Categories: Mysteries

“Submerged UFO’s” – mysterious and not fully explained phenomena in the oceans

When asked who lives on the ocean floor, people answer differently. Kids and some adults will say: SpongeBob SquarePants. Lovecraft fans will mutter something like “Cthulhu fhtagn” with a twinkle in their eyes. Divers and oceanologists will look thoughtfully at the questioner and, if they are lucky, will tell a lot of interesting things about Quakers, “bio-duck”, “bloop” and even Poseidon -anomalous phenomena of the underwater world.

Submarine project 212 (Type 212 submarine at home, in Germany, as well as Todaro class in Italy) at periscope depth / © Ministero della Difesa

The depths of the sea have always been a mysterious and frightening environment for humans. Perhaps there are no more impressive and persistent legends than those associated with various places in the oceans. Take the notorious Bermuda Triangle or the “Flying Dutchmen” – at first glance, serviceable ships that were abandoned by the crew. Many of them received a reasonable explanation, and some still remain mysteries, even if supported by a lot of evidence.

By analogy with UFOs, or, as they are now officially called “unidentified aerial phenomena”, marine anomalies are often called USOs – unidentified submerged objects. These phenomena can be divided into two classes based on the way they are detected: visual and acoustic. It is logical to note that most of the observations of sound anomalies occur in the second half of the 20th century, when submarines and methods of tracking them became widespread. Whereas descriptions of the first class of USOs have been found since ancient times. Let’s start with them.

Buddha wheels and devilish carousels

The ability of many marine life to produce bioluminescence has long been known. Some species of plankton emit light enough to be seen by the human eye. Most cases of observation of any glow on or directly below the surface of the water are associated with this phenomenon. Well this is from the point of view of science. And if we turn to bikes, stories about mysterious circles on the water are popular. Let’s note right away: despite the prevalence of these stories, not a single documentary evidence of such phenomena exists.

They are called “wheels of Buddha” or “devilish carousels”. There is a version that the first name was given to the luminous circles on the water by Eastern navigators, and the second – by European ones. Moreover, the Chinese considered the meeting with these phenomena a favorable sign, while the Christians took them for a bad omen. It is difficult to find authoritative confirmation of these stories, except for the transmission on Channel One, so let’s move on to the next point.

Krakens and Submarine Sharks

By the 1970s, sane people were convinced that horror stories about giant sea monsters were nothing more than the fruit of the inflamed fantasy of sailors of the past. What could they only think of after six months of eating corned beef, which they have to wash down with water that has bloomed in barrels? But no, sometimes the legends turn out to be true.

Four years before the incident with the damage to the bulb, Stein safely patrols the coast of Hawaii / © US Navy National Archives

In the spring of 1978, the USS Stein DE-1065, the USS Stein DE-1065, was attacked by a giant squid while patrolling the Pacific coast of South America. The target of a deep-sea giant that unexpectedly approached the surface was the protective casing of the nasal sonar. The alarm was sounded by acoustics, whose work was unceremoniously interrupted by a strong abnormal noise. Inspection of the bulb at the forward end of the ship’s keel, where the instrument was located, puzzled the sailors.

The first ever filming of a giant squid in its natural habitat. Taken from aboard a deep-sea vehicle. These creatures live at great depths and if they float to the surface – either dead or for a very short time / © Discovery Channel, screenshot from video

Almost 10% of the rubber-like coating was badly damaged. In cuts and scratches, they found pieces of chitin, similar in composition to the tissues of squid suckers. The problem was that, judging by the size of these suckers, the length of the mollusk should have reached, according to some estimates, 45 meters. That is, almost three times more than the theoretically calculated maximum length of the giant deep-sea squid. History is silent as to whether anyone’s hearing was hurt by hitting a sensitive underwater sound receiver.

