If you’re a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, chances are you’ve imagined yourself sailing out on the open water at one time or another. While those films don’t make the lifestyle of a seafarer seem very glamorous, they certainly do make it look exciting!
And apparently, it can be in real life too. One curious Reddit user recently asked sailors to share some of the creepiest and most amazing sights they’ve ever witnessed on the water, and they did not disappoint. From enormous sea creatures to incredible skies, you’ll find the most fascinating responses below, as well as a conversation we were lucky enough to have with Mahesh B. of Blogging Sailor. And be sure to upvote the tales that make you channel your inner Captain Jack Sparrow!
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I was a Quartmaster and when I was in the pacific, I saw a completely clear night one time. I saw the Milky Way split the sky and I could see it’s reflection in the water. The sight was so beautiful it brought me to tears.
Image credits: mourningreaper00
In the pitch black of night, in the middle of the vast emptiness of the sea; you see the stars filling the heavens, and more shooting stars than you would expect streaking to the earth with their firey tails. As your eye draws down to the water, you find that somehow the ocean is darker and emptier than the sky. Your eyes strain for a glimpse of anything, but ultimately you only catch glimpses of strange and mysterious creatures lithely swimming just beneath the surface occassionally peeking above the surface or triggering flashes of bioluminescence that disappear as suddenly as they appear.
Image credits: Timitz
To learn more about what it’s like to work in the sea, we reached out to Mahesh B., a Chief Officer and the man behind Blogging Sailor. Mahesh was kind enough to answer our burning questions, first sharing what inspired him to become a sailor. “So it was 2005. I was in Kota, Rajasthan, preparing to crack the IIT entrance exam, which I knew that I could not, and I did not have any doubt about it,” he told Bored Panda. “While on the other hand, my cousin had joined the merchant navy just one year before. And after completing his training in Mumbai, he joined his first ship while I was in Kota.”
“Then he used to call me from ship and tell me stories about his training onboard, and stories of shore leaves he had gone,” Mahesh continued. “Since it was his first ship, he was also very excited about everything. After hearing his side, I made my mind to join the same field. So I started my training in year 2008 and joined my first ship in December 2009. It’s been almost 13 years.”
The northern lights in the middle of nowhere Alaska. We were anchored in a remote cove, so the CO agreed to turn off all the exterior lights. Just a crazy, crazy thing to see.
Image credits: Curbside_Hero
Fresh out of college I got a job “In Cambridge, Massachusetts” or so they said…as an architect designing whatever. Ended up doing oil rigs and one beautiful morning there were Sharks going under the main platform like always but there were two dead sharks, next morning three new dead, then four the next day. Then a steady four or five a day for a week or two…they would float up under the see through deck that looked much like a metal colander. Crew would have to punch them down so the current could catch them with a large pole.
What made it really weird was they looked like they had heart attacks or died in their sleep, no marks or bites or anything. The guys on the rig had all kinds of theories. Then one morning while in a room that was completely submerged and had a beautiful view as we sat in a meeting…everyone got to see the reason the sharks were dying like viewing it on a movie screen.
This Octopus had made itself a home between the base and the deck. A shark was swimming by in a cruising fashion and we see these tentacles grab it right in front of the glass and snap it like a glowstick. The Marine Biologist smiled and said “Octopus is literally doing that to entertain themselves…like because he can”. The Marine Biologist lowered a dive camera and this Octopus was HUGE.
The crew would joke about it thereafter, people would smoke on the deck at night and people would say don’t let the Octopus in. Seeing those tentacles was just insane for their length and to think about how a shark is mostly muscle and the Octopus would just snap em was kinda scary.
Image credits: Cannotakema
Mahesh went on to share that after many years on the sea, he has learned that it’s hard for seafarers to decide where they prefer to spend their time. “Because when we join the ship, we miss home for more or less one week. But when we come back home, we miss the ship until the time we join it again.”
