Something in the Water — is it UAP?

Delving into unidentified objects seen in and around oceans
Apr 29, 2023

It’s often said that the ocean is Earth’s final frontier. Bodies of water comprise 71 percent of the planet’s surface and remain largely unexplored. So it's unsurprising how many mysteries still remain in the oceans.

For centuries, sailors shared legends about a tentacled monster called the Kraken that lurked deep in the sea. It turns out that legend was true. Giant, elusive squids live in Earth's oceans and remained hidden for most of human history. In 2012, scientists aboard research vessel OceanX made history when they got the first footage of the giant squid. It took patience to find the animal – six weeks of diving at 900 meters. And it took new technologies and methods to lure and photograph the squid – unmanned submersibles, infrared light, and novel optical equipment. 

There is still much to learn about what’s in our oceans. It’s no surprise, then, that so many unidentified object (UAP) stories occur around oceans. Cambridge biologist and British Naval Intelligence officer Ivan T. Sanderson estimated that more than 50% of UAP sightings “have occurred over, coming from, going away over, plunging into or coming out of water.” People have reported sightings for centuries, ranging from strange lights to underwater craft.

Historical sightings

The earliest known case of a UAP sighting over water reportedly occurred in 1067 off the coast of northeastern England. Chronicler Geoffrey Gaimar wrote in his account that the local people “saw a fire that flamed and burned fiercely in the sky.” It then, “revolved, ascended on high, and then descended into the sea. This object was said to reappear multiple times in the County of Northumberland.

Since Gaimar’s chronicles, many accounts have referred to fireballs or red orbs over the ocean. English naturalist and clergyman Andrew Bloxam reported something similar in a diary entry. Bloxam made a two year voyage on the HMS Blonde around South America and the Pacific from 1824–26. During the voyage he collected many bird specimens and is remembered for his contribution to ornithology. In the spring of 1825, while aboard the ship near the Hawaiian islands, he and others saw a strange orb. He wrote, "at about half past 3 o'clock this morning the middle watch on deck was astonished to find everything around them suddenly illuminated. Turning their eyes eastward they beheld a large, round, luminous body rising up about 7 degrees apparently from the water to the clouds, and falling again out of sight, and a second time rising and falling: it was the color of a red-hot [cannon] shot and appeared about the size of the sun… It gave so great a light that a pin might be picked up on deck.

HMS Blonde by Robert Dampier, 1825

There are many other stories of sightings from ships in the 19th century. The USS Niagara was traveling from Lisbon to New York in 1813, when the crewmates reported seeing a shell-shaped floating object above the Atlantic Ocean. 

As the ship "Niagara" was about latitude 43 north, longitude 65 west, a large hump was seen on the Southern horizon, "bearing N.W. distance 6 or 8 miles ahead, which we supposed the hull of a large ship bottom up. When within a gun shot of it, we discovered that it had motion."  On nearer approach the sailors thought the object must be a giant fish, "apparently 200 feet in length, about 30 feet broad, and from 17 to 18 feet high in the centre." Whatever it was, the floating object was covered with a shell. "Near the head on the right side was a large hole or archway, covered occasionally with a fin which was at times 8 or 10 feet out of the water." The crew intended to send a boat to make further discoveries, "but was deterred from the dreadful appearance of the monster." 

On another occasion, also over the Atlantic Ocean, this time in 1870, Captain Frederick William Banner and his crew said they observed an unusual object. The ship was halfway between Senegal and Brazil, at latitude 5.47 N and longitude 27.52 W. The object was described as "a circular cloud" and light gray in color with a semicircle near the center and "four appendages reaching from the center to the edge of the circle." Banner noted that "from the center to about 6 degrees beyond the circle was a fifth ray, broader and more distinct than the others, with a curved end." The object moved to the northeast, much lower than the cloud cover. "It was last seen at 7:20 P.M. about 30 degrees above the horizon."

US Navy Sightings

Today, one of the most well-known UAP incidents was recorded by U.S. Navy officers on a mission with the aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, off the coast of San Diego in 2004. They recalled observing an unusual “churning” of the ocean before seeing a white, Tic Tac-shaped object flying at high speed over the water. In 2014 and 2015, separate U.S. Navy officers also witnessed strange objects that appeared “almost daily” off the east coast at “30,000 feet, 20,000 feet, even sea level” and “could accelerate, slow down, and then hit hypersonic speeds.” 

