The ocean is a mysterious place as so much of it is still unexplored because it is so vast and goes down so deep that it is very dark, cold and the pressure is crushing. Maybe the uncertainty about what is down there makes people a bit nervous when they are in the middle of the ocean even if the water is calm and they can’t hear anything.
But it’s not always just calm and those who regularly venture out further from the shore witness various things. People had many stories to tell when redditor icefalls asked “Dear Deep Sea Fishers of Reddit, What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen / heard on the open ocean?” In addition to fishers, Navy officers, divers, swimmers, sailors and people who have boats and like to sail also shared what surprised them or scared them.
My dad and I were fishing off the florida keys, we had our anchor out and been fishing for about an hour. 15 minutes later the boat gets bumped and we rock a little bit, my dad jokes saying “looks like jaws is after us better stay away from the edges.”. 10 seconds after him saying that the boat begins moving backwards, we are being towed, by our anchor line that’s in the water. Whatever has it is now dragging the boat backwards slowly getting faster and our boat get pulled under too. next thing I hear is “no f*****g way” as my dad drops his pole runs from the front to the back grabs a knife and cuts the anchor line, after that we decided that fishing was not in the cards that day.
Many stories in this list have to do with people getting scared of big and dangerous fish like manta rays or sharks. So we reached out to Les Kaufman, a professor of biology at Boston University whose areas of interest include marine biology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation biology, to ask how often do sea animals actually attack people.
He says that happens very rarely. The professor shares that he knows just one scientist who was attacked by a leopard seal in Antarctica while snorkelling. He also adds “Shark attacks on divers do happen on rare occasions but are usually provoked. More a specialty of surfers.”
I had a friend who would go deep sea fishing and stay out at sea for days at a time. He told me that at times he would hear some of the most bizarre, unearthly noises ever out there at night and assured me that there must be things out there we have no idea of.
Considering we apparently know more about what’s on the moon than we know about what’s in our own oceans, I’m inclined to agree with him.
A couple that are friends with my parents sailed from france to Africa than to south america. They also didnt have all the proper equipment you are supposed to have in order to do this legally and as safe as possible. They were a week or two away from the end of their trip when they confirmed their feeling of not being alone. At night they’d think they’d hear another ship but no sight of anything. They’d hear water breaking from something but never saw why. this continued and seemed to be getting closer. Then just a few days before the end of their trip an american submarine suddenly surfaced near them. It stayed a float for awhile than went back under.
His theory was since they didnt have a proper sat radio they weren’t aware they were being hailed to identify. The american navy was probably like wtf is this and kept track of them or even followed them for days/weeks. At the end the americans were probably even more curious, surfaced, saw a bewildered sun burnt french sailing couple, cursed and went back to doing whatever they were supposed to be doing
Dr. Les Kaufman gets into more details of why he specifically mentions surfers, “Surfers paddling out to catch a wave can, seen from below, be mistaken for a seal by a great white shark.” But he also says that a shark quickly realises its mistake, “after one experimental bite they most often realise the error in that there isn’t much blubber on the intended prey, and they let go. They also do this with their prey so they bleed to death and weaken. Unfortunately, once the shark realises the mistake it may be too late for the person.”
Other than that sharks don’t attack people unprovoked and that the white shark attacking surfers is an unusual exception as most often animals “have no difficulty distinguishing people from other wildlife.”
My dad, who is as rational of a scientist as you can possibly be, has experienced very vivid hallucinations that he truly believed were real at the time. His friend’s family had sold a sailboat to a buyer up the eastern seaboard. So my dad and his friend, young amateur sailors, decided to sail the boat up the coast and deliver it. This was in the late ’70s or early ’80s, so I guess they didn’t have the 24/7 crack news team of the Weather Channel telling them what was coming. Apparently, a tropical storm was coming and they had no idea. It caught them when they were some ways from shore, with no exact idea of where they were. They had to just ride it out because going inshore in a storm like that was too risky when you didn’t know the waters. They didn’t sleep for several days while they had to fight tooth and nail to keep the boat above water. During that time, my dad says he saw all kinds of s**t in the ocean. Mermaids, the souls of the damned, you name it. Really shows you where all those old sailors’ tales come from.