“For me, the best part is that we get to meet new crew members every time we join a different ship,” Mahesh says. “And thus apart from the work, we get to know about each other’s cultures, listen to each other’s language, get to know about different festivals celebrated in their region, try new food and many other things.”
“On top of that, money is there to remind us, ‘don’t worry, I will take care of all your needs, you just keep working hard’,” he added.
I went diving in the Galápagos Islands and it was like being in a parallel universe.
Marine iguanas 6 feet long swimming up with you to the waters surface, baby seals dancing with you and booping you on the head, little penguins bubbling while zipping around you like a Disney movie, birds landing on your head when you’re bobbing in the water…
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The immense guilt I feel for what we have done to animals over the span of human existence.. they are so inherently pure and wonderful.
I cried a lot on that trip.. so beautiful and so sad we f****d it all up
Giant spears plunging in and out of the sea.
In the gulf of Alaska, I have seen some s**t. But one of the most terror inspiring things I’ve seen are what can happen with some of the loose logs from the logging trade.
Sometimes when a big log gets loose from a raft, it becomes partially waterlogged and floats small end up. So you have this 4 foot diameter telephone pole in the sea, sticking up 40 feet into the air. No biggie. Shows up on radar, and easy to spot.
Now, give that pole 20 years of floating around or so. It rots in such a way that it becomes sharpened to a perfect point by wind and waves, and looks quite menacing.
Now, put it in a gale with 25 foot waves (50 feet trough to peak)
…. And it becomes a towering spike of death that shoots up from the sea every 15 to 20 minutes, out of nowhere, 60 feet into the air, only to plunge down into the dark depths waiting to skewer some unsuspecting boat in a few minutes when it thrusts out of the ocean again.
It is a genuinely terrifying sight, rare, but not so rare that I haven’t seen 2 in one season. It’s like the spiked d**k of neptune looking for an opportunity to f**k your s**t up in a particularly terrifying way.
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Mahesh noted that there’s actually only one downside to being a sailor: being away from his family for prolonged periods. And when it comes to some of the most fascinating things he’s witnessed while on the sea, Mahesh shared, “I have experienced, or I will prefer to say that most of the sailors must have experienced, the rough weather. Weather so rough that even after the main engines are on full power ahead (forward), the ship is moving astern (back). But still we have to keep the engines moving ahead only. Because if we stop the engines in such rough weather, we are gone.”
Another fascinating experience Mahesh has had was going to the northernmost part of Russia. “The ports where we went were Vitino and Murmansk,” he shared. “Our ship was in that area for around 14 days, and we never saw the sun setting over there. Even the ship’s GPS, which shows the sunrise and sunset time, was showing ‘the sun never sets here’ in that area.”
Was on watch and a lookout reported a ship on fire on the horizon. Looked through my binos and saw what they were looking at. Looked like a plume of flame really far away, just over the line of the horizon. Went and consulted the Astro books and discovered that it was actually moonrise. ? The tip of the crescent was coming up over the astronomical horizon, and was bright red-orange. Still very cool.
I’ve also seen the Flying Dutchman illusion, dolphins swimming through bioluminescent waters that looked like glowing torpedoes, meteor hits near the ship, lightening hitting the mast, waterspouts in the Caribbean, and the green flash at sunset. Many more things as well, being at sea is just plain trippy!
Image credits: RiotousRagnarok
You know the feeling of being in a full stadium? 10,000’s of people all within sight of each other…all together? Multiply that by 100 and maybe that would be like the sea of sea mammals I was in the middle of, presumably on a bunch of food below…squid or something. There were half a dozen species of dolphin and half a dozen species of whales all together going completely crazy busting the surface white , hundreds of thousand I’m guessing. Going into the fo’c’sle of the small 42 ft lobster boat was like entering a different reality. Through the hull you could “hear”. They were all “talking” to one another and I could say you could “hear” them but it was something else entirely…the bones in my skull and the rest of my body were vibrating at every frequency heard and sub and supersonic alike in alien rhythms and repeating patterns…a once in a lifetime sensation…lasted about half an hour. Highly recommended.
