence was causing damage to the coastline’s fauna. In steps the director of the Cancun National Marine Park, Jaime Gonzalez Canto, with the idea to anchor 500 pH neutral marine concrete installations, such as a beetle car, to the oceans floor in a bid to preserve these harmed reefs in a new and exciting way. The British sculptor Jason De Caires carried out this unusual project with the help of a group of local Mexican artists. Don’t worry these statues aren’t just artsy pollution, they also act as a fertile landscape for the coastlines lost fauna, as well as adding an extra layer of interest to the already stunning coastline getaway.
14. SS Gairsoppa Shipwreck
Finding things that were lost always leaves you with a rewarding feeling, whether that be your phone or your mums’ glasses, but I’m sure you can’t imagine the excitement felt when the largest haul of precious metal ever found at sea was recovered. Well, that was the reality for one lucky American company in the summer of 2012.
When the Odyssey Marine Exploration, a company who specialise in raising shipwrecks from the oceans deep-waters, were scouring the oceans floor 300 miles off the coast of Ireland, they recovered 200 tonnes of silver worth about £150 million from the SS Gairsoppa cargo ship. They were allowed to keep 80% of the found cargo due to a contract with the Department for Transport of the British Government, which they recovered using remote-controlled robotic submarines. The downed ship was returning from India in 1941 when it ran low on fuel in stormy weather and tried to reach Galway harbour before it was spotted by a German U-boat. The U-boat subsequently torpedoed the Gairsoppa, causing her to sink. Only 3 people from the crew of 85 survived the attack, with only one making it ashore to Cornwall 13 days later. Second officer Richard Ayres was the sole survivor and was made an MBE for his valiant efforts in trying to save his fellow sailors.
13. Underwater Icicle
When you think of ice, you probably think of ice cubes and polar bears. What you don’t think of is underwater stalactites which reach into the depths of the ocean, trapping and freezing everything which is too slow to move out of its way. Well, they exist, and they harbour the rather gruesome nickname “icicles of death”.
Discovered in the 1960s, this dramatically named icicle is formed when sea water turns to ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, which causes salt and other impurities to be squeezed out. That is why the ice which is formed from sea water never tastes as salty as the sea water it is formed from. This squeezing out of the salt creates extremely salty brine. This brine is pumped out from the floating ice and drifts downwards towards the oceans floor due to its now increased density. The water surrounding the cold brine freezes as it is warmer than the descending brine, creating a stalactite-like ice structure known as a brinicle. It’s hard to believe but scientists do in fact think life on Earth may have stemmed from sea stalactites such as this. This brinicle or “icicle of death” is a fascinating spectacle, that is if you’re not one of the unlucky star fish to be frozen by its reach to the oceans floor.
12. Lion City - China's Atlantis
We’ve all heard of the lost underwater city of Atlantis, a great metropolis lost to the sea. Well, if you thought that myth was cool then wait until you hear this one, except this 1,400-year-old city is real and in immaculate condition.
Whilst you would assume something along the lines of a freak of nature accident was responsible for the submersion of this historic city, the reality is quite the contrary with it being intentionally flooded after the creation of a hydroelectric station and the Xin’an Dam in 1959. The Lion City was one of the most powerful societies in all of China in its glory days, with its metropolis bustling with roads, horse-drawn carriages, homes, and elaborate buildings. It is still in perfect condition however, thanks to the water used to submerge the historic city. The water used, which resulted in the creation of the man-made Qiandao Lake, contained nothing corrosive and was not conducive to marine life, meaning the city’s stunning architectural design can still be appreciated in all its glory to this day without the intrusion of coral. Although, under the ruling of the Chinese government, you need a history of deep-sea diving to be able to appreciate this historical gem up close.
11. Apollo Rocket Engines
Millions watched Lance Armstrong take humankinds first steps on the moon and utter his now famous lines in Apollo 11’s successful space mission in 1969. Whilst that was years ago, the footage is still as famous as ever, even if there are quarrels about its authenticity. Humans haven’t gone back to the Moon, but on the first manned voyage it was easy to forget about the F-1 engines attached to Apollo 11 when they intentionally fell off into the sea. However, the owner of Amazon and an “A-team” of experts recovered the fallen engines off the coast of Florida back in 2013.
The recoveree, the billionaire owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, gave an insight into his curiosity for the F-1 engines by stating that seeing the Apollo 11 launch when he was five inspired him to follow his passions for science, engineering and exploration, culminating years later in the launching of his own company Blue Origin, which aims at getting humans back to the moon and beyond.