But this incident is not the only example of an attack by marine fauna on the US Navy. Around the same years, American submarines acquired active sonar stations AN / BQR-19 from Raytheon : expensive and complex equipment, the outer elements of which were covered with neoprene. It suddenly turned out that on this material, almost in every trip, round holes with a depth of one or two millimeters began to appear.

Submarine USS Ohio, the first in its class of submarines. The seemingly monolithic bow part of the hull is a huge casing of the AN / BQR-19 sonar. Much of it is made of soft materials like neoprene and special rubber / © US Navy photo by Wendy Hallmark

Open sources do not indicate what worried the military most of all: damage to the appearance or some kind of malfunction caused by these caverns. According to some reports, the deepest “wounds” led to leaks of special sound-conducting oil, which literally “blinded” the submarine. In any case, the problem was closely studied by both the command of the fleet and the manufacturer of hydroacoustic stations.

The engineers argued that no animal could leave such damage. The military reached the point where they began to suspect the secret development of Soviet “colleagues”: they say, the communists have come up with a new weapon against nuclear submarines (nuclear submarines). The naval biologists solved the riddle. They remembered that in tropical waters you can find an extremely unpleasant fish: the Brazilian glowing shark. For the specific structure of her jaws in English, they came up with a telling name – cookiecutter shark (the first word means a device that cuts the dough for cookies in even circles).

This rather disgusting-looking creature has a length of about half a meter, hunts in packs and attacks anything that it considers to be food. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a whale or a submarine. With their incredibly sharp teeth, Brazilian glowing sharks pull a large piece of flesh from their prey and swim back to a depth of more than three kilometers. Their belly also emits a pale green light. After the neoprene parts of the nuclear submarine were covered with fiberglass, which fish cannot bite through, the damage to the equipment came to naught.

This female elephant seal was unlucky enough to be attacked by a Brazilian glowing shark. The bites of this fish rarely lead to the death of marine life, but they give them a lot of torment / © Jerry Kirkhart | Wikimedia

Fun fact – ten years later, history repeated itself. Apparently, the Navy forgot about the curious incident with sharks and did not cover the new rubberized outer parts of the submarines with solid materials. Nature was not long in coming: the fish again inflicted considerable financial damage on the US Navy.

Cthulhu awakening?

The mention of Lovecraft in the first paragraph was no coincidence. The writer in his works indicated a fairly accurate location of the underwater city of R’lyeh. This is the abode of a gigantic monster – the Great Ancient Lord of the worlds, Cthulhu. Under normal conditions, he sleeps, but if he wakes up, he will destroy the entire human civilization. How does all this relate to reality? It seems to be nothing, but in 1997 an incredibly powerful infrasonic signal was recorded. He proceeded from approximately the same area of ​​the Pacific Ocean, where, according to Lovecraft’s description, Cthulhu is hiding.

© Andrée Wallin

The piquancy of the situation is added by the general character of the sound, which is very similar to the noises emitted by a living creature. However, if these “gurgles” (Bloop is the official name of this USO) were produced by an animal, it must be several times larger than a blue whale. Many theories have been put forward.

Spectrogram “Bulka” / © NOAA

A combination of factors that enhance the natural infrasound, and the noise of a large concentration of marine life, and the grinding of ice on the ocean floor were assumed. In 2012, scientists agreed that the most likely cause of such a sound was a cracking especially large iceberg.

And other results of the work of SOSUS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( the NOAA ) after the Cold War had access to a powerful tool – SOSUS. This acronym hides a sophisticated American submarine tracking and tracing system. After the collapse of the USSR, there was no need to conduct continuous monitoring of the now not Soviet, but Russian nuclear submarines.

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Some SOSUS nodes were mothballed, and the secrecy was somewhat lowered. As a result, “civilian” scientists gained access to high-precision hydroacoustic instruments. And since the early 1990s, the number of sound anomalies found in the ocean has begun to grow. Among them – both with conditionally established reasons ( Bloop ), and still unexplained. By the way, by a strange coincidence, all unusual sounds that received an explanation were attributed to especially large icebergs.