Image credits: fishified1
Mahesh also set the record straight about some of the misconceptions people often believe about sailors. “People think that in every port we just go out, roam around, see amazing places, meet with locals, drink like fish, enjoy local food, have fun with girls. Which I would say is not wrong, but not completely right either,” he told Bored Panda. “Times have changed. Due to the busy schedules of the vessel and the COVID restrictions for past few years, if we get to go out even once in our complete contract of 6 or 9 months, we are lucky.”
If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to be a sailor, be sure to check out Mahesh’s site the Blogging Sailor right here!
Often times in the Navy id stand on the fantail and watch the ocean.
Once we had 100s, probably around 400 dolphins riding the carrier’s wake. They followed us for 3 days.
In the middle of the Pacific, its so dark and theres so little light pollution, you can see reds, browns and faint blues of gas clouds in the starscape.
Another time i was watching the water at night, they say it draws you in, and it really does. You look at this pitch black void, with only the wake or turbulence of the water catching light, and intrusive thoughts of jumping in just naturally occur. Its mesmerizing, especially if youre alone.
At night during one of these events I saw blue glowing water (what I now know was biolumenescent algae) and inside this rather massive patch of blue glowing water were squid, that appeared to be maybe 15-20 foot long. You could catch their outline by the light from the water.
I stared at what was multiple squid passing by for minutes, what seemed like an eternity and then the light started going away in the spot i was staring. There was still a LOT of glowing water, we werent headed out of it. But this patch gets darker and darker and darker until pitch black. A solid 15 seconds of intense curiosity. Suddenly a lot of turbulence and a whale surfaces. It had snatched up all the squid.
The whale cocked to one side and looked at the ship, and our eyes met i want to think. It studied the ship for a moment until just sinking back down until the glow of the water masked it completely.
Image credits: Stehlik-Alit
Huge numbers of dolphins in a line, “shoulder to shoulder”, working forward presumably driving a school of fish.
It was like seeing a Roman legion marching to battle.
I generally love seeing dolphins but there was something quite daunting and slightly scary about seeing them work together in such a business-like way.
Image credits: princhester
I sometimes work on a fishing boat during the summers for a bit of extra cash, and here’s a few of my stories that you might be looking for. Keep in mind that some of them are dark.
1.) The Floater: Whilst fishing during the night, we heard something hit the boat. Now, of course, sometimes it’s just some wildlife that couldn’t see it in the dark, but we still went to look. I shone a flashlight into the water, only to see a person’s body, face-up, floating there. Needless to say, I freaked the f**k out and nearly dropped the light. We reported it. Authorities came. We never found out what happened, but the theory we had was it was related to some sort of sinking, due to the life jacket they had on.
2.) The Fox: This one’s not so scary, freaky, or dark. We were fishing close to an island, and saw something orange in the water. Now, my buddy thought it was just garbage, until it moved its head up. Turns out it was a fox. It came close to the boat, and I grabbed it and brought it aboard. Poor thing must have been treading water for ages, because it fell asleep in my arms. We released it on land after it had woken up.
3.) Palatine Sighting: Giving away where I live here, but in the area, there’s a legend about a ghost ship known as the ‘Palatine’, otherwise known as the Countess Augusta or Princess Augusta. Its stated that the ship’s burning mass can sometimes still be seen, and this is called the Palatine Light. We were out fishing. It was cold. We were all miserable. Then, a buddy of mine calls out that he sees another ship, and we turn. There, in the cold, we all swear that we see a ship aflame. We try to just chalk it up to the cold messing with our minds.
Image credits: InkblotDoggo
Being out at sea was definitely one of the best experiences of being in the Navy. I got to see the northern lights, a meteor shower, and a blood moon. My favorite pass time was identifying the constellations. Eventually when I got to learn a significant amount I was able to tell what direction we were going. I’m seriously grateful I got to experience that.