I was sitting in a little boat off Gran Canaria once, when I heard a strange whirring noise, like when kids stick playing cards through the spokes on their bike. I heard it a few times and wondered what it was. And then it hit me! It was a flying fish.
It literally hit me, and then floundered around the boat for a few seconds before I picked it up and hurled it back. Those things are goddamned weird. It’s wings were gross.
I’m a diver. We were doing a night dive on the Great Barrier Reef when we came up to a cave like structure (really just a rock formation) which is known for turtles. We shine our flashlights inside and see these huge f*****g flippers. In there was a 100 year old turtle about the size of a small car (in diameter). This isn’t anything like the supernatural stories that you were probably after but I found it very strange.
EDIT: We knew the age because we were told beforehand that there was a large 100 year old turtle in the area. We weren’t expecting anything as big as we saw, however.
Most people are really afraid of sharks but the professor notes that there is really no reason for that and that in general animal creatures are not that dangerous to people as they don’t see them as food, “Very few shark species will attack a human as prey. Even then, it is rare statistically, and there are many ways to avoid becoming a statistic. Other than sharks and leopard seals, there aren’t many animals that people in the ocean need to fear. Leopard seals you can only encounter near Antarctica. The unlikelihood of being attacked by a shark is driven home by the fact that whether you see them or not, they are usually around, decidedly not attacking people.”
The marine biologist also points out a depressing fact, “There are many fewer sharks than there used to be, however, because people have attacked them mercilessly for millenia.” So if we would just look at the numbers, sharks should fear people a lot more than people fear sharks as the professor put it, people “are really dangerous and have been known to regularly attack unprovoked.”
I do a lot of night fishing off of SC and FL. I get a lot of fish that are bitten in half by sharks. Some of them had to have been very, very large. When you reel in a large sportfish’s head like some kind of sequel to the old man and the sea and realize the shark is close to half the size of your boat miles and miles offshore, essentially in the middle of nowhere, you get more than a little freaked out.
I had a friend who was stranded in a rowboat for a couple of days. He got pretty dehydrated, and later told us of these wild hallucinations of beautiful female water spirits encouraging him to join them in the water. It was strange because he was one of those no-nonsense guys who didn’t believe in the supernatural, but he said these things were so real to him.
I’m not a fisherman but a sailor who was racing in a yacht race off the California coast many years ago. We had finished the race in Santa Barbara, and a few of us had volunteered to sail the boat back up to San Francisco where we had started.
We were off of Point Conception one night at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Me and a buddy of mine were on watch and talking to stay awake. He was steering and I was leaning against the doghouse looking aft at him. We talking about something or other when all of a sudden it became daylight. Bright Daylight. All I remember were the saucers of his eyes looking back at me to say, “WTF”!! I imagined I looked the same to him because I was absolutely shocked.
Then in about 2 seconds, the light faded to the horizon on our right, and we witnessed a rocket taking off from Vandenburg Air force Base. We watched it ascend into the night sky, and once we saw that it had jettisoned it’s first stage, we started to joke nervously about the odds of it landing on us.
It didn’t, and me and my buddy will always remember those 3-4 minutes as one of the most singular experiences we’ve ever had. We had fun telling the rest of the crew about it the next day. They were pissed that they missed it.
s mentioned before, the majority of the ocean is unexplored and there is quite a big chance that people sailing through the ocean and going swimming in the middle of nowhere might have seen sea creatures that are generally unknown.
Dr. Les Kaufman confirms that and tells us “I’ve seen this happen myself. Many fish species are still not known as distinct from their close relatives.”
A friend’s cousin is a tuna fisherman. They found a deer swimming over 100 miles off the coast of New Zealand a few years ago.
I was fishing off the coast of malaysia in the middle of the night. Suddenly, the night sky brightened and I saw a bright glowing orb appear to the bow. The orb moved slowly across the sky, leaving a bright yellow trail and seemed to have sparks coming off it for about 20 seconds before disappearing into the night.
