There was a disturbance in the water. No one knew what it was, but it was huge.
Then whatever it was touched his feet. He managed to climb to safety and from there tried to get a better look at the thing in the water. But the size astounded him.
La Gomera, situated in the Spanish Canary Islands, is well-known for its scenic landscapes and pristine beaches. Located just off the African coast, the cool Atlantic Ocean and the wildlife that inhabit it attract visitors from all over the world each year.
But no tourist had ever witnessed anything like this – until now. The enormous creature that frequents this particular beach has since become legendary.
Valle Gran Rey tourist resort draws all kinds of people to its glorious beaches, but another, more unnerving sight was about to greet young Joel.
He was visiting the resort with his parents and couldn’t wait to get into the surf. But he had no idea what was lurking beneath the waves that day.
Luckily, someone happened to catch Joel’s encounter with the mysterious animal on camera. The footage was posted to YouTube and it exploded.
Over 50 million views later, the mesmerizing and strangely haunting video is still doing its rounds on Social Media. And it’s not difficult to see why. The video opens with a little boy, standing ankle-deep in the water.
Joel splashed in the water, but he was attracting the attention of something. There was a stir in the ocean as it glided straight for him from the deep.
Suddenly, the sea begins to boil as smaller fish scramble out of the beast’s path. A giant fin breaks the surface and slices through the water, and onlookers can just make out the black, smooth mass beneath it. Has Joel seen it?
As suddenly as it began, the sea is still again. The people who witnessed it from the safety of the concrete stairs leading into the ocean scratch their heads.
Perhaps it was nothing – an illusion created by the ocean current. But still, they keep filming, not realizing what was about to unfold before their eyes.
After a few moments of calm, the ocean begins to churn again. Suddenly and without warning, the slick black mass begins to emerge again – this time much closer to Joel.
He feels something smooth brush against his feet and jumps back, startled. That terrifying moment of being touched by something unknown and hidden from view is the stuff nightmares are made of – and it’s all over his face.
Spectators watched the encounter unfold in horror. They started to yell at the little boy. “Get back!”, “Be careful!”, “It’s a shark!” another yelled. But it wasn’t, and the boy knew that too.
He stood on the step for a moment, squinting his eyes, trying to make out what was swimming beneath the dark waters surface. He tried to spot the huge mass. Was it a humpback whale?
It’s not uncommon to find humpback whales swimming close to harbors. In fact, the New York Harbor has seen an influx in whale sightings over the last few years with over 300 whales spotted around the area in one single year.
Whales swim to harbors to eat. However, the longer the boy looked at the ocean, the more he realized a 40-foot whale wouldn’t be so agile as what he witnessed. He needed a better look.
Scrambling up the steps to get away and to get a better view of what was lurking there, Joel turns and is met with a sight that neither he nor the people filming will ever forget.
The enormous creature emerges fully from the sea and drags itself up the lowest step until it’s within touching distance of Joel.
At this point in the video, viewers can finally see the black creature’s full size as it lifts itself out of the ocean. The water rolls off its back as it rises from the waves and reveals a colossal, oily body.
Joel had never seen one of these creatures in person, let alone been accosted by one. People stood in shock and horror as they watched what happened next.
The strange and almost unearthly creature lurches forward, finally revealing itself. There is a startled cry from the onlookers when the realization dawns on them.
It is apparent that it is, in fact, a huge manta ray, spanning at least 4 metres wide. But what does it want with Joel? And is it dangerous?
The giant manta ray easily outsized the young boy. It was about triple his size. Onlookers resumed to yell at Joel to get back but his response left them dumbfounded.
Gone was the look of terror or surprise on his face. Instead, he was beaming. A bright smile plastered his face as he yelled back “It’s okay! She’s not what you think!”. They continued to watch in awe.
Joel knew exactly what to do. He had been visiting this same spot for a few days now, and he knew exactly what the manta ray wanted.
The crowd watched as the giant manta ray opened its wide mouth slightly expectantly. To which Joel fearlessly placed his hand inside and opened his fist. The onlookers could barely believe their eyes.
They watched Joel put his hand inside the giant beast’s mouth with a sense of doom. A pin drop could be heard as people expected to witness the horrific scene of a young boy being tragically injured by a wild animal but that’s not what happened.
What happened next was simply unimaginable to everyone watching.
The wild animal held its mouth wide open.
It waited until Joel’s hand was safely retrieved before he chomped down on what was given to him. Even to the most amateur eyes, this was clearly not normal behavior. How in the world did this happen?
This particular manta ray has devised an ingenious way to get an easy meal.
It had learned to brazenly come up to tourists and calmly wait until they got over their shock. Then the colossal animal would open its mouth and keep waiting for the golden moment. It gets even better when everyone realizes that it was waiting for one more thing.
Joel gives it a stroke along its smooth back. The manta ray responds by waving its fins – as if to say, “thank you.”
Then, the mysterious fish leaves to prowl around the harbor. But it wouldn’t be the last Joel or his audience would see of the manta ray. He had no idea that the one brief encounter was a small part of a much larger, and very amazing, puzzle that had taken hundreds of years to form.
The people of Vueltas, the fishing harbor where the unbelievable scene took place, are no strangers to these majestic creatures.
In fact, the manta rays will often follow the fishing boats into the harbor in hopes of finding a few morsels of the discarded bycatch. But sailors and fishermen weren’t always so tolerant of these creatures.
Superstitions about manta rays persisted among sailors, and it’s not hard to see why. These enormous beasts are incredibly strong, and some sailors even said that to see one while out at sea was bad luck.