Image credits: ChiliConCarne44
“ intrusive thoughts of jumping in” I used to work on a yacht and when I was on night watch I had this thought constantly. I thought it was super messed up, but now that I see this comment I’m happy I’m not the only one lol
Image credits: Train23
I was a new deck officer still in training on board an exploration ship. The officer of the deck was visiting (augmenting officer) from a similar ship, so I had to stay on the bridge to help them handle some of the particular oddities of our ship, even though I was still getting seasick back then.
It was the night watch and I horribly sick and curled up on the floor of the head (bathroom) in the back corner of the bridge. The officer of the deck must have thought I’d gone completely crazy because they’d hear me vomit my guts out, flush the toilet, then start laughing with joy and wonder.
The toilets flush with seawater and we were going through a patch of bio-luminescence. Every time I threw up and then flushed the toilet in the pitch black little room, the bio-luminescent organisms would flash making an amazing fireworks show in the toilet bowl.
Was standing topside watch on a dark night when the sky suddenly turned bright. For about three seconds something was incoming that lit all the weather decks up like daylight.
This sparked quite a reaction on the bridge and in operations. We were forward deployed during wartime although not in a region where active fighting was expected. For a moment people scrambled, fearing we had been targeted for a surprise missile attack.
Then the sky went dark again just as suddenly as it had began, leaving us safe and alone again. Yet there was still a whole bunch of commotion on comms as people jabbered stuff that amounted to *whiskey tango foxtrot.*
The only crew member who saw what had really happened was me.
“It’s a meteor. It’s a meteor. *It’s a meteor.*”
Had to repeat the report several times before anyone paid attention. A meteor had come down almost directly above us, then broken up into three pieces as it burned up in the atmosphere. It was like a fireball.
That put on quite a lightshow in the the ocean on a moonless night at oh-dark-thirty in the middle of [expletive] nowhere.
Astronomers call these bolides. It might even have been a superbolide but it isn’t on the list of recorded superbolides. We may have been the only ship that saw it.
Based on the time of year and the location it may have been one of the southern Taurids: a meteor shower that’s noted for producing fireballs.
Not a whole lot of people ever witness a meteor that spectacular. By lucky coincidence I got a good view of this one.
(Edited from replying to a similar question two years ago.)
Image credits: doublestitch
It may sound simple, but being in the middle of the ocean at night, and being on a Navy ship means no exterior lighting…. You can touch your own face and never see your hand. Thats freaky… And then you start thinking about how you are just surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean on all sides…. That gets pretty freaky
Image credits: McFlyyouBojo
I used to work on an Atlantic Salmon farm a few miles out to sea. Best job I ever had.
We were round at the second site (other side of the island to the main site, and this one was being left fallow for a couple years so just required some maintenance every now and then / was used for storage). Me and my brother were there late afternoon to check some ropes or moorings or something, I can’t remember, when all of a sudden there was this really strong electrical / copper smell and the place went silent. It was flat calm, relatively clear skies so it wasn’t a thunderstorm coming in. For some reason this smell really freaked us both out, and we both felt like we were being watched by something and there was a kind of strange feeling / atmosphere to the place where it just seemed off. After a couple minutes it went away and the “atmosphere” returned to normal. We were pretty glad to get back to the main site but never experienced anything like that again. Really weird.
This one is hard to describe, but sometimes we would have to pull super long 18-20 hour shifts at harvest time. This involved starting sometimes at 2am and working until late in the evening – there wasn’t actually loads of work the whole time, to do we just needed to be present for a lot of it and lift a cage net once an hour or so. So we mostly just stood around drinking coffee and talking bollocks.
Anyway I digress. We were starting out one of these mornings in the speedboat heading out to the site, on a really crisp winter night. Not a breath of wind, super cloudless sky and a hint of aurora above us. Speeding along into the night with my buddies in this beautiful scenery, nice fancy survival suits on to keep warm, I remember looking up and seeing a huge sky full of stars, and a shooting star burning across the sky out towards the horizon.
