Mystery of the Deep

On July 15th, 2007, Chinese television ran footage of fifteen objects churning across Lake Kanasi in a remote part of western China. No one can say precisely what those creatures were, but it seemed as if something formidable were speeding beneath the lake’s surface, spraying pandemonic plumes of water in their wakes. Only a school of giant fish could have make waves of such formation. But since it was impossible to identify them, such images revived an ancient world inhabited by dragons. It was no coincidence that such mythical beasts have been rumored to live in that lake.

Although the possibility of these creatures existing may seem dubious, maybe the claim that such creature do exist somewhere, somehow, today, has some merit.

Once, it was believed that the earth was the center of the cosmos. How wrong that proved to be. Time and space were viewed as absolutes. A philosopher, Thomas Kuhn, tagged the term “scientific paradigms” for the hard-and-fast notions that scientists have developed regarding the way the world operates. But now and then, there are discoveries so fundamental, they demand a paradigm shift. The established ideas on the Way Things Are, must be brought into line with an emerging body of information that contradicts those paradigms.

First, we must not ignore the large spectrum of knowledge that humanity had given us. Many scientists are contributing to the validity of ancient myths these days. In trying to establish the existence of ancient civilizations, archaeologists are probing the ruins of Iraq, Honan, Crete, and Yucatan. Ethnologists are questioning the Ostyaks of the river Ob, the Boobies of Fernando Po. A generation of orientalists has recently thrown open to us the sacred writings of the East. Hence, myths shouldn’t be easily dismissed as characteristic of illiterate or primitive peoples or societies in the distant past.

An archaeological survey from the 19th Century revealed many lost civilizations. The search began in Mesopotamia, about 1811, when Claudius Rich explored the ruins of Babylon. Henry Rawlinson continued and brought Assyria back from history. Egypt was next when Champollion solved the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Schliemann brought Troy out of the mists of legend. Sir Arthur Evans gave substance to the myths of Crete.

More recently, an advanced culture flourishing along the banks of the Indus River 5000 years ago has joined the rank of lost civilizations rediscovered. And lastly, it is worth noting that Crete and Troy were once considered myths and legends.

By why should we still assign the existence of dragons only to the realm of myth and fantasy?

The destruction of great libraries, for example, set medical knowledge back centuries. A good example is the Great Library of Alexandria. Only in the last one or two centuries was ‘modern’ medicine rediscovered. Many practitioners, even among skeptics in the West, are reassembling the genuineness of indigenous medicines that were often referred to as unscientific. The procedure of following the force lines in our body, or better known in acupuncture as xi, had been seen as superstitious and feudalistic. With increasing zeal, many Western practitioners are leading their patients toward these unorthodox medicines and thus elevating this discipline to more respectability.

Over the centuries, whenever old myths are lost, new ones are born. They flourish, fade and die, creating a vacuum which ensures new ones takes their place. Sometimes, old ones, resurrected in hybrid forms by merging with the new, appear when times change or cultures mingle.

But today, we still have the notion that folklore and legends are ancient nonsense, that dragon’s existence belongs to the realm of fantasy. Scientists assure us that these sea serpents have not existed since Jurassic times. Yet the Chinese footage in 2007 revealed something mystifying was stirring in one of our inland lakes. Their movements through the lake’s surface were so formidable that scientists couldn’t postulate any sensible explanation from our current pool of knowledge.

Such a phenomenon, if we are able to realign our focus to the reality of those legendary sea serpents, would exceed anything the Loch Ness mystery had provided. In both instances, the scene is only from a small lake. So think again; our oceans are huge. We haven’t visited more than a tiny fraction of the 130,000,000 square miles of ocean floor. By making some shrewd extrapolations, what further mysteries might be generated from the ocean? Can we simply discount such ancient testimonies as merely myths?

The existence of this legendary creature is, after all, not as preposterous as once thought.

For thousands of years, the people of the Orient have been aware of a dangerous area south of the Japanese archipelago. Chinese records show that this mystifying sea has claimed ships from the days of the Sung and Yuan dynasties. Chinese legends dating back to 99 B.C. tell of a dragon’s underground “palace” located beneath a small island five or six day’s sail from Suzhou in Kiangsu province.

The Japanese called it the Ma-no Umi. Strange noises could be heard by seamen venturing close by, and they could see strange lights for a hundred miles shone over the water at night. They have attributed the disappearance of fishing vessels to sea demons that come to the ocean’s surface to seize and drag unwary mariners down to their underwater lairs. Today, modern marine geologists and oceanographers are just as baffled by the mysterious Ma-no Umi as the ancient chroniclers.