The F-1 engine used in the Apollo 11 mission is considered by Bezos to be a “modern wonder” and to this day it is the most powerful single-nozzle, liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed. The five F-1 engines were later put on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
10. Underwater River
The ocean is a vast place, so vast that it’s basically another planet compared to life above ground. Whilst your mind drifts to bizarre looking creatures and treasures from the past when imagining what could lie at the bottom, an underwater river probably doesn’t spring to mind. You would assume that this is impossible, as did I.
The Yucatan Peninsula at Mexico’s Cenote Angelita is home to many incredible pieces of treasure, varying from Maya artefacts to ancient human sacrifices, as well as an underwater river. A cenote is a sinkhole that is created by a limestone bedrock collapsing to expose groundwater below. The first 29 meters of the Cenote Angelita contains fresh water, whilst the underwater river is made up of water and the significantly heavier hydrogen sulphide. Where these two different densities meet results in a dry ice-like fog which is called a halocline, which looks like something out of a horror movie with the waters beneath shrouded in mist. This underwater river is held separate to the rest of the ocean similarly to how water and oil remain separate when you place them in the same cup.
9. Galleon San Jose Shipwreck
Whilst disagreements are commonplace in the world, with siblings quarrelling since the beginning of time, the stakes have probably never been higher than in this particular case. Whilst some argue over whose turn it is with the television remote, others argue over the ownership of $20bn worth of gold, silver and jewels.
A ship containing this haul was discovered off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia after being lost to the sea for centuries. The ship, the Spanish galleon San Jose, burst into flames on the 8th of June 1708 after being locked in a battle with the British that late afternoon. 600 people onboard tragically lost their lives when the 62-cannon galleon was swallowed up by the Caribbean Sea. Despite the wreckage being discovered in 2015, the galleon is still resting 600m below on the oceans floor due to a custody dispute over who is the rightful owner of San Jose’s riches, with the American salvage company Sea Search Armada claiming they found the wreckage in the 80s and had struck an agreement with the Colombian government to get to keep half of their findings. For now, the riches of the galleon San Jose remain at the bottom of the ocean until an agreement can be made.
8. Mariana Trench
The ocean is a vastly deep place, with even sunlight being left behind if you dive deep enough. Whilst the depth of Earth’s deepest point is almost impossible to quantify, this visualisation might help. If you took Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, and placed it in the Mariana Trench, its peak would still be more than a mile below sea level. Incredible.
Only two souls have made the journey to the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. 1,500 miles long and 43 miles wide, the trench is in the belly of the western Pacific, 124 miles east off the coast of the Mariana Islands, to the east of the Philippines.
This titan was created by two of Earths tectonic plates colliding, forcing one plate to dive below the other. This downwards dive is what creates this trough-like trench.
The Mariana Trench was first measured in 1875 when scientists aboard the British H.M.S. Challenger recorded a depth of about 8 kilometres through using a weighted sounding rope. This was followed by the British H.M.S. Challenger II returning 76 years later in 1951 with an echo-sounder which gave a more accurate measurement of a whopping depth of nearly 11 kilometres.
7. Antikythera Mechanism
If you were to be asked when computers were made, you would probably pick a date from the 20th century and the image of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would come to mind. You wouldn’t imagine ancient Greece, for example.
A device was discovered by divers from the Roman-era Antikythera shipwreck between 1900 and 1901. X-rays of this device in the 70s and 90s made its use clearer to experts, with it being subsequently dubbed “an Ancient Greek computer” by some, after it was revealed it could track the trajectory of the Sun, Moon as well as the planets in the sky with mind blowing accuracy from the palm of your hand. It was believed to be kept in a wooden case like a clock, with a large circular face displaying rotating hands, with a handle on the side for winding. The mystic device also had gears with refined triangular teeth which held similarities to the inside of a clock, and a protractor-like ring which was divided into degrees. Nothing close to the complex make-up of this device is discovered for more than a thousand years later, baffling but also intriguing experts.
6. Goblin Shark
If you venture deep enough into the sea you will come across many strange looking beings. And if you were to come across something called “Goblin” you wouldn’t set your expectations too high on it being much of a looker. Whilst that it is true in the case of the Goblin Shark, this being, which looks like something from the time of dinosaurs, does have an extraordinary jaw which moves in a very peculiar way.
The Goblin Sharks jaw is a fascinating contraption, with it being flung forward at its prey in a way which is more associated with a frog flinging its tongue at a nearby fly. This bizarre looking creature is a very rare, deep sea shark and is often dubbed a “living fossil”, which is accurate considering it is the only living species in the Mitsukurinidae family. With a long, flattened snout, the goblin shark is very recognizable, with males reaching a length of 12.6 feet and females reaching 12.2 feet with the heaviest goblin shark weighing in at a whopping 210kg. It has also been reported to have been found in waters as deep as 4265 feet. This odd-looking creature with its own charm and a funny jaw can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean.
