Saturday, July 12, 2014

10 Unexplained Ocean Mysteries

The Mary Celeste
The vast briny deep has been the source for many a tale of the unexplained and unexplainable. Even though water covers a majority of the planet, we know more about outer space than we do about what exists beneath the surface of the oceans. The mysteries of the deep date back to ancient times. Modern science has been able to dispel many of these tall tales, but not all of them.

I recently came across a list of ten unexplained ocean mysteries, shown here in no particular order. There are, of course, many more strange and unexplainable occurrences than the ten listed here.

10)  "The Bloop" and "Julia"
Several creepy sounds have been recorded by underwater microphones off the Southern coast of South America. Nearly all of these sounds have been attributed to volcanic activity and shifting icebergs. There are, however, two incidents that have baffled scientists. The Bloop occurred in 1997 and lasted over a minute. In the same region, two years later, they recorded something that sounded like a watery voice saying Julia. Both seismic and human activity were ruled out in each case. Scientists agree than an animal is responsible for Julia, but no currently known creature is large enough to produce such a noise.

9)  The Mary Celeste
In 1872, a merchant ship named Mary Celeste set sail from New York with ten people on board.  Eight days later the ship was found adrift in the North Atlantic, intact with the exception of one missing lifeboat. A six month's supply of food was on board as were the crew's belongings along with the ship's logbook and some charts. Neither the lifeboat nor any bodies were ever found. So, what happened to the sailors, the captain and the captain's family? With valuables left on board, a pirate takeover wasn't the answer. An experienced crew and well-liked captain ruled out error and mutiny. To this day no one has an explanation for what occurred on board the Mary Celeste.

8)  The Sonar Flying Saucer
Swedish researcher Peter Lindberg was using sonar to search for a shipwreck between Sweden and Finland in 300 feet of water. In July 2011, he discovered a perfectly round circle approximately 60 feet in diameter with deep scars nearby on the ocean floor suggesting the object had moved across the ocean bottom. Released sonar images immediately had a number of news outlets claiming the object was a UFO. Although finding a perfectly round object of that size on the ocean floor is very strange, sonar specialists declared the resolution of the image too low to identify it as anything in particular. Until more money is available for improved equipment and more exploration, the object will remain a mystery.

7)  The Montauk Monster
In the summer of 2008, an unidentified dead animal washed up on the shore at Montauk, New York. Although several people reported seeing it and photographs surfaced, the carcass disappeared before police were able to recover the remains. Newspapers ran the story along with a grotesque image. Locals speculated that it could be a mutant resulting from experiments at nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Others suggested that it was nothing more than a hoax. Many scientists who studied the photographs think it was a known species heavily damaged and decomposed as a result of time spent in the water. The raccoon claim seems to be the closest, but the Montauk Monster's legs are longer than a normal raccoon leaving us without a definitive conclusion.

6)  The Vil Vana
A 41-foot fishing trawler with a seven man crew mysteriously vanished off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in 1993. With no signal for help and very few ship remains ever found, it was determined that the boat sank quickly and fully intact. For two decades, investigators have been baffled by the fact that no diesel fuel ever bubbled to the surface and no bodies were ever found. Some of the victim's families believe that a military submarine may have accidently caught one of the boats' nets and dragged it under. This is rare, but possible. Four years earlier a submarine sank a tugboat in the same area. The case of the Vil Vana is still open and unsolved.

5)  The Lost City Of Atlantis
In 360 B.C. Plato wrote "in a single day and night of misfortune" a major sea power called Atlantis mysteriously sank into the ocean. Some historians have labeled Plato's account a myth while others have dedicated their lives to finding the lost city which they believe was a super power devastated by a natural disaster. It's been suggested that Plato was describing the Minoan civilization on Crete and neighboring Santorini where a devastating volcanic eruption happened in 1600 B.C. During the last fifteen years several research teams claimed to have located Atlantis, but this 2000 year old puzzle is still waiting to be solved.

4)  The Bermuda Triangle
Certainly one of the best known ocean mysteries, this stretch of water between Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan has also been called The Devil's Triangle. Most of today's theories say that nearly all reported incidents are due to equipment or human error combined with the areas strong currents and frequent (and sudden) storms. Others strongly believe that paranormal activity or a magnetic anomaly are to blame. A few of the Bermuda Triangle accidents have escaped any type of scientific explanation. The U.S.S. Cyclops with 306 people on board disappeared in 1918 between Barbados and Baltimore with no signal for help and no remains discovered. Five Navy bombers disappeared off the coast of Florida in 1945 with neither the planes nor any bodies ever found. A DC-3 plane with 3 crewmen and 29 passengers on a flight from San Juan to Miami with perfect visibility radioed in just 50 miles from landing saying all was well, but the plane never arrived and has never been found.

3)  Alaska's Loch Ness Monster
In Bristol Bay, Alaska, a fisherman managed to get some film footage of what the locals refer to as Caddy, a creature with undulating body, horse-like head, long neck, big eyes and back humps—much the same as descriptions of sea serpent sightings from Scotland's Loch Ness and of Lake Champlain's Champ on the New York-Vermont state line. This footage shot in 2009 has the distinction of being the first hard video evidence. After studying the footage, scientists have determined that the creature isn't a whale, seal, shark, eel or fish. It has been suggested that the film shows a Cadborosaurus, a beast named for Cadboro Bay in British Columbia combined with the Greek word saurus (lizard) that's been popular in Alaskan lore for nearly 200 years. But, without more physical clues no definite conclusions can be drawn.

2)  Quackers
In various parts of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans during the peak of the Cold War, Soviet submarines reported hearing mysterious sounds they called quakers (the Russian version of our own ribbit of a frog). Using sound recording from various ships, scientists concluded that the noises were made by a moving object with the behavior of a living creature or manned vessel. The origin of the sounds seemed to show interest in and occasionally circle the subs. However, their sonar was unable to find anything to account for the sounds. The Soviets claimed it was secret U.S. technology. Others believed it was giant squids that evaded sonar because they don't have a rigid skeleton. The most mysterious part of the quaker puzzle is that the sounds stopped in the mid 1980s.
(Note: spellings of quackers and quakers is the way it appeared in the article)

1)  The Baychimo Ghost Ship
For centuries there have been stories about ghost ships either manned by the dead or possessed by some type of unknown force. While most of these stories are considered myths, one actual ghost ship did exist. Baychimo, a 1322-ton cargo steamer became trapped in pack ice in 1931 where the crew had to abandon ship off the coast of Alaska. A harsh blizzard hit and the ship was nowhere to be found. The crew assumed the ship had sunk, but Inuit hunters reported several sightings over the ensuing months. Many reports were received for nearly 40 years from people claiming to have seen the unmanned vessel sailing the waters around Alaska as if still in use. The last reported sighting was in 1969. The ultimate fate of Baychimo is a mystery.

And as a footnote to Ghost Ships:
This didn't actually involve a ship, but it is about a large man-made object that ended up navigating thousands of miles of ocean on its own. The large destructive tsunami following the March 2011 Japanese earthquake ripped apart four large sections of dock and set them adrift on the ocean, each about the size of a freight train box car. One landed on a nearby island, two were never seen again, but the fourth managed to find its way across 5000 miles of ocean without any type of help and came to rest on a beach in Oregon. So…I guess a ship without a crew could continue to stay afloat and move with the currents and tides for an indeterminate amount of time.

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