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Top 10 Unexplained Ocean Mysteries

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Michael Wynands.

Unsolved ocean mysteries just seem scary, don’t they? Whether it’s the story of the Salish Sea feet – severed feet that wash up on the shores of British Columbia and Washington, the ghost ship known as the S.S. Baychimo, unexplained whale deaths in the Gulf of Alaska or the good old Bermuda Triangle, there are some creepy ocean mysteries that can’t be explained. WatchMojo counts down ten unbelievable ocean mysteries.

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Script written by Michael Wynands.

Top 10 Unexplained Ocean Mysteries

Roughly 71% of the earth is covered in water…that’s a lot of room for the strange and peculiar to take place. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Ocean Mysteries.

For this list, we’re only interested in mysteries that take place on the surface of the ocean, and are excluding any deep sea or underwater mysteries.

#10: The Devil’s Sea

This 60-mile stretch of ocean may not appear on any map, but experienced sailors know well enough to stay away. Also called the Pacific Bermuda Triangle and the Dragon’s Triangle, the area is known for causing electronic malfunctions and the sudden disappearance of ships. It has also been linked with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, UFO sightings, and even temporal abnormalities. What’s more, stories of sea monsters date back to 1000 BC in the surrounding areas. Scientific skeptics have blamed seismic activity from underwater volcanos for the so-called paranormal activities, but seafaring folk know to trust in the instincts of animals - and rumor has it that birds refuse to fly over the area, and dolphins and whales won’t surface there either.

#9: The Bermuda Triangle

The “Bermuda Triangle” may sound innocent enough... but what about the Devil’s Triangle, the Atlantic Hole, or the Triangle of Death? This area of Atlantic Ocean between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico has been the site of multiple disappearances. Most notably, in 1918 the USS Cyclops vanished without a trace, taking 309 souls with her. However, the Triangle’s peril is largely overblown. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s list of the most dangerous waters in the world, it doesn’t even crack the top 10. One of the very reasonable explanations cites the fast flowing Gulf Stream which goes right through the triangle and can easily carry floating vessels far away. Still, with so many theories about aliens and Atlantis associated with it, we’ve got to admit it does have some mystical allure.

#8: Murder At Sea

Be warned… this mystery is a disturbing one. In 2014, a video was found on a cellphone left in the back of a taxicab on the island of Fiji. The video captures the brutal execution of at least four men believed to be Somali pirates. Helpless, one even raises his arms in a sign of surrender, but one by one they are shot and killed, as a voice over a loudspeaker yells out the command “shoot, shoot, shoot”. Laughter can be heard mixed with the sound of some 40 shots fired. The victims were surrounded by no less than 3 boats, yet no witnesses have come forward. With no clear location marker, no government has been willing to investigate.

#7: Sarah Joe & The Buried Jawbone

In 1979, five men left the island of Maui on board the fishing boat “The Sarah Joe.” A sudden storm picked up, and the ship never returned. Almost a decade later, John Naughton, a marine biologist who aided in the original search for the crew, made a startling discovery. While exploring an uninhabited islet 2000 miles away from Hawaii, he found the wreck of a small boat and a human jawbone belonging to Sarah Joe fisherman Scott Moorman buried in a shallow grave. A government survey of the landmass conducted 6 years earlier found neither the boat nor the grave - so when did they get there - and who buried the jawbone? We may never know.

#6: Whale Deaths in the Gulf of Alaska

The protection of whales is a crucial modern day wildlife issue, but how do you save them if you can’t identify what exactly is threatening them? In 2015, marine scientists were at a loss to explain this “Unusual Mortality Event”, in which more than 30 whales were found dead along the Alaskan coast. The ocean waters in the region have been rising to unnaturally high temperatures in recent years, so toxic algae blooms were the first and primary suspect, but when no other species in the region appeared to be significantly affected, scientists were forced to revisit their hypothesis. Biomagnification could account for the toxins only reaching fatal levels in larger predators but the evidence has so far proven inconclusive.

#5: Bermeja Island

How does one lose an island exactly? That’s what cartographers have been asking each other for years, trying to understand the mystery of this elusive island off the coast of Mexico. A number of maps, dating from 1535 to 1775, clearly depict the landmass, but in the following centuries, its presence on geographical documents has been spotty at best. The last known map to include the island was printed in 1921. Some might ask “one little island...what’s the big deal?” But its existence actually plays a crucial deciding role in the claims between Mexico and the U.S. over underwater oil reserves, resulting in a number of conspiracy theories, including the possibility that the CIA literally destroyed the island.

#4: S.S Baychimo: Ghost Ship of the Arctic

You’d think that a ship trapped in ice would be easy to get ahold of since it can’t just sail away. But while humankind has mastered travelling much of the globe, the Arctic still presents a uniquely challenging environment to navigate. In 1931, this cargo ship found itself stuck firmly in the ice. Unable to dislodge their vessel, the crew abandoned ship in search of help. Upon their return to its last known location two days later, the ship was nowhere to be found. It was located again the next year, but poor weather conditions again thwarted the effort to salvage it. It has been relocated repeatedly over the years, and even boarded briefly in 1939, but it’s never been recovered.

#3: Glowing Circles in The Persian Gulf and East Indian Ocean

Scientists have confirmed that the glowing “milky sea effect” is the result of bioluminescent bacteria, but this explanation fails to address the unique glowing circles found in the East Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf - particularly the manner in which they appear to spin or rotate. Oceanographer Kurt Kalle has suggested that a combination of underwater earthquakes and glowing plankton could account for both the glow and movement, but the high speeds at which the wheel-like shapes spin make this explanation doubtful. How else can we explain this strange phenomenon? When in doubt... blame it on aliens, and that’s exactly what a significant number of people have done.

#2: Salish Sea Feet

A rabbit’s foot might be lucky, but there’s nothing fortunate about discovering severed human feet. The average beachcomber rarely comes across anything truly remarkable on a given day, but since 2007, over 16 human feet, often still wearing shoes, have washed up on the shores of the Salish Sea, on the coast of British Columbia and Washington. Of the grisly collection of remains, only two left feet have been found, both of which were successfully matched with corresponding right feet. No other matching body parts have turned up, and attempts to trace the origin of the feet based on regional shoe sale markets have also been inconclusive. And this mystery is nowhere near over: two feet were found as recently as 2016.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Disappearing Physicist Ettore Majorana:
The Patanela
Rowboat At The End of The World

#1: The Mary Celeste

Even in the modern day, a life at sea is not for the faint at heart - but back in the day, it was a particularly treacherous lifestyle. Think… ice trucking or... king crab fishing. Sailors had to avoid piracy, mutiny, sudden storms, navigational errors, food and waterborne illnesses, and much more. But what was it that doomed the crew of the Mary Celeste? Of the many ghost ships that color humanity’s seafaring history, none has so intrigued or stumped historians. Discovered adrift at sea on December 5th, 1872, she was entirely deserted, the belongings of her crew undisturbed and the food and alcohol stores intact. No explanation can satisfy the strange conditions in which the ship was discovered.

Do you agree with our list? What ocean mystery do you find most captivating? For more elusive top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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