With much of the sea undiscovered, there's no way of knowing what sort of spooky discoveries lie within its depths. Although, some of these people got a sneak peek.
Sailors share the unnerving things they've seen at sea. Content has been edited for clarity.
“Weird And Awesome”
“My dad and I were sailing in the Sea of Cortez, it was early morning with some patchy surface fog. I was 14 or 15 at the time. We heard what sounded like applause in the distance, but becoming louder. We could soon see a patch of disturbed water getting closer and closer and hundreds of objects flying out of the water and splashing back down.
A few of them flew out, hit the deck of the boat, and bounced back into the water. Stingrays. A whole school of them, jumping out of the water for some reason. It was weird and awesome.”
Wouldn’t Want To Be George
“I worked on tug boats for about six years. The back deck is considered a ‘wet deck,’ meaning it isn’t unusual for it to be underwater at times. We were making tow with an oil rig at sea with waves that were 14-16′ and one hit us just right, taking my coworker George and pulling him out to sea.
Now it’s three in the morning and pitch black. This is nearly always a death sentence. About 20 seconds later (which felt like an eternity), another wave brought George back on deck, plopping him safely on his butt right next to the winch. George laughed and got right back to work without missing a beat.”
“A Sight I Will Never Forget”
“I did the Newport to Bermuda Race a few years ago. It was the middle of the night and I was sitting on the foredeck; it’s super dark out and the stars were incredible.
Suddenly, I see three bright green streaks shooting through the water directly toward me, like florescent torpedoes beneath the water heading straight into the side of our hull.
It was three dolphins kicking up bioluminescence in the water as they swam. They followed us for 20 minutes, I couldn’t see them just their bright green trails as they ducked and weaved alongside us. An incredible sight I will never forget.”
“The Ocean Is An Incredible Place”
“Two years ago, I was about 150 miles offshore from Long Island, NY, in a 31-foot boat. We were trolling for yellowfin tuna. In the distance, we saw two huge fins coming out of the water, so we headed towards them thinking it was a couple of sharks. As we got closer, we realized it was one big shark…there it was just cruising slowly at the surface, not even the slightest bit disturbed by us approaching.
Once we got up next to it, we realized that this shark was almost as big as the boat. It had to be at least 25 feet long and several thousand pounds. I was in absolute shock as we passed it. I’d never seen a shark even close to that big. I’ve seen plenty of whales, turtles, dolphins, sharks, all kinds of crazy things out at sea. But never a predator this large.
This thing was a killer. I will never forget that moment. The ocean is an incredible place.”
Only They Saw It
“I’m a former Navy technician. While on operation, we were performing daily system operability tests on the CIWS which is used to defend against incoming missiles and certain surface threats.
The CIWS has its own radar system for identifying and tracking threat targets. It also has an infrared camera system so that operators in the Ops Room and techs/secondary operators in the ‘maintenance’ area can see what it is seeing.
While performing these tests in the middle of the night, my supervisor and I observed a white-hot object flying through the sky. We had control of the CIWS as we were performing our tests (whereas normally the Ops room operators would have control), and we manually acquired a thermal lock on the target. For the life of me, I cannot recall the altitude or speed of the object, but whatever it was at the time would have been within the capabilities of our main radar systems to detect.
We called the Ops room and reported that we have an unidentified air target, but they reported back that nothing was on any radar system. Literally nothing around us for a hundred miles or more. We continued to monitor its thermal signature for a few minutes before the object made an abrupt change of bearing (one that shouldn’t be possible given the speed), and we lost the thermal lock. We manually scanned and found it again, regaining the thermal lock. After following for a few more moments, it simply disappeared.
No idea what it could have been. The thermal camera isn’t very high definition but you can make out general shapes of craft most of the time. You can tell a helicopter from other types of aircraft, for example. This object however was just two round balls of heat rotation around each other. It really freaked us out and is unlike anything we’ve seen before. We stayed up discussing what it could be and of course, aliens were brought up.”
It Was A Flare, Right?
“I was on a family friend’s boat when I was a teen. Family and friends. It was a four-day boat trip around the Cabo San Lucas area. I don’t remember our exact location or anything like that, just that we left Cabo San Lucas.