We were out at night once, with our lights off because we were admiring a field of bioluminecent stuff that was just stretching for miles around us. Really freaky looking but neat… right up until a shadow twice the size of our boat started coming right towards us….
The uncertainty of the ocean is the factor that draws some people in and leads others away. But it doesn’t matter what category you put yourself in, it is always interesting to read through some strange and creepy stories from the comfort and safety of your own home.
We would like to know which of these stories you found the strangest so let us know by upovoting them and if you have any of your own, we would like to hear them in the comments!
One was an abandoned boat floating past us in the night
Not strangest thing seen or heard, but more…felt. I was spearfishing a wreak off the west coast of Florida and found a neato den of Goliath Grouper each in the 400 lb class. Now these are a protected species so I’m not allowed to shoot them, but going in a little closer to get a good look seemed like a great idea. Now when a goliath grouper feels threatened they can drum their gillplates which creates this underwater boom boom* boom which makes your whole body vibrate. Now imagine like 5 of these bad boys just vibrating the s**t out of this wreak, and I’m in 40 feet of water very aware of that I hold no power down here. I had to wash that wetsuit a little more thoroughly.
Not deep sea but fishing. About 10 years ago now I was fishing at Coles bay, Australia, there were 4 of us in the ~14ft aluminium boat that day.
We were bottom fishing for flathead in the bay when the weather started cutting up, not wanting to give up so early we decided to do one more drift in near the beach. We were in shallow enough water that you could almost see the bottom.
Quiet fishing occurs for a few minutes when suddenly my rod almost bends completely in two and the line snaps. The same thing happens to my uncle to the right of me. Thinking we’re hitting rocks and snagging, my grandad tell my cousin to pull his line up.
Something bites, he manages to pull it up for one or two winds before his line snaps, just enough to pull this things shadow into view.
It was the shadow of a massive sting ray, almost as long as the boat and wide enough to darken the waters around us.
We all went completely silent and watched it swim away. Never seen anything like it before or since. We checked later and the water was only ~15-20ft deep there.
I’m a marine biologist, while at uni I went out to the deep ocean on a scientific cruise. We were trawling about 800 m. Pulled up the catch. I found a hermit crab. What was cool about this was it wasnt in a mollusc shell but was in a hard anemone. The anemone had a bottom part that was hard and hollow perfectly fitted for the crab. On top was two clusters of stingers. It was an awesome little symbiotic relationship in which the anemone gave the hermit crab shelter and protection and the crab presumably moved the anemone to food. Anyway, I tagged and bagged it for another scientist to look at. I never followed what happened with it. I tried to search if it had been discovered. I couldn’t find anything. It could have been a unique discovery.
I don’t fish but when I was in the Navy we parked the ship over the Marianas trench with is like 5 miles deep, and went swimming, I did not see anything but in my mind!!! It’s freaky swimming in water that deep..
I dive in the open ocean at night a lot while leading something called a blackwater dive. I have seen all sorts of strange life, but certainly one of the creepier encounters (cookie cutter sharks, larval fish, strange squids, schools of mola) was when I watched a spotted dolphin hit a squid and take off. Drifting down from the site of attack was this bright shiny thing. As I looked closer, I realized it was the squid’s eyeball that popped out in the attack, starting on a journey sinking 6000 feet below us.
I went deep sea fishing last summer. I don’t have an insanely terrifying story or anything, but I have a couple that may entertain. Both happened on the same trip
The first story is that at one point, a teaser line got caught up in the prop shaft. No big deal, the captain (my friends dad) turns off the motors and then a couple of us dive in with goggles. At this point, we were 40-50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, water depth 150-200 feet. We have a kitchen knife and are trying to cut this insanely tough fishing line off of a circular metal shaft. Being in the water, noticing how clear and blue it was, gave me a sense of awe, but at the same time a sense of fear. I knew that the water was as clear as a swimming pool, yet I still couldn’t see the bottom. I couldn’t see anything, really, except a gorgeous shade of blue. After a bit, my other buddy wanted to help out with the tangled mess, so I got out and gave him my goggles. While down there, the two guys noticed remoras swimming beneath.