The Bermuda Triangle has attracted public attention as recently as in 1945 when five Aztec Avenger torpedo bombers collectively disappeared between the east coast of Florida and the Bahamas. It was followed by the disappearance of a Martin Mariner search plane. The search involved hundreds of planes and surface craft, yet no wreckage or any clue as to the fate of men and planes were ever found. Modern science could only label it “unsolved mystery.”

Like the Bermuda Triangle, the Ma-no Umi has a triangular pattern in the western Pacific, and is close to great gulfs in the ocean floor. As the Pacific plate presses against the Eurasian plates, it is subducted, creating the Ogasawara Trench. The Philippine plate presses against the Eurasian plate; it too is subducted, forming the Ryukyu or Nansei Shoto Trench.

These trenches form the two arms of the Ma-no Umi, also known as the Dragon Triangle. It follows a line from western Japan, north of Tokyo to a point in the Pacific, turns west-southwest past the Bonin Islands and down to Guam and Yap, west to Taiwan and then returns north-northeast to Japan.

These two triangles share strange characteristics when plotted on the globe; both are located at the western end of oceanic mass and both have drop-off deep water where the sea is swept by strong currents over active volcanic areas. The sea floor varies from relatively shallow areas to plunging depths of the ocean’s deepest trenches. If Mount Everest, with a height of 29,028 feet, were to rise from the Mariana Trench, it would still be over a mile below the surface of the waves.

These creatures might be there hiding in our oceanic depth. Being the largest body of water on this planet, the Pacific Ocean has the scope to conceal incredible mysteries.

According to Charles Berlitz, records of ships’ disappearances around these great trenches of the western Pacific bare intriguing evidence to our current research. The Norwegian Berge Istra, weighing 228,000 tons, almost five times the size of the Titanic, it sank over the Mindanao Trench on December 29, 1975 when the weather was good and the sea calm.

In September 1980, the British Derbyshire, weighing over 169,000 tons, sank south of Tokyo Bay when the sea was experiencing nothing more than an average China Sea storm. Since then, more and larger ships and planes had been lost over this mysterious sea of Ma-no Umi. There were no satisfactory explanations given.

In former times, when legend was seen as credible, many believed the ships sank as a result of dragons stirring up the sea with engulfing whirlpools.

A curious coincidence occurs in the Japanese term for a type of wave encountered in the Ma-no Umi. Called sankaku-nami, meaning “triangle wave,” these waves appear to head toward a ship from three directions all at the same time! Ships and planes lost in the Ma-no Umi left no trace, according to investigator Charles Berlitz.

Another aspect is that ships and planes lost in the Ma-no Umi disappeared without sending any message indicating what was happening, almost as if whatever caused them to disappear occurred too quickly to report over the radio, or was not noticed until too late. Yet, no scientist has postulated any convincing theory why these ships and planes were lost.

Sightings of dragons in ancient times cut through every culture and spread through many millennia. The writings of Aristotle and Pliny gave credence to the existence of such monsters. Testimonies of Olaus Magnus, Hans Egede and Bishop Pontoppidan also deserve our attention and, finally, Captain Harrington, he claimed to have seen that enormous “monster of extraordinary length” off St Helena while on board the Castillan in 1857.

Olaus Magnus spoke of it as a real creature, albeit with an aura of terror and popular legend. Hans Egede gave a somber description of the monster, “so huge in size, its head reached as high as the mast-head, with its body as bulky as the ship, three or four times as long, and its eyes seemed to be red and like fire.” Furthermore, Pontoppidan described it as being a cable in length, which is about 600 feet, and it had “a horse’s head with crocodile’s teeth and eyes that flashed lightning.”

Or were all these men hallucinating?

However alien this may be to modern palaeontology, Japanese fishing boats have at innumerable times encountered creatures at sea that resemble these fabled monsters. Might it not be possible that some of these creatures are still roaming the oceans?

With infrared night-scopes, sonar, underwater cameras, aerial surveys and other modern equipment, we may uncover some exciting mysteries in the coming decades. Even so, a modern navigator must take account of the number of natural hazards in the area. Typhoons with winds over 200 miles per hour—volcanic and tectonic activity with volcanic eruptions—earthquakes and tsunamis—seiche waves caused by enormous undersea landsides in the vast oceanic trenches.

All these hinder the progress in this direction, and so the mystery remains. And if the greatest minds and technology can’t identify the monster in the tiny Loch Ness today, how much more difficult would it be for us to find an equivalent in the vast Pacific? But that doesn’t mean tales of dragons aren’t true. It just demonstrates how difficult it is to prove they exist.