It was late and the adults went to bed. I had my Game Boy and Pokémon to keep my attention. Went out on the deck and sat in a chair around midnight or 11 pm to try and catch the Red Gyarados. Sometime during my fight with the Gyarados, I saw a light out the corner of my eye. Keep in mind, we’re out 30+ miles away from shore if not more. So I turned to see a bright blue light in the sky. It was an orb? Or like a LED. Anyways, it was holding steady in the sky. Not moving at all. Probably a good head turn up and far away, but didn’t seem anywhere near us.
After a few minutes of this blue light just sitting there, it moved. Not directly towards us or anything so crazy but it moved in a straight path across the horizon for a good minute. Still, far away so it appeared. Then it dropped and dropped again, and then I couldn’t see it. Like it dropped into the water or landed on something.
To this day I have no clue what I saw. But I know I saw what I saw. My father said it probably a flare or something. But I know they don’t move like what I saw.”
Was Anyone On Board?
“My buddy and I were fishing out in the Gulf of Mexico, maybe 10 miles west of Marathon or Key West when we see smoke to the south of us. It was a boat. We pull up our lines and head over to it. It was a large boat, maybe 25 feet long, that had completely burnt down to the hull. Both engines were still running, in gear, at idle.
There were no signs of anyone on board, but everything was so burned out that we couldn’t even tell. Eventually, we were able to knock it into neutral with a gaff and call the coast guard, who showed up about 20 minutes later. By this point, it was close to sinking, which it eventually did about an hour later.
They picked through it and couldn’t identify any human remains but didn’t have very long to look. The Yanmars were still chugging away as it slipped into the water. Still, no idea what happened.”
“Still Gives Me Shivers To This Day.”
“A few years back, I was in Kona doing some around town exploring when a friend asked if I wanted to go see manta rays. I took him up on the offer, and we headed down to the Marriott hotel on the water.
We walked around the side of the building and wandered on some rocks until we reached a certain point where he told me to jump in. All I had on was a scuba mask and some trunks, but it was enough so I could see where we were swimming and still be able to breathe.
Being smaller and shorter than me, my friend took the lead and I tried to follow, but as soon as I looked down into the clear nighttime water my heart sank. I could see the bottom. Not just SEE it, but I could judge the depth. Now, I’m not hugely afraid of heights, but I have a small sense of acrophobia, like that sudden stomach drop you get when you’re up really high and look down. That, except I was floating on top of it and didn’t expect it to be that deep.
I lost focus for a second and had to slow my breathing pattern before I could continue. We eventually made it to a small tourist boat where a group of people were gathered watching three manta rays perform in the water below.
God, those things are big, and being able to get a sense of how deep the water was didn’t help that fact at all. Still gives me shivers to this day.”
They Were In A Lot More Danger Than They Realized
“We were on a glass-bottom boat tour in Hawaii once, in Hanauma Bay, and were headed to an area well known for Humpback whales to gather, breed and nurse. The tour operator said they weren’t allowed to approach closer than 100’ feet, but there were often large groups of whales in the area so the chances of seeing a couple were very high.
When the boat was in transit there was a stream of agitated water under the hull so you couldn’t see anything. I thought the whole glass-bottom thing was a scam until we stopped moving, then the view was incredible! The water was a beautiful blue and visibility seemed unlimited. We had stopped over top of a reef of sorts, and the diversity of sea life was amazing.
The tour operator, who was a grizzled old Islander tanned a dark shade of brown, was on the PA describing the amazing sights below our feet. He spoke with the laid back chilled out voice you’d expect from a guy whose job was being on vacation in Hawaii!
We hadn’t seen any Humpbacks up close though, just a few breaches a long way off when suddenly the view in the glass bottom was obscured by bubbles. A whale had swum, at high speed, right under the boat. Then another, and another, and another, a conveyor belt of whales. They started rubbing up against and bumping into the boat. I don’t know how big or long the boat was, maybe 75 feet, held about 100 people, but the impacts were enough to make us slide around on the plastic benches.
Everyone was looking down through the glass bottom, but I glanced up for a second and we were surrounded, on all sides, by whales 8 or 10 deep. At first, the tour operator was gushing with excitement, saying this had never happened to him in 30 years, how lucky we were, how amazing it was. He said the whales were 45’ – 60’ long and could weigh 40 tons. They were so graceful for their size, all covered in barnacles. It was great fun, the whales seemed quite playful.