As I say I can’t really bring it to words, but I’ve never really felt more alive or happy in my work than that night.
Image credits: 89ElRay
The first time i saw noctilucent clouds. I had no idea what i was looking at. It was surreal. Also Bioluminescent algey that makes a big glowing “jet” behind the boat.
Then there was the time i had 2 black hawk helicopters fly under the bridge i was currently under at 3am. I can’t imagine that was sanctioned by thier co.
Image credits: You-Once-Commented
My dad was competing in a marlin fishing comp near Weepa (the pointy top bit of Australia). Battled a fish for 4 hours (they catch and release). As it neared the boat, crew readied to haul it onboard and a camera team went in for the tight shot, hanging right over the edge. The marlin breached the water and then a huge Great White shark breached under it. Full length above the water, inches from the crews faces. Shark took the whole marlin, plus a big bite out of the boat. All caught on camera. Everyone was pretty shaken for a while after. I’ll never forget the pics of the bite mark, exactly like people do to crackers, with individual tooth marks, but a metre+ wide.
Edit to add: sorry, footage was the property of the TV station who was filming. I have an old VHS tape of it somewhere, I should get it digitalised. I’m betting there are plenty of similar incidences on YouTube though. Those fishing boats carry rifles for a reason.
Image credits: MadameMonk
I once saw a rainbow by moonlight. Sadly this was before digital cameras, so I had no chance of getting a picture.
Image credits: Mogster2K
This was in the late 70’s. We were in the South Atlantic near Antarctica on an oceanographic research boat, middle of nowhere and hadn’t seen another ship in two weeks. A calm day with fog here and there so we were sounding the foghorn as required. (not a pleasant experience on the bridge as your ears get blasted every 60 seconds)
I was on the wheel when the mate said-“Whoa! Look at that!”- Out of a fog bank about 500 yards away a two masted topsail schooner suddenly appeared sailing opposite our course. All sails up and no one on deck. And absolutely no image on radar. We tried hailing on the radio but no answer. She ghosted into another fog bank and away from sight. It was one of those things that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The ‘Flying Dutchman’ was the consensus of the bridge watch.
I’m a recreational sailor, but my sailing club takes a local concessionaire to Channel Islands National Park once a yea to visit the further islands. Anyway, we had gone to San Miguel for the day and we were on our way back to the harbor, which was over 40+ miles away. The sun had set and it was dark. There’s maybe 30-40 of us on the Catamaran tourboat. The swells are huge and we’re running with them back to land. They were so big, you could hear and feel the 60-70 ft power boat slow down and bog down as we powered up the next wave. Then it would crest and the boat would accelerate and drop as we “surfed” down the face of the wave.
I figured this might be the closest I get to actually surfing and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunty to experience it as fully as I could, so I made my way outside and out onto the bow, specifically, the bow of the port hull. A teenage girl I didn’t know soon joined on the bow of the starboard hull. No one else was on deck. The cool thing was it was either a full moon or a nearly full moon and the moonlight was reflecting off the water exactly in our path, essentially lighting the ocean for us as we made our way home.
Anyway, I was out there for about 15 minutes just really feeling the wind in my face, the moonlight, the boat accelerating down the face of the swells and taking it all in. All of a sudden, the captain cut all engine power and we abruptly came to a near standstill just floating in the swells. Ahead, I could make out a dark void in the far right edge of the moonlight. I thought was a small pleasure craft, like a 20 foot powerboat, about 30-40 yards off the bow. It was dead in the water and appeared to have no power. I caught a glistening on its “bow” that I assumed was the glass of the port forward running light, which my brain interpreted as being turned off. Gradually the dark void in the moonlight slowly submerged and moved left right into the moonlight glistening on the water. As the last of it dropped beneath the surface a huge fluke rose out of the water, perfectly framed by and glistening in the moonlight. It must have risen ten to twelve feet out of the water.