Getting sucked into by one is inadvisable. Basically, the remora began to swim at my friends, so they just got the hell out of there, and the line was already well enough taken care of anyway.
Second story is less intimidating. We had 4 lines out, and one in the middle popped out of the outrigger. The line started flying, and I mean flying out of the reel. My friends and I rushed to pick up the rod so we could land this apparently massive hunk of sea meat, but the line snapped before we even got to the rod. To this day, I’m not 100% sure what sort of fish that was, although my suspicions are that it was a gargantuan king fish
Late to the party etc etc. Not my story but rather my Granddads who was a Chief Engineer on Trawler ships operating out of Hull.
Was fishing at night of the coast of Norway in the 70s I believe when a call came on radio (Worth nothing its was an open secret all the radio operators on the trawlers worked for the government and also had sonar equipment to listen for USSR Subs) to evacuate a 100 or so mile area and if the trawlers could not get there nets up in time to GTFO then they should just cut them free (Which is a very expensive thing to do when you have dozens of miles of nets out in the water). On the way out my granddads trawler and other trawlers in the area saw a massive white flash on the horizon.
After returning to Hull it was discovered a ship called the Gaul had never returned and had lost all radio contact around time of this flash. Fast forward 20 or so years later and the wreckage of the Gaul was discovered and officially sank because of a waste flow pipe being overwhelmed by a massive wave that flooded the lower compartments of the ship and sent her to the bottom. Rather interestingly there was no human remains found on or near the ship nor any equipment food bedding etc and all the windows had been blown outwards along with a hole about 3m across through the middle of the ship with all the metal work being twisted upwards towards the sky. My granddad always insisted up to his death that the sea that night was as still as a pond and that his radio operator was fairly sure the GTFO warning came from the Gaul. As well around the time of the Gauls sinking 16 unknown graves were created and filled in Murmansk, Russia.
Another one of his favourite story’s was that one day the engine for hauling in the nets was redlining and came very close to exploding so had to be shut off as they assumed the nets had got stuck on the bottom. A few minutes later a Soviet sub surfaced behind them with the nets stuck to the periscope complete with a bunch of very pissed off soviet sailors armed with guns who unhooked the nets and disappeared back under the water. It was a known tactic that soviet subs tried to sit under the trawlers and use them as cover to get out into the Atlantic hence a lot of the ships having government paid radio operators on board.
I do quite a bit of saltwater fishing, and any time I’m on a chartered boat, I ALWAYS ask this question to the captain.
On a blackfin tuna trip out of Key West three years ago, I asked the question, and without thinking…or blinking really, the captain said “A dead elephant in the middle of the ocean.”
I’ll never forget that. Same captain also told me that while tied behind a shrimp boat not far offshore, his client pulled up a large grouper with a human knee joint (and muscle/flesh) inside its mouth. They went back to shore, and contacted the appropriate authorities to let them know a shrimper had possibly dismembered someone and tossed them into the ocean. Weird stuff.
I have been out in the open ocean (no land or other boats around) and the sea was perfectly calm on a clear day. Our boat was only small and it was not moving at all – it was perfectly still, there was no wind, the water surface looked like glass. It was eerie and slightly disturbing. Only comfort was I was not alone and we were not a sailboat.
While on a sailing cruise returning to Miami from the Bahamas I was permitted to pilot the boat while the crew sat down for dinner. I was told to simply follow a certain heading on the compass. As we were going along I noticed the position of the sun was rather rapidly changing as I was chasing the heading on the compass. I returned to what I thought was the correct heading and watched in amazement as the compass began to spin in circles. We had been scuba diving so several of us had compasses and they were all exhibiting the same behavior. The heading on the GPS was unaffected.. After maybe 10-20 seconds the spin slowed to a stop back on the correct heading. The crew logged the coordinates of the anomaly. The best guess we had was that we’d crossed over an old shipwreck, perhaps something hauling a large amount of some magnetic metal over to the Bahamas.