Moreover, creatures that were once thought to be extinct, have been proven to be still living, are occurring and are gathering strength that more might be uncovered.

On December 22, 1938, the world of science was confronted with the first clue that creatures presumed to be long extinct still live in the deep waters of the oceans. On that day, fishermen netted a large, odd-looking fish in the waters off South Africa. It was dark blue, four and a half feet long and weighted 127 pounds with heavy scales and large, bulging, deep blue eyes. The species was well known to paleontologists, known as Chalummae Latimeria. It supposedly had become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, sixty million years ago. The discovery caused a storm of popular interest in the light of a living coelacanth. It throws off a good amount of scientific assumption in an era we think of as enlightened. Later, after the Second World War, still more coelacanths were found.

More recently, Anton Bruun described a series of creatures living at great depths, including the giant eel larva, and expressed his bewilderment: “Most scientists say there are no sea serpents, but this has never stopped poets, artists, story-tellers and musicians from exploiting the fascination these mythical beasts exert on our human imagination. If a chordate can live in the bottom of the sea, why not a sea serpent?” he asked to the amazement of his fellow zoologists.

In 1969, the submersible Alvin was following a telephone cable at the edge of the sea near the Bahamas. Captain McCamis looked up from the control board to see a shadowy figure swimming away from the Alvin, a figure that looked remarkably like the extinct plesiosaur.

Eight years later on July 20, 1977, officials from the Japanese trawler held a press conference to announce a mysterious discovery about a foul-smelling corpse caught off New Zealand. The same day several Japanese newspapers published sensational front-page accounts of the find, soon followed by many other radio and television stories throughout the country. Although some scientists remained cautious, others encouraged the plesiosaur idea. Professor Yoshinori Imaizumi, director of animal research at Tokyo National Science Museum, was quoted as saying, “It’s not a fish, whale, or any other mammal . . . It’s a reptile, and it looks like a plesiosaur. It seems to show these animals are not extinct after all.” Tokio Shikama of the Yokohama National University also supported the monster theme, stating, “It has to be a plesiosaurus. These creatures must still roam the seas off New Zealand feeding on fish.”

Such sightings and discoveries indicate that it is very probable that at least some more supposedly extinct species are residing in our oceans. In the deeper and wider Pacific, what further creatures could be discovered? There is little doubt that the disappearance of these ships in the area of the Ma-no Umi has resurrected memories of regional tales and old legends. Creatures once seen could never be forgotten. T.H. Huxley once remarked that new truths of science begin as heresy, advance to orthodoxy, and end up as superstition. Despite this, it is a shame that mainstream science has continued to deem sea-dragons as nothing more than myths.

But the tide is reversing; there is a growing band of unsatisfied scientists turning their attention to monsters featured in folklore and legend, for whose existence there is substantial anecdotal evidence, but which are still yet to be ratified as ‘real’ animals. Known as cryptozoology, the subject is gaining ground—the science of hidden or unknown animals. It’s more and more prudent to say that somewhere in those mysterious depths lurk some unknown creatures that so many witnesses claim to have seen as dragons.

::: Just fiction, but the possibility of dragon being deep at sea is incorporated into Over Mount Fuji – excerpt from Chapter 30 :::

Eileen searched Wulfstein’s face for a reaction. He appeared absorbed, but his eyes glowed.

Kiichi blasted the sub’s headlights in a clockwise circular motion around the monster’s eyes, as if trying to distract the beast’s attention. The ploy appeared to work as the creature looked like stunned, and didn’t come nearer. His action reminded Eileen that in Oriental legends, sailors threw jewels into the sea to pacify the Sea Lord during violent storms.

Keeping its circular motion, Keiko’s headlights remained at full strength. Curious yet unruffled, the creature looked immobilized.

Wulfstein strode to the porthole. His eyes sparkled, and he murmured something to himself. Finally, he turned to Eileen. “Do you see?” he asked. “Have you figured it out?”

“How could I?”

“Look at the head!” Wulfstein pointed. “Can you see?”

Eileen turned. The head was mainly black, but bits of its scales looked green. “I do. How could I miss that?” She raised her brow. Its scales looked hard, its body sturdy, but the creature hovered gracefully.

“Its claws are like eagle’s talons,” Wulfstein said. “It’s a dragon.”

Suspended between fantasy and reality, Eileen struggled to assimilate what she’d seen. She had heard numerous tales of the sea and legends of vanished fleets—whirlpools and tidal waves that swallowed ships and islands. She shook her head, still confused by this creature. “I’m still in doubt.” Kiichi’s head snapped up after he’d checked his instruments.

“A man like you,” Wulfstein said, “should fully understand now.”

