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The view from Long Bridge Road on Tangier Island. Credit Andrew Moore for The New York Times
The deep-sea, by virtue of no light, cold temperatures, and high pressures, leaves an environment ripe for evolving some pretty strange critters. One of my personal favorites, mostly because of the crazy teeth it boasts, is the viperfish.
To me, the viperfish looks like a dessicated version of some sort of alien. In reality, it’s a fast swimmer, moving at 2 body lengths per second, but a small fish at 1-2 feet. They spend their days in the deepest waters (about 9000 feet) but emerge at night, rising from the ocean floor to begin their hunt. Since food is not predictable, they can store large amounts of food from a successful hunt to make use of in leaner times.
Not on the scary note, the fish also has a photophore, or a biolumenescent appendage that it uses to attract prey. It basically travels with bait attached to its forehead. Awesome.
~Bluegrass Blue Crab
sources: The Sea and Sky and Wikipedia
It should come as no surprise that our favorite sea monster is the legendary giant of giants – The Kraken.
Originally of Norwegian and Icelandic legend, the Kraken is described as a giant, tentacled monster that rises from the deep. In the earliest legends, the Kraken resembles an island feeding on schools of fish. Bold fishermen would set their lines above the Kraken, catching the huge schools of fish that surround it. In these earliest stories, the danger to ships was not from the Kraken itself, but from the whirlpool formed when it dives.
Scylla and Charybdis team up to make passing through the Straight of Messina impossible – to be a safe distance from one meant being too close to the other. They were one of Odysseus’ many challenges during his epic journey. Scylla is a six-headed monster storied to have become that way after poisoning by the jealous wife of Poseidon who captured sailors off their boats and ate them. Charybdis is best described as a whirlpool bringing ships to the bottom of the sea. She was the daughter of Poseidon and converted by Zeus.
Sea Monsters, mythical beasts of legend and lore that ply the world’s oceans, sinking ships, terrifying sailors, swallowing entire crews whole. Sea monsters occupy a special place in our imagination. The ocean is huge, unfathomable. Of course mighty beast could dwell within, undetected.
Every once in a long while, the myths, the legends, the stories, turn out to be true. This is one of those times.
Sitting squarely in the middle of our favorite sea monsters is a new entrant in the world of cryptic sea monsters, the Ningen. The Ningen is a recent sea monster reported by Japanese fishermen working in the Antarctic. Allegedly, Ningens are up to 30 meters long, have a human like body, and a tail. Reports of what they look like seem to vary quite a bit, but the one consistent bit is that they have a human face and other human features.
Mermaids occur in legends from cultures around the world and vary in shape, origin, and intent. From the beautiful temptress on the cliffs luring boats onto dangerous shoals to peaceful coexisting aquatic humans, mermaids have made a place for themselves in history. The basics of merfolk is that they are neither human nor fish but some sort of mammal that includes elements of both. They are musically talented and astoundingly beautiful.
One of the most famous “sea monsters” of all time – so famous that her outline graces the Ocean of Pseudoscience Week logo – actually lives in a lake. I’m talking, of course, about “Nessie”, the Loch Ness monster.
Local reports of a bizarre creature inhabiting the Scottish lake go back over a thousand years, but the story became popularized in the 1930’s when Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson took a now-famous photograph.
Georg Wilhelm Steller was a highly influential 18th century German naturalist who explored the coasts of Russia and Alaska. During his career, he described many species, including the northern fur seal, sea otter, Steller’s sea lion, Steller’s eider, spectacled cormorant, and the now extinct giant Steller’s sea cow. In addition to his many observed findings, he also described a fat, hairy creature with a dog-like head that he termed Simia marina, the sea ape.