You probably know that the majority of our planet’s surface is covered by bodies of water. (Specifically: It’s a hair shy of 71%.) What you might not have heard, though, is that sea waves can move at hundreds of miles per hour. Or that the ocean’s depths are home to millions of tons of gold. Or that scientists have more detailed, more extensive maps of Mars than they do of our own oceans. Yes, as deep as our planet’s oceans are physically, they’re deeper still when it comes to mystery and fascination. The following little-known facts about the ocean are sure to blow you out of the water.
We’re Constantly Discovering Terrifying New Creatures
If you think the beasts of the jungle are horrifying, you haven’t seen anything yet. Creatures like the fangtooth (!), goblin shark, and frilled shark are far more terrifying than anything you’d discover on land. Scarier yet, we’re always finding new monsters in the ocean: in fact, the largest colossal squid ever discovered was found just 11 years ago. Imagine what we’ll discover in the next 11 years. (As of this writing, we’ve yet to discover any extraterrestrial life.)
The Ocean is Home Base for Hurricanes
While hurricanes may cause the most devastation when they make landfall, their home base is in the ocean. And when these ocean-based storms touch down, they touch down hard; in 2017 alone, 103 Americans died as a result of injuries sustained in hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. Solar flares—storms from space—harmlessly bounce off our ozone layer.
The Ocean Floor is Littered with Shipwrecks
While it’s nice to imagine that there’s nothing but placid water below us when we’re taking a dip in the ocean, the reality is much more terrifying. In fact, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission estimates that the ocean floor is home to a staggering 3 million wrecked vessels. Space (designated as any elevation above the Karman Line) has claimed a comparatively few four vessels.
And Dead Bodies
Of course, all those wrecked ships didn’t man themselves. In many cases, the bodies of crew members and passengers on shipwrecked vessels stay in the ocean for shockingly long periods of time. In 2014, researchers diving in an underwater cave off the coast of Mexico found the remains of a girl estimated to be at least 12,000 years old. In other words, the ocean is a cemetery. Space, not so much.
It’s a Lightning Magnet
While the ocean may not get struck by lightning as often as land, when it does, the results can be disastrous. Because water is a conductive substance, the lightning spreads rapidly and can electrocute any people, animals, and boats that are in it.
It’s a Bacterial Hotbed
Just because the tide is coming in and receding doesn’t mean that ocean water you’re taking a dip in is fresh, per se. The bad news for beach-goers is that parts of the ocean are teeming with bacteria—including that of the flesh-eating variety. Just last year, a woman developed necrotizing fasciitis after dipping her feet into the ocean off Myrtle Beach. A prokaryotic cell—the type of thing that, eventually, spawns disease—has never been discovered off Earth.
Just one milliliter of ocean water can contain approximately 10 million viruses.
It’s Filled With Garbage
The ocean may look beautiful from that pristine stretch of beachfront you’re sipping your margarita on, but make no mistake: it’s a huge trash can. In fact, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which lives between California and Hawaii, has grown to 600,000 square miles—more than twice the size of Texas.
If You Crash in the Ocean, You’re a Goner
While there’s actually a good chance of surviving a minor plane crash—up to 95 percent, according to the National Transportation Safety Board—if you find yourself crashing into the ocean, you’re out of luck. Not only is the combination of a massive plane crash plus potential drowning situation pretty hard to come back from, in many cases, the wreckage from a plane crash in the ocean is never found.
The Bermuda Triangle
This 500,000 square mile area of the Atlantic Ocean is steeped in terrifying mystery and folklore. As the legend goes, once a ship or vessel enters the Triangle, they’ll be lucky if they ever see the light of day again. According to History.com, the most chilling case of these mysterious disappearances occurred when the USS Cyclops, “a 542-foot-long Navy cargo ship with over 300 men and 10,000 tons of manganese ore onboard,” sank somewhere in the Triangle. The captain didn’t even find the time to send out an SOS signal. After exactly 100 years of endless searching, the cargo ship is still nowhere to be found. We’ve kept track of every ship that’s left orbit.
Much of the Ocean Remains Unexplored
Though scientists have taken the time to map out 100 percent of the moon and Mars, they’ve only managed to explore a whopping five percent of the ocean, according to the National Ocean Service.