Takeoff spectrogram / © NOAA

But there are real mysteries too. For example “off» ( Upsweep ) and “whistle» ( Whistle ). The first anomaly was first recorded in August 1991 and has been observed every spring and fall ever since. The sound source is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and may be associated with volcanic activity. Or it may not be: it seems that it will not be possible to establish for sure – every year it is quieter. The “whistle”, in turn, was heard only once and with only one hydrophone one and a half thousand kilometers from the coast of Mexico. Its peculiarity is an unusual spectrogram and a high frequency for infrasound.

Quakers and bio-dips

If the reader gets the impression that only the Americans recorded “sea UFOs”, then they are mistaken. The Soviet sailors also had their own adventures associated with sound anomalies. The most documented “communist” USOs are called “Quakers”. In the mid-1970s, the crews of Russian nuclear powered submarines faced an alarming acoustic phenomenon. Most often it was found in the areas of NATO anti-submarine lines in the North Atlantic.

The acoustics of Soviet submarines recorded unusual sounds, similar to the croaking of frogs. The sources of these low-frequency vibrations almost always accompanied the submarine and moved at incredible speeds (up to 150 knots, according to some reports). The problem was that the active sonar did not show any metal or plastic objects in the place where the sound appeared. Either the Quakers were alive or too small to be found.

Soviet nuclear submarine of project 671 “Ruff” / © US Department of Defense

Until the late 1980s, attempts were made to establish the nature of these sounds. Assumptions were different. Someone suspected previously unknown phenomena occurring in a nuclear reactor: after all, diesel-electric submarines have not heard anything like that. According to another version, the sources of “croaking” could be special oscillatory processes at the boundary of water layers of different temperature and salinity.

For a long time of observations, sailors and scientists have sorted out all possible hypotheses – almost from attempts to contact an alien mind with humanity to an unknown weapon of capitalist aggressors. In the end, the USSR Academy of Sciences insisted that the sounds are of a biological nature: either they are some kind of whales, or unknown species of deep-sea molluscs, mistaking the submarine for prey. Or maybe even large concentrations of sea crustaceans sound like that.

The divers, in turn, argued that this was all nonsense and that the Quakers did not at all look like marine fauna. Mysterious objects tried to find bearing, plotted the places of their detection on the maps and compared the accumulated data of different crews after the campaigns. But no intelligible explanation has appeared.

Loading of sonar buoys into SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter. Such devices can be dropped from almost any type of equipment – an airplane, helicopter, drone, ship or boat. They transmit information about the surrounding acoustic situation on a single frequency and any combat unit equipped with a suitable receiver can receive this intelligence / © US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stuart Phillips

There is the most realistic version, expressed by many skeptics. For croaking, Soviet sailors took the sounds of active buoys being dropped from anti-submarine aircraft. These hydroacoustic radios have water-filled batteries and are hypothetically capable of producing similar sounds. This theory explains why Quakers were most often observed in areas of active NATO patrols – and why they stopped hearing in the 1990s: after the collapse of the USSR, Russian nuclear submarines no longer needed to be monitored so closely. And the rapid movement of the source of the mysterious sound can be a simple effect of the sequential activation of several buoys in a row.

However, Soviet submariners were not the only ones who heard croaking in the depths of the sea. Similar sounds were recorded by sailors of the Royal Navy. True, they christened them differently – “bio-ducks” (the English onomatopoeia of quacking is similar to the Russian-speaking onomatopoeia of croaking). Moreover, the British submariners would not have succeeded in attributing the anomaly to someone’s anti-submarine equipment: the waters around Australia were of interest only to the British. The fact is that this southern continent served as the main nuclear test site for Her Majesty’s army, navy and air force.