My dad owns a fishing boat so we used to go offshore fishing very often when I was younger, I have a few not so creepy stories.
First one was on our trip in the Florida keys, we were maybe 30 miles offshore, no land or other vessels in sight. We were hauling a** away from some a quickly approaching storm cloud when I saw a funnel cloud appear. It was kind of eerie being an 8 year old and seeing this s**t a few thousand feet behind you, knowing that if it got close enough to us and we didn’t make it, no one would ever know for a long time and there’s nothing we can do about it. Another time, when I was about ten, we were trolling for fish 40miles or so off the coast of bimini (bahamas) and this large lump floated within a few feet of our boat. It was a dead sea turtle, a pretty big one too.
We gaffed it, flipped it over in the water, and there was a huge baseball sized hole through its underside, and it went all the way through its body until it reached its shell area. It was like a neat cylinder had been carved out of its body, and it looked flat black. I don’t know if it was just rotting, but it almost looked charred. Turtle also had numerous hooks and cut lines coming out of its mouth, which is pretty normal for dead ones. We set it loose, still no idea what happened to it.
This last story I thought I had dreamt or something until I asked my dad about it recently and he confirmed it. I was around the same age as my last two stories, and we were offshore fishing for mahi pretty much all day. I don’t remember if we were on the gulf side or Atlantic side, but the water was seriously deep and blue. We must have been many miles offshore and looking at the sonar I remember it being much deeper than 2000 feet. Anyway, about midday, bored 10 year old me was sitting on the roof of our center console, and I see this dark shape about 20 feet under the surface. It was seriously huge and definitely not a whale or anything. It was man-made, a gigantic a** submarine, and it was RIGHT next to our boat. Like 20 feet away. It stayed next to us for about 60 seconds, then submerged slowly and went on its way. It was so creepy seeing it out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and knowing that there were people right inside of it.
I was on a dive boat off the coast of the Big Island in Hawaii last week. It was after dark and a pod of dolphins was spending a lot of time playing around off our stern. They were pretty interested in us it seemed since every once in a while you could see a head pop up and just sort of look at us for a few seconds.
Pretty much everyone was hanging out on the dive platform on the stern when suddenly this huge manta ray comes right up to the surface about five feet away from the boat. It was easily 10 ft. wide. It did a quick flip and was gone in a few seconds. It wasn’t too freaky as we’d been night diving with them a few nights before that. But I could see how someone who wasn’t aware of them would get really freaked out. The ocean has a lot of weird stuff in it.
Out off Bermuda back in the 80s or early 90s we saw a huge piece of rocket fuselage or aeroplane floating vertically 5-6 feet out of the water. It was out in the Gulf Stream and was moving quite quickly. This was before Internet so we never knew what it was part of.
I was about 40 miles off the coast of the carolinas, and see a watermelon bobbing along in the water next to the boat. So random.
Not a deep sea fisherman, but I was in the Navy. We were a few hours off the coast of Thailand, I was in the hangar bay of the carrier for morning muster and there were trees floating in the ocean. like they had been cut down and thrown in, bobbing right side up with their bare branches sticking out of the water. It was really weird to me.
Back in the 80s I was in the Bahamas, where the water is crystal clear to the bottom and pretty shallow. We were going spearfishing, and had a spotter plane locating the spot, I was on a boat on the bow spotting coral reefs so we would not crash. The plane tips its wings and we find the spot, I look down and there is a World War 2 fighter plane sitting on the sand about 30 feet down. It was surreal. We got in the water with our Hawaiian slings, and attached the boat anchor to one of the wings. The boat pulled the wing up and hundreds of these lobster like creatures scattered across the sea floor, but they had no claws. I snagged about 3 of them and had them for dinner that night.
I do a lot of fishing at night, the weirdest things I’ve seen / caught are the greater hammerhead sharks. They look downright creepy in person at night.