10 People Drown Per Day in the United States
Yep, that’s right—an estimated 3,536 deaths occur each year by drowning—rounding to about ten per day just in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, drowning is the number one cause of deaths in children from one to four after birth defects. These statistics far outweigh the number of deaths in space, which, in over 50 years, have amounted to 21.
There’s a reason why the Jaws movies are so terrifying—because shark attacks are actually way more common than you think. Just in 2017, the world saw 88 unprovoked and 30 provoked shark attacks, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. (Alien attacks: 0.)
And Even More Terrifying Predators
But, as you already know, sharks aren’t the only danger swimming just beneath the surface. The National Ocean Service reports that the Australian Box Jellyfish is the most venomous marine animal in the ocean. These potential threats, along with the Pufferfish, that contains enough toxins to kill 30 adult humans—to which there is no known antidote, and the Barracuda, which can reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour when on the attack. (Alien attacks: still 0.)
Rip Currents Can Drag You Out to Sea
According to the National Ocean Service, rip currents, “powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore,” account for more than 80 percent of rescue missions on the beach. These sometimes deadly currents can come out of nowhere.
In total, these natural sea disasters have killed around 175,000 people, and can be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, or basically any large-scale disturbance in the sea, according to the National Ocean Service. While there are a few ways to guard against these disasters, the multiple-feet-high walls of water are almost impossible to reckon with. What’s more, the most devastating thing to hit our planet from outer space, an asteroid, causes most of the damage through the resulting tsunami.
The Folk Legends About Sea Creatures Are Terrifying…And Sometimes Turn Out to Be Real
Though the Giant Squid used to be a folktale used to scare men out at sea, the creature actually turned out to be a real, absolutely terrifying monster. These sea legends can extend up to 43 feet in length, and are known to have cannibalistic tendencies.
The Ocean is Scientifically Geared to Lure You In
To make matters worse, the ocean is scientifically geared to make us, weak humans, attracted to its shiny depths.
Corals Are Living, Breathing Creatures
Don’t ask us how something with no eyes, mouth, or appendages can be considered a living thing, because we don’t really know. All we do know is that corals—yes, those things that look and act like rocks—are actually classified as marine invertebrates made up of thousands of tiny creatures called polyps.
It Can Make You Seriously Ill
The ocean is so littered with bacteria that scientists still aren’t sure how many illnesses can be picked up from it, but they have confirmed that you can catch Hepatitis, Legionnaire’s Disease, MRSA, Gastroenteritis, and Pink Eye. The best part: Most of the bacteria is the result of humans using the ocean like a trash can.
You Can Still Get Sunburn in the Ocean
Don’t think for a second that the ocean water is going to stave off the sun’s rays. On the contrary, the World Health Organization warns that water reflects 10 percent of the sun’s UV rays, while sand reflects an additional 15 percent.
In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered a screeching bloop—deemed “The Bloop”—coming from the depths. To this day, no one knows for certain what it comes from, though NOAA scientists have speculated it could be due to glacial movement. For the record, the SETI Institute—the organization in charge of listening to outer space, in the hopes of hearing something, anything—has turned up nothing.
We Have No Idea How Fishing Impacts the World
According to a report from the National Oceanography Center, there’s not enough data out there to know how fishing—deep-sea fishing, in particular—impacts the global ecosystem.
The Kraken Used Skeletons As Art
You know the Kraken—the legendary, bus-sized squid that indiscriminately devoured ships and creatures as if they were krill. Turns out, according to the International Business Times, the Kraken of yore (yes, they’re real) used to murder dinosaurs and arrange the skeletons in artistic patterns. At least the aliens of fiction efficiently eliminate us and are done with it.
We Have No Idea How to Explore the Ocean
Once, in 2012, James Cameron, of Titanic fame, reached the nadir of the ocean, the bottom of the Mariana Trench, becoming only the second person in history to pull off such a feat. But the dive was unsustainable. He was forced to surface after just a few hours of study. We’ve been able to spend far longer periods of time in space—and a lot more than two people have pulled it off.
Rogue waves are real, and they’re freaking terrifying.
Originally thought to be a myth, these extreme waves have recently been accepted by scientists. According to the National Ocean Service, rogue waves are “greater than twice the size of surrounding waves, are very unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves.”