Unlike a lot of people, I’m not really big on going to the beach. I know that there’s this idyllic vision of sun and sand and fun and that sort of thing, but what people fail to realize is that the beach is the gateway to the ocean, home to some of the most terrifying creatures ever known to humanity.
(For the same reasons, I don’t think I’ll ever take a cruise. What if a kraken or something pops up? I’m not going to take any chances.)
The Japanese don’t always have the luxury of getting to ignore the horrors of the ocean; while almost half of the states here in the US are completely landlocked, the sea is a pretty crucial part to Japan’s identity.
There are Japanese stories of sea monsters dating back centuries, covering all sorts of frightening creatures. Just take a look at the umibouzu, a massive sea spirit that haunts sailors and fishers; they’ve been a part of Japanese stories and paintings dating back for quite some time, and are still frankly very terrifying to this day.
But these mythical creatures were inspired by real life creatures which are still around today. After centuries of inspiring terror in sailors all over the world, a giant squid was photographed alive and captured for the first time ever by Japanese scientists just a few years ago.
The giant squid isn’t the only prehistoric-looking deep-sea creature that lives off the coast of Japan. In 2007, a frilled shark, a primordial-looking shark was recorded and captured in the waters near Japan. It looks less like Jaws and more like the love child a dragon and an eel.
Farther out in the waters though, there are even more bizarre, frightening things lurking in the ocean. In 1977, a Japanese fishing vessel called Zuiyo-Maru caught something unusual off of the coast of New Zealand. It was a dead, decomposing creature that they couldn’t quite identify.
Whatever the creature was, it was massive – over two tons and 30 feet long – but it didn’t look like any animal that the fishermen had ever seen. The only thing that came close was the Loch Ness Monster.
After some deliberation, the captain of the ship decided to throw is back into the ocean; he didn’t want the massive, decaying corpse to possibly contaminate the fish and generally just stink up the place. But before the Zuiyo-Maru threw the creature overboard, the crew snapped a few pictures, drew a few sketches, and took a few samples for scientists to analyze after they got back.
When the Zuiyo-Maru returned to port, the creature became a minor sensation in Japan. The Japanese called the creature “New Nessie” (ニューネッシー) after the Loch Ness Monster. The speculation about what the massive creature could be ran wild. Nobody seemed able to easily identify what it was — was it a plesiosaur, an ancient dinosaur that’d been hiding in the depths of the ocean? Or some entirely new creature that had never been seen before?
Within a year though, scientists were able to identify News Nessie as the rotted corpse of a basking shark. I can imagine that more than a few people were disappointed that New Nessie – a creature they thought could be something as fantastic as a dinosaur – turned out to just be a shark.
While it might be disappointing to discover that New Nessie was something so mundane, it certainly hasn’t been the last thing from the ocean to capture our imagination. Tons of different unidentified creatures from the sea (also known as “globsters”) have been found in the years since New Nessie, and caught people’s attention in the same way.
And when the mysterious fails, real, identifiable sea creatures can still take our breath away. I’m still fascinated by footage of a long armed squid taken off of the coast of the US:
For some people though, the real fails them altogether and they resort of stories and urban legends. There were some (completely unsubstantiated) rumors after last year’s tsunami that strange creatures had washed ashore from the sea. There have been faked videos of “
bizzare animal[s] discovered in Japan.” There are stories of “ningen” humanoid creatures lurking in the deeps of the Antarctic.
All I know is that all of these bizarre creatures, whether real, fake, or somewhere in between, are enough to keep me inland. There are enough terrifying things on dry land as it is!