While we have yet to understand a lot about the ocean, we have known about some of its inhabitants for quite some time. Unfortunately, some of them just don’t get much attention. It’s not that they’re uninteresting by any means; they just happen to inhabit areas of the deep blue that we haven’t thoroughly explored.
So when a camera crew descended upon the coast of Baja California and discovered a mysterious mass in the sea, they were understandably shocked. They weren’t sure what it was at first, but they knew they had to take a closer look. It turned out to be a rare sighting of something pretty spectacular…
While we certainly know about all of the activity that happens on land, most of the planet consists of water — and much of the ocean’s depths is still unknown. It’s an environment scientists are constantly learning more about.
The ocean contains some pretty bizarre species. Scientists frequently encounter unique surprises, like this dumbo octopus found in the Mariana Trench (pictured). Technology has allowed us to go deeper than ever before, but there’s still so much we don’t know… even about species we’re already familiar with!
One afternoon, a camera crew set sail off the coast of Baja California to capture some footage of the ocean life. They hadn’t gotten too far into their journey before they stumbled upon something that had all them stunned…
The team came across this massive pod of some kind of sea creatures. At first, they weren’t sure exactly what they were looking at—there had to have been thousands of them. Curious, the group slowly approached the swarm to investigate.
This enormous group migrating through the ocean was the kind of thing ocean photographers only dream of capturing. But what were these creatures exactly? When the researchers finally realized what they were looking at, it was a jaw-dropping moment…
The scientists quickly determine that these were devil rays! This species is found in warm subtropical and tropical waters, and they migrate across the open waters both in groups or on their own. This crew was lucky enough to capture not just a few of them, but literally thousands!
Even though devil rays glide under water in a very efficient way, they actually have the ability to leap into the air using their powerful fins. Watching them take flight is truly mesmerizing.
There are several theories as to why they perform these aerial acrobatics. Some suggest that it’s possibly a way to attract mates, evade any incoming predators, or to simply help clean unwanted parasites off their bodies.
However, some experts speculate that sometimes they just do it for pure fun! It must be such an awesome feeling to rush out of the water at high speeds and soar briefly through the air over the ocean’s waves.
Devil rays can grow to enormous sizes; some of them can reach up to 25 feet across and weigh as much as 3,000 pounds! However, even though their size might be incredibly intimidating, they’re completely harmless animals.
The stingers on the back of devil rays may seem like lethal weapons, but in fact, they’re not venomous. They’re simply part of their sleek bodies that glide gracefully though the water.
Many people tend to confuse devil rays and stingrays. Even though devil rays (right) have stingers, there isn’t any venom in them. Stingrays (left), however, have a sharp barb on the end of their stingers, which can potentially cause death if a wound isn’t treated immediately.
Devil rays are filter feeders, and they feed on various types of zooplankton and small fish. They simply open their massive mouths and let the food rush in. They can consume up to 60 pounds of food every day!
Isn’t this baby devil ray absolutely adorable? Devil rays will give birth to offspring every other year. As soon as the babies emerge from their mothers, they unfold their fins and off they go!
Devil rays, just like any other species on Earth, need to groom themselves, and they cleverly use their environments to help! They frequently visit areas of reef so tiny fish can nibble all the parasites off them as they slowly glide by.
Many popular vacation spots give tourists the opportunity to swim with devil rays. They’re very curious animals and actually enjoy interacting with humans, which makes for an amazing experience. Can you imagine how those scientists felt seeing thousands of them at once?
Sadly, devil rays face a lot of threats—the biggest of which is overfishing. Many commercial fisheries in Asia target them for the section of cartilage that protects their gills, called gill rakers. Gill rakers are included in certain types of Asian medicine, and the demand is incredibly high.
Pollution can also pose a huge problem to devil rays. Because they open their mouths and let in massive amounts of water when they eat, large pieces of trash can accidentally enter and cause serious health issues for the sea creatures.
Devil rays are absolutely magnificent creatures, and we need to respect them just as we do every other animal on the planet. The camera crew off the coast of Baja California will always remember their once-in-a-lifetime devil ray experience!
Mysterious creatures aren’t the only things causing a stir in the deep. Beneath the calm waters of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, there is a massive secret, one that lay hidden for hundreds of years. But it didn’t stay that way forever.
Flickr / Christian Loader
It is the wreck of the Whydah, a massive ship built to hold 150 men and several hundred tons of cargo. It went missing off the coast of New England in 1717, and many assumed it was lost forever.
However, explorer Barry Clifford discovered the wreck of the Whydah in 1984, and he has been digging up artifacts from the site ever since. His exploits make him one of the greatest treasure hunters of all time.
Wicked Local Yarmouth
Barry has long been on the hunt for a treasure that will make him a legend. He once believed he found the remnants of the Santa Maria from Christopher Columbus’ original 1492 voyage, but tests later determined it was a different vessel.
The Whydah, however, was a monumental find. It was the flagship of one of history’s greatest pirates: Black Sam Bellamy. This captain was known as the ‘Robin Hood of the Sea,’ and for good reason.
For one thing, Bellamy only targeted wealthy merchants and tried to use as little violence as possible. His crew members received equal pay and respect, even those who were Native Americans or former slaves.
In fact, the Whydah was originally the property of slave traders until Bellamy seized it by force and freed the captives aboard.
Valparaiso University, Wikimedia Commons
Most famously, Bellamy pulled off the biggest heists in pirate history. Historians estimate that he plundered the modern equivalent of $120 million throughout his career.
These daring exploits made Bellamy one of the most talked-about pirates of his time. He rose above his criminal origins to become a bona fide folk hero.
Unfortunately, Bellamy didn’t have much time to enjoy his success. A massive storm sank the Whydah, claiming untold amounts of treasure and most of the crew, including Bellamy himself.
Centuries later, Clifford and his colleagues have unearthed countless relics and treasures from the wreck, and they established the Whydah Pirate Museum to share Bellamy’s story.
Even though Clifford’s team has been studying this site for decades, he still felt like they were only scratching the surface. Then, one diving mission in late 2016 changed everything.
The explorers located a large chunk of debris from the Whydah that had many artifacts trapped inside of it. They hauled it up to dry land for a closer look.
It presented a virtual treasure trove, with genuine coins and seafaring equipment jutting through the rough surface. But this motherlode contained one thing the scientists didn’t expect to find… human bones.
They came across a femur just a short distance away from what appeared to be Bellamy’s pistol. Could it be the remains of the late great Captain himself?
Wikimedia Commons / WellCome Images
Clifford knew they needed proof, so he recruited a team of forensic scientists. They extracted DNA from the bone and compared it to that of one of Bellamy’s descendants in the United Kingdom. At last, the results came in…
Flickr / vâniamoreira1
But it was not a match. This bone likely belonged to an anonymous crew member, but certainly not to Captain Bellamy. The elusive Black Sam slipped away from authorities once again.
The bad news sunk Clifford’s theory faster than the Whydah. Nevertheless, the bone gave researchers the chance to learn more about the typical sailor from that era.
Clifford can still take pride in his ongoing excavation of the Whydah. After all, no other famous pirate ship has been studied so closely. Nobody can question his accomplishments or contributions to history.
Besides, the mysteries of the Whydah are still out there in the briny deep, and Bellamy’s final resting place may even surface someday. All it will take is the right person to find it.