It was a popular misconception that manta rays could sink a ship by pulling on its anchors. But it wasn’t until 1978 that another side of these mysterious animals was revealed.
A group of divers in California began to film their interactions with the manta rays in the bay, and many people were surprised to see that these animals were actually quite placid and were no threat to humans.
But it was only with the rise of social media that people began to record and share their own experiences with these fascinating fish – which would be vital to future events that surrounded Joel’s feeding display.
In one such video, a group of divers just off the coast of Costa Rica had an unforgettable experience.
As the divers explore the ocean floor, a giant stingray swims straight up to them. That’s when they notice that the ray is caught in a fishing net and needs their help. They carefully untangled the stingray and it’s soon on its way again. But this particular video highlights another danger that rays face.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many rays get entangled in fishing nets. In fact, it happens so often that conservationists consider the species as vulnerable to extinction.
But footage of these beasts and their friendly interactions with humans may actually help with their conservation. Thanks to these videos, manta tourism is on the rise, and the local boy knew that it was safe to feed them. But how did simple videos save an entire species from extinction?
Manta tourism not only raises awareness of the majestic manta ray’s plight, but also raises money for the local economy. Manta tourism has had such an impact on Indonesia that officials banned manta ray fishing after realizing that manta tourism was far more profitable!
One hunted manta ray could fetch a price of around $500, whereas a live animal as a tourist attraction can earn approximately $1 million in its lifetime. And manta ray’s aren’t the only fish that has made such an impact.
In the peaceful waters of Wareham, Massachusetts, an unknown sea creature lurked who caused mayhem in the local town and the local police station bore the brunt of it.
Everyday calls poured in to the station stating that they’d seen a huge and threatening-looking sea creature swimming around the area. But there was a problem.
While some callers gave a terrifying account of their sighting, others saw it splashing around haphazardly and were concerned about it’s well-being.
“I started receiving calls on my personal phone around 6:30 AM,” said Garry Buckminster, the director of the Department of Natural Resources in Wareham. “Everybody’s account was different but equally alarmed and concerned”.
Although the intention behind the calls differed, a few things remained the same. There was something different about the way this creature moved.
It was big and it’s fin pierced above the water like a great white. It’s jerky movements made some afraid and others worried it was injured. Speculations of what the creature was spanned from an injured seal to a vicious shark, but no one could have suspected the real answer.
Eager to solve the mystery, Buckminster sent two DNR officers out to search the cove and find the unidentified creature urgently. It wasn’t long before they spotted the scary-looking fin in the water.
But as they got close, it became obvious that the animal wasn’t an injured seal or a terrifying shark, instead it was the bizarre-looking sea creature called a Sunfish.
The officers confirm that the Sunfish was fine and that it’s not struggling or suffering, that’s just the way they swim – which can look quite clumsy from afar!
However, any new tourists around the area kept calling in and the station later had to release another statement to the public, telling them to stop calling in about the Sunfish. The creature became a beloved source of amusement for the town and raised awareness about the fish itself.
As climate change, overfishing, pollution, and the other effects of industrialization affect the oceans now more than ever, conservation efforts have never been so important. So, while Joel’s and the officer’s encounter makes for riveting viewing, stories like this raises much-needed awareness for these species.
There is, however, another kind of animal awareness that saved a Texan boy while he was pretending to be an explorer.
7-year-old Hunter had begged his parents to take him to the beach.
So, when they finally pulled up to the stretching, sandy shore, he jumped out of the car with a loud cheer and raced for the waves. His schedule was packed full of sandcastles, shell collecting, and snorkeling – so he had to get started immediately!
It wasn’t only the weather that was perfect, there were hardly any people there. He had the beach to himself!
This was perfect. His mind raced with possibilities, and it only got better when his mom said he was allowed to wander a little farther than normal – which would end up a very bad idea.
Hunter dragged his feet through the slushy sand and kicked at the waves as he wandered down the shore.
Normally, the snails, shells and driftwood would capture his attention, but this time there was a flash of bright blue he had never seen before.
He crept closer – his mind exploding with curiosity.
Maybe it was a pretty stone or a unique seashell? Hunter adored reading books about nature and marine life, so he was very confident. Part of him worried it was just a piece of trash. But as he leaned down and saw it move on its own, he knew it was alive.
It looked like an alien – with long tendrils coming off the main body.
It twitched and swayed in the shallow tide pool. Hunter had to show his parents. Maybe he had discovered a new species! It would turn out, however, that the little boy’s nature-knowledge would up saving his life.
He knew there were a lot of dangerous things in the ocean.
So, he scooped it up with his shovel and put the little specimen in his bucket. He raced to his dad yelling, “Looking what I found!” His dad leaned over, and his face turned pale with fear.
“Put that down right now,” his dad said, as if Hunter was holding a ticking explosive.
Hunter felt the joy drain from his body. He set the bucket down with shaking hands. Something was very wrong. His dad looked out at the water with apprehension and said, “No swimming today.”
Hunter was dying to know what was going on.
It wasn’t until his dad pulled out his phone and check the local news did, he finally get some answers. It turns out the little creatures weren’t a new discovery. They were very well known – and very dangerous.
It turned out the sea animals were called blue dragon slugs.
They were very toxic and should never be touched. Part of Hunter was terrified that he had found such a creature. The other half was still so curious. Thankfully, he was allowed to use his dad’s phone to learn more.
The local government had issued a warning to everyone in the area – which is why the beach wasn’t very busy that day.
It’s another example of why education and awareness are so important!