Giant jellyfish are cryptid giant invertebrates reported from the world's oceans. The largest known jellyfish is the lion's mane (Cyanea capillata) of cold northern seas, but significantly larger specimens have occasionally been reported from temperate and tropical waters. A distinct group of unnamed cryptid marine invertebrates, usually lumped together with giant jellyfish, are very large, shapeless rug-like animals, seen mainly in the Pacific Ocean, which have been reported to prey on sharks. These are sometimes explained as actual giant jellyfish, not all of which possess the famous long tentacles, but other theories have been proposed.
A well-known encounter with a giant amorphous sea creature, sometimes referred to as a giant jellyfish, was allegedly made by an Australian diver in the South Pacific in 1953.[primary source needed] The case was first chronicled in the literature by Eric Frank Russell in his book Great World Mysteries (1967), but Russell's source is unclear. According to Russian works, the diver was named Christopher Loeb or Christopher Loupa (Cyrilic: "Кристофера Лоупа"), and his story was published in an undisclosed newspaper. The diver was testing a new deep-sea diving suit design when he allegedly saw the creature rise out of deeper water to paralyse and kill a large shark.
Fortean researcher Richard Winer (1925 – 2016), best known for his interest in the Bermuda Triangle, wrote of seeing an enormous jellyfish-like animal, at least 50 ft (15 m) in diameter, south of Bermuda in his book The Devil's Triangle (1974). At the time, Winer was performing oceanographic work for General Electric, alongside a diver named Pat Boatwright, and was engaged in filming buoys underwater; however, by the time the jellyfish appeared, he had allegedly used up his camera film.
Later, after observing swarms of much smaller jellyfish in the Marshall Islands, Winer concluded that the larger animal had been a giant jellyfish. However, Boatwright believed it could have been a giant squid, and, in light of the poor viewing conditions, Michel Raynal has suggested that it was a gigantic octopus, similar to the lusca, or even a tightly-packed shoal of small fish. Winer revealed more details, published alongside a sketch of what he saw, in an interview with Gary Mangiacopra two years later. The alleged observation occurred in November 1969, at a depth of thirty to forty feet, and lasted for around four or five minutes. The pulsating "outer perimeter" of the animal was pink.
An anonymous user claimed on an early online newsgroup claimed that a friend of his, working in the Gulf of Mexico during the 1970s, reportedly often saw strange giant invertebrates, including "giant headless glowing living firehoses," as well as an undescribed predator which fed on the "firehoses". Chad Arment contacted the user for further information, and was told that the welder in question was named George Hale, and that he had died in 1994. Hale could not properly describe the predator, but it was supposedly built like a starfish or Hydra.
According to Russian sources, at least two other sightings of the amorphous sea monster have been reported in local newspapers. Members of a Chilean hydrographic expedition to the South Pacific in 1968 told the press that they had seen an animal which resembled the Australian diver's "black mass," near an abyssal trench.[primary source needed] A fatal encounter with such an animal allegedly occurred off Thailand in 2005, when a French scuba diver named Henri Astor told the press that he had observed a very large "strange brown mass" paralysing and killing a shoal of fish. Astor's unnamed companion allegedly disappeared after attempting to follow the entity.[primary source needed]
The largest known species of jellyfish is the lion's mane jelly (Cyanea capillata), which is found in the temperate to cold waters of the Northern Hemisphere. A record specimen examined by Alexander Aggasiz (1835 – 1910) in Massachussetts Bay had a bell diameter of 7 ft 6 in (2.3 m), and tentacles 120 ft (36 m) long. Rumours of much larger specimens, with tentacles estimated at 275 ft (83 m) in length, have come out of Arctic waters, and Jon Malakia of west Greenland testified under oath that he had seen an example with a bell width – rather than diameter – of more than 8 ft (2.4 m). These are described merely as unusually large specimens of the known species, although the Arctic variety was formerly classified as a distinct species, Cyanea arctica. Despite biomechanical limits, Gary Mangiacopra argues that much larger, scientifically-undescribed types of jellyfish are theoretically possible.
Sightings of giant jellyfish have occasionally been explained as mistaken views of giant squid, and some have theorised that the Australian diver's monster was a undescribed species of deep sea gigantic octopus. However, Karl Shuker argues that this amorphous animal is more likely to have been a giant cnidarian. The diver did not espy tentacles, and, while all cephalopods possess limbs, some jellyfish, particularly deep sea species, do not show tentacles. The sudden paralysis of the shark could be explained by the venomous stinging cells of a giant jellyfish; such cells occur on the body as well as the tentacles. Shuker specifically compares the cryptid to the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) and the more shapeless Deepstaria enigmatica.
Notes and references
- Shuker, Karl P. N. "A Supplement to Dr Bernard Heuvelmans' Checklist of Cryptozoological Animals," Fortean Studies, Vol. 5 (1998)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. "Giant Jellyfish," Fate, No. 47 (March 1994)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (1997) From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings, Bounty Books, ISBN 0-7537-1305-5
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Vilenov, Vladimir (2010) Tayny Chetyrekh Okeanov
- "An Octopus in the Hand...," The INFO Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4 (1972)
- Russell, Eric Frank (1967) Great World Mysteries
- Winer, Richard (1974) The Devil's Triangle
- Mangiacopra, Gary "A Monstrous Jellyfish?," Of Sea and Shore, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Autumn 1976)
- Raynal, Michel "The Case for the Giant Octopus," Fortean Studies, Vol. 1 (1994)
- Arment, Chad "Strangest of All," North American BioFortean Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2000)
- Wood, Gerald L. (1972) The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats
- Sweeney, James B. (1972) A Pictorial History of Sea Monsters and Other Dangerous Marine Life, Bonanza Books
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (16 September 2012) Nandi Bears and Death Birds - My Top Ten Deadliest Mystery Beasts karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 18 January 2022]