The Weirdest Water Stories of 2023

From Florida’s “Dr. Deep” to whiskered giants, here’s what’s happening beneath the surface. 

Animals
4 min
Engrid Barnett
Engrid Barnett
The Weirdest Water Stories of 2023
All stories
Animals

2023 has become the year for watching the water. (And, in some cases, doing a double take!) That’s because unbelievable sights and animals have surfaced in recent months, challenging world records and what we know about the deep blue. What are some of the strangest things to emerge? Everything from record-shattering divers to fish of unusual size (F.O.U.S.?).

Keep reading as we take a closer look at some of the most fascinating stories to surface from the waves.

“Dr. Deep” Submerges for One-Third of the Year

Spending nearly 30 percent of the year underwater isn’t for the faint of heart. Or most of the world’s population, for that matter. But don’t tell that to Florida’s “Dr. Deep”! The University of South Florida professor recently completed 100 days beneath the waves at a scuba diver lodge in the Florida Keys. Known as Jules’ Undersea Lodge, his extended accommodations sit 30 feet beneath Key Largo lagoon.

“Dr. Deep” (a.k.a. Dr. Joseph Dituri) is a medical researcher and diving explorer. He boasts a doctorate in biomedical engineering and is also a U.S. Navy veteran. He shattered the previous record of 73 days held by two Tennessee professors since 2014. Incidentally, they established this record at the same lodge.

Why the desire to stay underwater for so long? According to Dituri, it was never about breaking the world record. Instead, he explains , “It was about extending human tolerance for the underwater world and for an isolated, confined extreme environment.”

During his more than three months below, Dituri conducted daily experiments and monitored how his body responded to extreme conditions. He labeled the endeavor Project Neptune. Dituri will present Project Neptune’s findings at the end of the year at Scotland’s World Extreme Medicine Conference.

Whale Watchers Get a Killer Surprise

San Francisco’s coastline became ground zero for an unusual sight on May 7th. That’s when a whale-watching tour on the hunt for migrating gray and humpback whales came across a massive pod of orcas.

While seeing killer whales off the Pacific Coast is always possible, they typically prefer the deep waters off the coast of Monterey Bay. For context, that’s roughly 75 miles south of the city.

But this pod appeared near the Farallon Islands, likely celebrating a successful seal or sea lion hunt. The pod included 20+ individuals , a big jump from the three to five usually observed swimming in family groups.

The males in the various pods made an impression with their six-foot-tall dorsal fins. But whale watchers proved even more entranced by the group’s orca mothers and calves. Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch notes, “They’re the whale that most people want to see when they go whale-watching. You just don’t know when they’re going to be around.”

Surfers Conquer the World’s Longest-Lasting Waves

During the first weekend of June, surfers across Brazil flocked to the Amazon River’s mouth near Chaves. Why? To catch the world’s longest-lasting waves. These waves occur when the incoming tide rushes up the river, creating a broad band of waves surfable for miles.

Under the right conditions, these massive waves happen twice a day. In recent years, they’ve inspired a festival known as “Pororoca.” ( Pororoca translates as “destructor” or big roar” and comes from an indigenous term.)

The festival moves from riverside town to riverside town in the states of Maranhao, Amapa, and Para for nearly a week. This relocation reflects the daily movement of the meeting point between the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River.

The waves prove exceptionally long and powerful around the new and full moons. The reason? The ocean’s tide reaches its highest point. Once upon a time, Pororoca portended disaster, but surfing has changed how locals view this natural phenomenon.

Noélio Sobrinho , president of the Brazilian Pororoca Surfing Association, explains, “Pororoca has always been synonymous with tragedy and destruction. After we started surfing the wave, … Pororoca went from villain to artist. Today it is one of the main sources of tourism here in Chaves.”

A Fish of a Tale

Located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the River Po is the nation’s longest. Its shallow waters provide habitat for large fish, namely the Wels catfish. These freshwater behemoths lurk in its murky waters preying on anything they can get their mouths around.

But nobody was prepared for the goliath recently pulled from the river’s waters by Alessandro Biancardi. The Italian fisherman reeled in a one-of-a-kind catch, a 9.4-foot-long beast. Photos of the monstrous prize quickly took the internet by storm, from its slimy marbled skin to its gigantic whiskers.

Biancardi relates , “When it surfaced for the first time, I really realized that I hooked a monster. I was also facing the biggest catfish I [have] ever seen in 23 years.” Despite the size of this individual, big fish are far from rare in southern Europe.

Warm temperatures and abundant food encourage dramatic and rapid growth. For example, the fish brought in by Biancardi is estimated to be between 20 and 30 years old. But in colder climates, like those in Scandinavia, it takes 100 years for a fish to reach a comparable size.

Of course, all of this begs a vitally important question. Baked catfish puttanesca, anyone?

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