“I know, I know,” Kiichi replied. “I’m putting this on record so we can study it later.”

“Remember the Greek legend?” Wulfstein continued. “This sea-monster, from whose eyes lightning flashes, will one day send hail and floods to Sicilian farms.”

That would be like taking an apocalyptic scene from the Book of Revelation, Eileen thought. It was a link to a futuristic time, a catastrophic era of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; killer waves and flooding; deaths and destructions. “I can’t imagine these creatures having anything to do with the sinking and rising of islands.”

Wulfstein hesitated, then said. “Only time will tell if we have enough imagination to decipher these puzzles.”

Eileen turned. “And we haven’t found either Kaiiko or any of the Super Hornets.”

“We may not have the full answer,” Wulfstein said. “But this ancient text could provide a clue. ‘Even when no wind blew, the waves were so high no vessel dared approach the area. At night, a red light could be seen from afar, bright like the sun. It extended over more than a hundred square miles and reached the sky. The creatures could only be seen on nights of lightning storms.’”

Her face hot, Eileen fought to think logically. Didn’t the transcript describe a blazing blitz? “Oh, what was it? Can you remember the Hornets’ transcripts?”

“The blazing flare?” Wulfstein said. “This is too much of a coincidence.”

Drained of energy, Eileen just stood. With dawning clarity, a mythological beast hovered before her. Easy to believe that, millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. But more questions plagued her. Might this latest outrage be an expression of the creature’s uneasiness? Animals could sense crucial circumstances that a human couldn’t. And they were territorial. Was it a mere coincidence the dragon arrived after they had spilled blood in the vicinity? She wanted to speak, but her voice died in a gasp.

As she studied the beast, Keiko remained stationary, but its headlight reflected off the creature’s scales. The sub bobbed while gliding closer. In the distance came faint echoes of a hum as though the creature was calling for its mate.

“Brace yourself,” Kiichi yelled. “We’re getting out of here.” A red blinking diamond flashed on the main monitor while he took aim. His vision remained glued to a small screen in his console, waiting to lock onto the target.

But Wulfstein lunged forward. “Have you gone mad? Kiichi!” He pulled the skipper’s hand back. “No! You can’t do this!”

But it was too late; the pilot had already pushed the red button.

The torpedo launched.

It struck the target in a display of flash, then lines of fireworks. Bubbles exploded and collapsed amidst and clouds of debris. A subsonic bo-o-om rocked the sub. Through the rolling silt, the dragon reappeared. Unfazed. Unmoved!

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Wulfstein shouted, his eyes shimmering. “This beast is different—”

Kiichi stood in consternation. “I had to, otherwise we’ll all be dead.”

“It’s a beast of beauty.”

“I’m under instructions to kill,” the skipper shot back.

Eileen’s eyes riveted on the beast. It must have an impenetrable hide. A single breath that resembled flame spewed from the creature’s mouth toward the underbelly of the sub, blasting off the remaining torpedoes.

When the sub bobbed, Eileen squirmed in horror. An inexplicable phenomenon. The image of the creature blurred. In its fiery rage, it must be the most terrifying of all beasts.

“You’ll only increase its fury,” Wulfstein said.

In an instant, the cabin fell into semidarkness.

“Our headlights are off,” Yoshino said.

“Don’t fret.” Kiichi turned. “Please stay calm.”

The sound drew nearer. Fainter, then louder. Her stomach queasy, Eileen felt the temperature had risen. She searched left and right, near and far, but didn’t see any creature. She gasped as a silhouette glided toward Keiko. How could a blast of that magnitude fail? She sensed its presence by an ethereal glow.

“What’s happening?” Eileen said. “Our sub is smoldering.”

“So are our bodies.” Yoshino pointed to his clothes.

“We’re dealing with a formidable creature,” Wulfstein said. “This elasmosaur is preternatural.”

Preternatural? Feeling her body burning, Eileen shook her head. Beyond what is natural? An aquatic cryptozoology. A dragon! For a few seconds everything glowed.

She covered her eyes with her hands. “No! Oh, no! Are we . . . ?” The sub lit up. What’s happening?

A sudden jerk. Wulfstein held Eileen’s hand as she stumbled to the floor. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay.” She pulled onto his arm to get up. “Oh man! What was that?”

The temperature cooled; the glow dimmed. The astounding phenomenon appeared to have passed. It took Eileen a moment to adjust to the fading light as she looked out the porthole. Shapes and figures became slowly visible, gliding stealthily beside the sub. Then a familiar set of fangs appeared, probing at Keiko’s stern, turning her icy.

Gr-u-k. Gr-u-k.

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

~ by Joel Huan on December 7, 2009.

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