Southern minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) shortly before diving. Most likely, it is at this moment that the whale makes a sound called “bio-duck” / © Oceanwide Expeditions

In such a distance, in the 1960s, to closely monitor the underwater situation, not only the USSR, but even the United States would not have enough resources. Then they assumed that the sounds were associated with some kind of marine life, and they calmed down. It took British scientists more than 50 years (kidding aside!) To establish the origin of these “bio-dips”. The initial guess turned out to be correct – whales made a mysterious croak-quack. The southern minke whale makes such a strange sound before deep diving, for an unknown reason.

The loneliest whale in the world

One of the most curious mysteries of the World Ocean is the so-called 52 hertz whale. Since the 1980s, specific singing at a frequency of 52 hertz has been recorded in various parts of the Pacific Ocean. Known species of large whales emit lower sounds: blue – 10-39 hertz, fin whales – 20 hertz. But, despite the anomalous frequency, these sounds are associated in structure with gigantic marine mammals.

By 1992, the unique “singing” was somewhat lower, but the rest of its characteristics remained almost unchanged. The sound source travels at a speed of 30 to 70 kilometers per day and migrates 708 to 11,062 kilometers per season. This behavior is typical of whales. On the basis of all these signs, biologists and oceanologists have suggested that hydrophones record a “voice” of either an unknown species, or a mutant, or a hybrid, or an individual with birth defects.

Migration map of a sound source identified as a “fifty-two hertz whale” /
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

In any case, if this is a whale, then it has already been dubbed the loneliest in the world. The fact is that other individuals of his species are not able to understand singing at such a frequency. For them, the sounds emitted by the 52 Hz are just noise. There is also a more optimistic hypothesis, according to which this singing is one of the “whale dialects” inherent in a previously unknown population of a species.

Stationary objects

The term USO is understood as some mobile or temporary phenomena. But in the World Ocean there are a large number of stationary anomalous objects. If we discard the completely fantastic legends about Atlantis, the list of curious formations on the seabed will still remain impressive. The most notable ones are:

  • Terraced formations near the Ryukyu Islands, or “Yenagui Monument”, are stone structures lying at a shallow depth near the Japanese island of Yonaguni. The dominant point of view in the scientific community is that, despite the correct geometric shapes, it is simply a rare geological phenomenon. It does not prevent many pseudo-archeologists and lovers of everything mysterious to seek confirmation of the man-made origin of this object.
  • The megalith at the bottom of the Pantelleria Vecchia Bay in the Strait of Tunis is a piece of limestone (calcirudite) 12 meters long and weighing 15 tons. It has three neat round holes, at least one of which runs through the megalith. Presumably, this huge stone was processed by man in the Mesolithic (Stone Age), about 12-15 thousand years ago. Analysis of the megalith rock showed that its age is at least 40 thousand years, and the bottom sediments under it are dated no more than 10 thousand years.
  • “Cuban Underwater City” – regular geometric structures on the shelf of the western part of the island of Cuba. They were discovered using sonar in 2001, while exploring the seabed relief. Subsequent research with a remotely controlled underwater robot has raised more questions than answers. The camera image showed pyramidal and ring structures made of granite blocks. It is planned to study education better, but this requires funding.
Left – sonar data obtained from the study of the area of ​​the bottom, later called the “Cuban Underwater City”. On the right is a computer simulation based on them. Most oceanographers are inclined to believe that these are just bizarre-looking natural formations / © Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews | Badarcheology

Other riddles

The phrase that mankind has studied the depths of the sea worse than near space has long been sore. But there is some truth in this. The oceans are a very difficult environment for research, moreover, it has a colossal volume. It is not surprising that there are still many interesting discoveries to be made in it.

In this article, we have considered only those marine anomalies that have a more or less scientific explanation or mention in several independent authoritative sources. Of course, there are many other unexplained (yet) phenomena. For example, the mysterious “ping” ( Ping , onomatopoeia for sonar), which scares away the creatures in the Fury and Heckle. In 2016, the Canadian military initiated an in-depth study of this phenomenon, but so far without success.

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