Then the bumping intensified to the point where all the passengers were sliding on the plastic benches, crashing into one another and a few fell onto the floor. People were screaming and children were crying. Obvious fear started creeping into the tour operator’s voice, and that fear percolated down to the tourists. Eventually, he stopped talking, and we all just resigned ourselves to our fate. You realize at that moment how small and helpless you are, and how big and wild Mother Nature is.
It went on and on, for about 20 minutes, so long it wasn’t even fun anymore, the whales seemed to be terrorizing us. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they disappeared. Literally one second we were engulfed in a maelstrom and the next second we were alone on the ocean. The boat captain started the engines and we headed back to the shore.
Everyone sat in stunned silence, husbands consoled wives, women comforted children, not even the tour operator spoke for the 30-minute journey back to shore. As we approached the dock, he came back on the PA with his sales pitch about recommending him to others, but his voice was still pretty shaky. I thought, it probably takes a lot to rattle that guy, we were probably in more danger than we knew.”
No One Will Want To Serve With Him
“My brother was a submariner in the Royal Navy for years. He told me the scariest thing he’d ever come across was an incompetent captain.
Apparently when the submarine is in trouble, one of the options is for the captain to order an immediate surface- the boat will basically shoot up like a rocket.
Prior to doing this, the order goes round for the crew to brace. When that order goes round, every man on the boat stops what they’re doing and hangs on to something for dear life, knowing that the boat is about to shoot upwards at breakneck speed.
The captain ordered everyone to brace, and then did nothing. The boat did not shoot upwards, it sat exactly where it was. The crew, knowing what should be happening started to wonder why they were not rocketing towards the surface. The only explanation was that the submarine was messed up and will never see the surface again. A whole submarine crew, including my brother, started to ponder their imminent deaths.
Eventually, the Captain alerted the crew that they were not in danger but enough time had elapsed for the crew to get seriously worried. The 2nd officer refused to serve with him again.”
“Both Of Our Hearts Dropped”
“Many years ago, a family friend took me out to sea for the first time. Never have I been fishing or on a boat and always wanted to go. We went out into the Gulf of Mexico according to him, about three or so miles out. We just planned to hang out on the boat half the day. Fish a little. Well, you know how when you’re in a field or big open space (like the ocean) and a cloud above approaches, you can see its shadow on the ground/water? Well, I see that. Maybe stretched a few hundred feet wide.
I mentioned to my friend about how cool it was that we can see an entire cloud shadow coming at us out in the ocean. Then I looked up to see which cloud it was….there was none. It was a clear blue day. The only clouds I could see was on the horizon far off. That’s strange. I suggested that maybe we were just moving toward a high area of land? Just a few feet deep? He said no because we are anchored.
Now both of our hearts drop. It’s approaching us fast. We are laughing hysterically out of pure amazement and confusion. Now it’s maybe 30 feet away. We are just on the right side of it. As soon as the shadow begins to pass under us, the boat gets yanked hard. I fell on my back and my friend was holding onto a rail and didn’t fall. The boat settled and the shadow continued to move past. It eventually turned to the right and went out to sea.
My friend and I are freaking out and decide to just leave. He goes to pull the anchor up….but there is no anchor. Just the part where the anchor was attached and it’s ripped off. Damaged. Whatever that thing was clipped the chain and ripped it off without slowing down at all. That’s why the boat yanked.
Again, it was huge. If I had to compare it to something. I would say maybe a tad bigger than a football field. As for shape, eggish. It was oval. So the front end was sort of rounded but more pointed than the back. Imagine the shadow of a giant egg with the top facing you.
We still have no leads on what kind of animal is that big and can just bump into an anchor and rip it off like it was made of butter.”
What Caused Them To Do That?
“My uncle was once scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, he was doing some kind of study for the University he worked for, something to do with how some predators in the ocean hunt by detecting the electrical activity of fish nervous systems.
So he finds this big field of sponges. Now, for those who don’t know, sponges are basically like plants. They don’t move. They’re attached to where they grow, and they filter water that moves through them, straining out nutrients.