These are not the first times that the U.S. Navy has reported anomalous sightings. In 1963, the U.S. Navy was conducting training exercises off the coast of Puerto Rico. One of the submarines broke formation and went rogue, apparently in pursuit of an unidentified submersible object (USO) that was traveling at “over 150 knots”— faster than any contemporary technology by “nearly four times in speed.” Later the officers noted in their logs that their underwater tracking devices had “latched onto some high-speed submersible. They then tracked the object for four days as it went down as deep as 27,000 feet, but were still unable to figure out what it was. 

Interviewing naval officers in The Drive, journalist Tyler Rogaway reports that navy officers acknowledge seeing what they call “fast movers.” One veteran sonar operator Aaron Amick has said that unexplained contacts do pop up on sonars, but that they are “so quick that you can't measure the speed… There is no way to measure the speed accurately because there isn't enough data… I agree it's odd. There are a lot of odd things in the ocean.”

US Navy, sonar operators


There is a full spectrum of theories for these water based UAP. On one end of explanations for these phenomenon is ongoing R&D by various militaries, including underwater drones and vehicles. China has developed the supersized drone submarine HSU-001, which has been spotted near Hainan Island. The UK has developed the extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles, the XLUUV. The U.S.’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has its own Manta Ray program, developing undersea vehicles. 

DARPA's Manta Ray program

Militaries have also developed supercavitating torpedoes that move at high velocity underwater by creating a bubble around the torpedo. Russia has recently developed the 24 meter long Poseidon hypersonic supertorpedo.

On the other end of the spectrum, scientists have more exotic theories. A recent paper by Harvard theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, referenced the work of MIT professor Sara Seager, who has suggested that “extraterrestrial probes” might break off from their “parent crafts” to “charge their batteries” and use “liquid water as fuel.” If this were true, it would be logical to suppose that such probes would target “habitable planets” such as Earth, which is still the only known planet to have bodies of liquid water on its surface, per NOAA.

Enigma accounts

We ran a search across the Enigma database to see how many sighting cases occur around large bodies of water. We continue to comb through and clean up historical accounts to remove extraneous, low credibility reports, as well as explainable objects. Preliminary results showed 3,120 accounts took place above or by oceans.

Enigma database results for sightings by water, oceans, sea and underwater

Witnesses have submitted all kinds of interesting accounts. In 2001, one observer [Enigma case #274673] was in Puerto Rico, sitting outside at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. They and another witness observed seven lights that “flew in formation” and then “made sharp turns at rapid speeds.” “The objects weren’t falling, they were controlled, coordinated and almost orchestrated in a pattern.’ After about 20 minutes, the “lights increased in altitude” and then “shot up into the sky our of the atmosphere.” 

In the same year, another observer [Enigma case #274964], who identifies as a police officer, was on duty patrolling a section of road that ran along the Bay of Islands, and saw a “red light on the water” off of Newfoundland, Canada. The observer watched it for a couple of minutes and then the “red orb lifted off the water and travelled to the end of the Bay of Islands approximately 50 miles away in less than one second.” 

Another witness said his nighttime game trail camera caught an “orb of light” about the size of a basketball floating above the stream behind his property in Virginia Beach.  [Enigma case #164438]

In April, one witness was on a cruise in the Bahamas and saw what looked like a teardrop shaped ship come out of the ocean [Enigma case #275674].

In February, a fisherman reported seeing something unusual while out in the Gulf of Mexico. He said this is the second time he has seen a UAP fly “in and out of water.” He wrote that it was an average, dark sky day, but he happened to catch the unusual sighting on camera. [Enigma case #275325]

There are thousands of stories to delve into in the Enigma app, and more and more observer stories are submitted every day. Just as the Kraken once sat in realm of lore and uncertainty, today UAP remain a mystery. There are many unknown things in the oceans and likely several explanations for the anomalous phenomenon people are reporting. As people share more stories with each other, we are excited to see what learnings we can unlock about the mysteries in our oceans.



1) From Estoire des Englais, Geoffrey Gaimar's chronicles

2) Source: Wonders in the Sky, Jacques Vallee

3) "Invisible Residents" by Ivan T. Sanderson

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