They say looks are subjective but being voted as the worlds ugliest animal is not a good look for anybody. The poor sod to be given this title is the blob fish, a native to the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. Although it does have an excuse, with its ugly appearance being attributed mainly to the fact that once they are brought to the surface they look like piles of slimy goo due to their lack of teeth or bones. When they are at their habitual depths of 3,000 feet under the ocean, they apparently display a more “normal” appearance due to the water pressure.
The blob fish isn’t a predatory fish, which is lucky considering it doesn’t have any teeth or bones, and instead sucks small crustaceans into its mouth as it bobs along the oceans floor. In addition to having no teeth or bones, the blob fish also does not have the swim bladder which is found in most types of fish. The swim bladder is an air sac which allows for the adjustment and control of the buoyancy of a fish. The blob fish’s main concern is with conserving energy and protecting the pink pearl-like eggs of its young.
4. Vampire Squid
It doesn’t drink blood or hang upside down in a cave, instead it lurks 1,000 metres below sea level. The Vampire Squid’s name comes from its dark red colour and its cape-like skin which links between its arms.
The Vampire Squid isn’t even a squid, nor it is an octopus. It is its own special kind of animal in its own unique group called a Vampyromorphida. When the Vampire Squid turns its cape inside out to display large spikes on the inside, it is all for show as it is not a predatory creature and is in fact relatively harmless, unless you are plant or animal matter that happens to float by it. The Vampire Squid does not expel ink when under threat like you may assume, this is due to the darkness of its environment making that ploy pointless. Instead, it shoots out a colourless substance which contains bioluminescent material which shimmies in the pitch-black environment of the mesopelagic zone, startling its foe. The Vampire Squid also produces light at the ends of their arms as a means of defence but also potentially as a way of communicating in its pitch-black environment.
3. Sarcastic Fringeheads
We’ve all heard strange names being given to animals, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a fish being called sarcastic, that was at least until I came across the Sarcastic Fringehead. Whilst this sounds like a teenager with a Justin Bieber haircut getting cheeky, its actually the name of a tube blenny fish which resides in the ocean’s deep sea.
A tube blenny is named after the burrows or tube-like structures they live in which are created by other animals, which in this case takes the form of empty clams or snail shells, with some allegedly nestling inside manmade objects such as soda bottles. When a Sarcastic Fringehead spots a rival living too close, they engage in a “who has the biggest mouth competition”, where they open their mouths and point it at the intruder, touching mouths aggressively in some extreme cases, with the fish with the smaller mouth usually moving area. When the Sarcastic Fringehead opens its mouth it kind of resembles an alien from a Ridley Scott film. Tube blenny usually feed on plankton, but the Sarcastic Fringeheads inability for suction means it must settle for eating vast amounts of squid eggs during spawning season, for example. A bizarre but fascinatingly strange creature.
2. Underwater Temple Garden Bali
Temples are beautiful constructions dedicated to the devotion of higher beings and are spread throughout the world. Whilst you would expect to find these temples on dry land, the thought of one being submerged under the sea would elicit an expectation that there was a mishap. But, in this strange case, the temple was purposefully built under the waves.
The Underwater Temple Garden in Bali, Indonesia contains a Balinese Hindu temple compound and was built in 2005 and is the brainchild of Australian Chris Brown, not the famous American RnB singer, who has been living in the Pemutrean Bay in west Bali for several years. The temple arose in conversation between Chris Brown and a British man called Paul Turley. In addition to the Underwater Temple Garden being a beautiful spectacle and a home to the local marine life, the temple also draws in curious divers who make contributions to the Reef Gardeners project as part of their visit. This donation is given to unemployed local fishermen who are then trained in the maintenance of the local coral. This means that the Underwater Temple Garden is a job creator for the local communities and serves as an awareness raiser for the essential topic of marine conservation, as well as being a place of beauty and tranquillity in picturesque Bali. Fantastic.
1.The Ship of Gold
When the SS Central America sunk after being caught in a hurricane as it was returning from the Californian Gold Coast in 1857, it resulted in the loss of over four hundred lives in the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history. This tragic loss of life also meant that over twenty-one tons of California gold lay dormant at the bottom of the sea, with the 280-foot side-wheel steamer being aptly nicknamed the Ship of Gold.
The ship remained 160 miles off the coast of Southern Carolina from 1857 until October 1989, when Tommy Thompson and the Columbus-America Discovery Group sailed into land with the recovered treasure of gold coins, bars, nuggets and steamer trucks full of items such as an intact cigar. Not even the U.S. Navy could locate the wreckage before the young engineer from Ohio set out on his quest to open the deep seas floor to research in the 80s, with the SS Central America being the focal point of his endeavours. The endeavour evidently paid off, with Life magazine aptly calling it the “greatest treasure ever found”.