Sunday, 5 July 2009

Under The Sea

Moonlight Investigation does have somewhat of a fascination with aquatic fortean happenings, but that is not without reason. The sea is, for humans, one of the most inhospitable environments in the world. The ocean depths are even more inhospitable. Man has permanent outposts in space, on Antarctica and has long learnt to thrive in desert conditions. But we have yet to do anything more than observe the ocean depths from a moving vehicle, which can spend only a limited time below the surface. Our long term submarine capabilities are awesome but the military subs hardly offer a good viewing platform!

So it should be no surprise that not only do we find a lot more "unexplained" things in our oceans, but that the possibility of them being something unknown rather than misidentified is far greater. And that surely includes taking into account the fact that it's much more difficult to identify something that's submerged in water.

The Pacific Sleeper Shark

We've looked at "unnaturally" large sharks before but having read up on the subject some more, it's hardly an exhausted topic!

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water...

The Pacific sleeper is a rarely seen shark species first identified in 1944. They are generally found to be somewhere between 3 and 4 metres long (9 to 12 feet).Given that the sharks have been found to feed on giant and Colossal squid it's hardly surprising that some have reported Pacific sleeper sharks of quite a size more!!

The French submersible "Nautile" was exploring the waters off of Japan in 1989 when they encountered a Pacific Sleeper who they said slid past them revealing it's full 23 feet length (that's about 7 metres to you and me!). That would place it at a size larger than any officially verified non filter feeding shark known to be alive today.

The Reefquest centre mentions this sighting but also another sighting:

Another large individual — estimated to be between 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 metres) in length — was photographed by a robot camera at a depth of 6,300 feet (1,920 metres) off Oahu, Hawaii.

If it were 8 metres long that would be truly astounding!!

The Giant Octopus

Before we mention the tales of giant octopi, I just wanted to share this video of a blanket octopus. To my great shame I had never heard of this species before, but my isn't it beautiful? I suggest you read up on it as it is as fascinating as it is gorgeous.

Hypno-Octopus strikes again!

Anyway, we all know of the Kraken right? The gigantic monster octopus of legend who pulled ships deep under the water, and brought death to many a sailor? Well... it's not that unbelievable! Larger than expected octopi have been found, like this one from New Zealand.

But a truly gigantic octopus would need truly gigantic food. Over to the story that I first read when I was little and has had me wondering ever since (taken from here but seems almost exactly the same as I remember it).

summer of 1984. One fisherman from Bermuda islands, John P. Ingham, came up with an idea which would be very profitable for him. Giant octopus was way out of his mind when he constructed a trap for large crabs and other sea organisms which he would use at a depth of about 1800 meters (5900 ft). His plan worked and soon he started catching crabs 60 cm wide.
Then he built really heavy traps and armored them with 5 cm thick metal rings. They were 1.8 to 2.4 meters large and 1.2 meters deep. Ingham was dropping them into the ocean from his 15-meter fishing boat Trilogy.
By the end of August, Ingham already noticed few very unusual things. First he lost one of his traps after something suddenly pulled the cable. There was no obvious explanation. Then, on 3rd of September, few days after the first event, the crew was pulling out one trap, but when the trap was 600 meters (2000 ft)
below the surface something stopped its ascent, pulled the cable in the opposite direction and violently shaked the cable. The trap was lost.

Then, on September 19, Ingham set the trap at a depth of 850 meters (2700 ft). This time, they couldn't pull the trap out even with full engine power. Trilogy was equipped with a sophisticated sonar instrument called chromascope, and Ingham used it when the ship passed directly above the trap. He set the chromascope to
so-called split bottom mode. On the bottom of the ocean he could clearly see a pyramid-shaped silhouette 15 meters (50 ft) high. Something wrapped around their trap. Ingham and his crew decided they won't do anything violent. They'll sit and wait with cable engine ready.