So there’s this field with like a thousand sponges attached to the reef. Now, my Uncle Ray didn’t dive alone, I mean, he could, but he didn’t, it’s safer to have a dive buddy. So he’s looking at these sponges and his dive buddy is swimming away after some fish, part of the study I guess.
And then the sponges start moving. All at once, they twist and bend, and as one, each seems to reach out, grab onto a different part of the reef, let go of the old part, raise back up on the new perch, and they go back still again.
Overall they moved about a foot and a half. An unexplained undersea mass sponge migration.”
What Brushed His Leg?
“I was pulling a small sailboat mast from the bottom of a lake during a storm – waves had flipped the boat. So I was about ten feet down and pulling the mast up, and the weight of it pushed me down so I was basically standing at the bottom of the lake and could see the waves up top. It was an overall weird/frightening/stimulating experience.
And then something big swam past me and brushed my leg – must’ve been at least three feet long. I eventually got the boat turned back over and the mast onboard and we got towed in. As we hit land. I laid down on the beach and decided I wasn’t going to go in the water for a couple of days.”
“That Night Still Haunts Me”
“I was an engineer and first mate on a converted LCM-80 ( LCM-8) in the fish trade. We operated in the Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound, and Bristol Bay fisheries as a tender, taking salmon and herring from smaller boats and villages in for processing on land.
We had a regular spool windlass on the back, and for some reason, the company thought this made us equipped to tow a 220-foot barge from Whittier, up through the Aleutian islands at False Pass, and around to Bristol Bay and back each year.
The Gulf of Alaska can be a cruel place sometimes, and at 4 knots max speed, we got caught in a doozie. We tried sheltering behind an island (can’t remember, we were working our way up the Aleutian peninsula), but even so we’re unable to hold against the wind and got pulled out. The little windlass on the back deck was getting pulled off and ripping a hole in the engine room in the process. Eventually, in 25-foot seas, we let go of the barge and just tracked it and followed it on the radar, figuring we’d recover it when things calmed down in a few days.
In the horrific days that followed, during which I must have vomited twice my body weight, we nearly got rolled once and took on about 10,000 gallons of water in one of our compartments. So, good times. On the last terrible night, I was on watch in the wheelhouse while the captain slept. About 3 AM, and we were rolling 33 – 37 degrees, quickly losing speed, with the barge popping in and out on radar about 4 miles in our lee. Suddenly, the whole ship reverberated and shook with a thunderous boom, and I was sure we were done. We’d obviously hit something hard. I woke the captain and the deckhand. A good 15 minutes later, there was still no sign of flooding in any compartments or other alarms, but I notice the Loran lost signal, and I wasn’t having any luck on the SSB trying to call in for a possible rescue. The deck lights wouldn’t come on, and we had a couple of popped breakers in the nav lights.
After a while, it became obvious we weren’t sinking, so we went about our watches just keeping an eye on things.
At first light, I roped off and went on deck to see what on Earth was going on, and then I saw what had happened.
The ship we were on had a deckhouse at bulwark level, and a pilothouse and stateroom built above that. So the roof of the pilothouse was a good 25 feet above the water.
Mounted to the steel of the pilothouse was a 4-inch steel pipe that went up a few feet to a 3-inch steel cross member, forming a large T on which our radio and navigation antennas, as well as our mast lights, were mounted.
It was gone. The whole thing. Bent over at 90 degrees and broken off as if by the hand of the lord himself. Also gone were the life rafts, which were also mounted on the roof structure. The massive 4-inch steel mast had been bent over and torn off. It wasn’t like it was corroded and just broke. There was obviously massive force involved, and even the reinforced steel plate of the mast step on the cabin roof was distorted.
It took us about a week, but eventually, the seas abated and we were able to bring the barge in undertow to the shelter of the peninsula once again. We made the next thousand miles without much except flat seas and beautiful vistas… Such is the life of the mariner.
When we eventually got into Dillingham, everyone was quite surprised as we had been declared lost at sea, and the coast guard had already given up the search days before. Both our life rafts had been found empty with their EPIRBs deployed, and we were all assumed dead.
I still have no idea what monstrous thing must have reached out of the sea and broken off that mast, but whatever it was inches away from taking out the wheelhouse where I was blindly staring out into the rain tortured darkness on that night.
That night still haunts me.”