It could not have been a more perfect sight.
That single moment is absolutely the most majestic moment I’ve ever experienced in nature. And only the girl, the Captain, and I saw it. I’d seen whales up close in daylight on several other trips, but this was truly magical like a fairytale playing out in front of my own eyes. And speaking of eyes, that “running light” turned out to be the whale’s eye as it awoke from its slumber and evaluated these strange humans who’d just rudely woken it up.
The most amazing thing I’ve seen is watching the mountains in the sunrise while pulling into port in Norway. That was the moment I realized I was actually living. I don’t think I’ll see anything as majestic until I go back to Norway. Just beautiful!
Image credits: PierceDiLuna
Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.
Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.
Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.
You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how my many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.
At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.
Anyway, we delivered the bomb.
Not a sailor neither was my dad but my dad was fishing and had a baby whale come up to his boat and bumped it a few times, that video is probably the most insane thing I’ve seen.
Image credits: Alive_1292
Stationed on a Cruiser during Operation Desert Shield, we were working 12 on and 12 off shifts. Me and a shipmate would lay on the fantail in the morning with one of the deck hatches open, the red lights shining out. We had a stereo back there and would blast the Doors while hearing rush of water over the hull. It was really surreal as the sun would come up over the Persian Gulf, seeing the water like glass reflecting the sun as it rose. That will always stay with me.
Image credits: Imyotrex
Creepiest would be underway on 31st October / Halloween day off maybe 15miles off the coast of Florida near Miami. Lookout sights a white house boat looks like it’s just drifting. So we get closer on our Fast Response Cutter (154’) to make contact with them. Nothing, no one responded used radio, loud hailer and ships whistle. So Captain said lets launch our small boat and go investigate. During the small boat mission brief I reminded everyone that it’s Halloween day and this looks just like a horror movie storyline. So the boat launches and the crew gets onboard. The doors are closed, but lucky open so the crew can investigate. The boarding team slow conducts its safety sweep while looking any crew onboard. So here is a house boat floating on the ocean with no land in sight abandoned. So the boarding team marked the vessel with spray paint and left it. House Boat is probably in Europe if it didn’t succumb to the relentless sea.
Another time in the middle of the night between midnight and 3am we start tracking a target of interest. We clearly see someone and at least two others on a cabin cruiser. The vessel is unlit which is a red flag and steady speed. So we follow it and decide to launch the small boat for pursuit once they are close to U.S. territorial seas. We run our small boat with lights off as well and have night vision goggles to help us see them. I pull up with 15’-20’ of the vessel and flip the blue lights and spotlight on them. No one is on the boat. All we see is a boat no one standing up behind the helm or on deck. So I creep up closer than all of a sudden we see arm hanging over the gunnel. The boarding team starts yelling show us your hands and stand-up. No one moved they were laying on-top of each other. So we get the boarding team onboard and start checking boat for safety. We transferred all of the 26 migrants off the 35’ boat on the Fast Response Cutter (154’).
Image credits: RBJII
I saw a dead whale once. Out in the middle of the Pacific. Just bobbing along and getting slowly taken apart by sea life.
We thought it was a sperm whale, but it’s hard to tell when it’s half gone.
We got to see a lot more fish and a few whitetail sharks in the area. A dead whale seems to bring the sea to life!
Image credits: crazym108
Last deployment. Russian fighter jets flying right above us taking photos was pretty unsettling. Then on SIPR share drive we saw the photos of the Russians taking photos of us and it’s literally some dude in the back of the jet with a Casio.
Image credits: CrackCocaineShipping
Flying fish jumping through the netting between the hulls and cheese-grating themselves all over the trimaran OR racing catamarans in the Gulf of Mexico and the water turning purple as far as I could see from BILLIONS of jellyfish.
Image credits: Alpaca-Bowl420