After about 20 minutes, Ingham got a feeling that the ship was moving - like something was pulling it. He went to his cabin again to check navigation instruments. They confirmed his feeling. The ship was moving towards south at a constant speed of about one knot. When they passed about 500 meters, the thing that was pulling the rope, whatever it was, suddenly changed direction and headed for the shore. A bit later it suddenly turned again. Now Ingham was convinced that some kind of deep sea creature grabbed the trap
and pulled the trap along as it moved. Ingham touched the cable near surface of water. He says that he felt regular vibrations that traveled along the cable, like something walked on the ocean bottom, and vibrations were transferred along the cable. The impacts (vibrations) were always the same intensity and repeated themselves every few seconds. The 15-meter high silhouette, ship's movement, vibrations, traps he lost earlier - Ingham was convinced that he became the prey of a giant sea creature. Suddenly creature released the cable, so the crew easily pulled the trap out. Ingham looked at the chromascope - the silhouette was gone. The trap was all deformed and mostly damaged on the upper side. All of this clearly points to the Giant Bermudan Octopus. A creature which can keep the trap on the ocean bottom, resisting to the ship's engine power, the ocean depth on which event took place, location near Bermuda islands - octopus.

This is all rather concerning considering reports from the nearby Caribbean of "luscas". Supposedly these are sea monsters who are usually described as giant octopi. They live in the "blue holes" (underwater caves up to 200m deep) which would be indicative of octopi. Divers have reported seeing extremely large crustaceans in these blue holes which would also be indicative of a food source. On this page we have a story of a local describing luscas of only being dangerous if a boat is in water shallow enough for one tentacle to reach the sea floor and another to reach the boat. This is exactly the problem scientists have with kraken reports... a kraken could not be dangerous unless one tentacle could be supporting it on the sea floor. If that is a real conversation, that would be extremely compelling testimony suggesting a scientifically plausible large octopus posing a danger to the people of the Bahamas.

Unusual Dolphins

Your thinking: "Dolphins?? Surely these are one of the most studied and most understood marine life on Earth? There can't be anything unusual about dolphins!!". Well if that really was what you were thinking, you are wrong!

It's not Fraser's Dolphin, it's mine!

Take Fraser's dolphin (a recognised and fairly widespread species!!). The first known discovery linked to it was a skull found in Borneo in 1895. It went unstudied until Francis Fraser, in 1956, identified it as a new species. It was only in 1971 that a full body was found, after which sightings were first reported and then became more and more frequent. It's currently estimated there are over 100,000 Fraser's dolphins in pods numbering in the hundreds and the thousands. They grow to nearly 3 metres long. Why didn't we see them sooner?! Because they are a deep ocean species and no one probably ever bothered giving them a second look as they are a billion times more difficult to study than the more famous coastal dolphins. So it's quite likely that other species of dolphin are going about their business in the oceans without us even being aware of their existence. Perhaps one of these is the Rhinoceros Dolphin.

Online "artists impressions" show this dolphin to have a large "central" dorsal fin with a smaller one behind. But according to the books I've checked and he description of French naturalists Jean Quoy and Joseph Gaimard suggest the extra dorsal fin was actually smaller and towards the front which I think makes more sense vis-a-vis the name as well. (Sidenote: some "freak" common dolphins have been observed with a secondary dorsal fin towards their rear as per those pictures so I think the "artists" might just be getting very confused between the two different cryptid puzzles).

Quoy and Gaimard were off New South Wales in 1819 when they made their sighting of a pod of such dolphins which they described it's other features thus:

"The volume of the animal was about double that of the ordinary porpoise, and the the top of its body, as far as the dorsal fin, was spotted black and white."

They named it Delphinus rhinoceros. Other reports from the Atlantic and Mediterranean have also been made of this dolphin.

Another cryptid dolphin is a bit less far out to sea, but in no less a difficult place to study; it's the "Amazon Nessie". Writer Jeremy Wade photographed and described a dolphin he has spotted more than once in the Amazon river. Variously described as the "Ridge-backed Dolphin" and the "Sawtooth Dolphin" it is said to have low ridges on it's back instead of a dorsal fin. Whilst this might seem strange the Amazon River Dolphin does have a very short dorsal fin so it's not entirely unbelievable to imagine a close relative having evolved a ridge back approach. A very small photo can be found at the bottom right of this page and a description of Jeremy Wade's return to find it again can be found here. As I'm wasn't there, and the picture is very small, it would be rude of me to totally dismiss this but doesn't that picture look more crocodilian than mammalian?

The reports of unusual animals from the ocean are pretty much unlimited so expect to here more...

Further Reading

Rumours of Existence - Matthew A. Bille (UK Amazon, US Amazon) - Invaluable information of some of the more believable stories of unusual animals

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

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