Today the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders transports us to the Indian Ocean. About 1200 miles from the southeastern coast of Africa is the island nation of Mauritius, and it’s there, at the southwestern tip of the island, that we’ll find a spectacular natural optical illusion:

When viewed from above, a runoff of sand and silt deposits creates the impression of an ‘underwater waterfall’. Satellite views (as seen in the two Google Maps screenshots above) are equally dramatic, as an underwater vortex seemingly appears off the coast of this tropical paradise.

With some optical illusions, the longer one looks at them, the more one can make sense of what’s actually there. But this stunning, false underwater waterfall looks completely real, no matter how long we stare at the photos.

Visit Twisted Sifter to learn more about this awesome natural spectacle.

Top photo via KULfoto.com, satellite photos by DigitalGlobe via Google Maps.

These adorably strange little creatures that looks like a pieces of coral that just woke up are Pygmy seahorses, a species of seahorse that was completely unknown to science until the 1970s. Found in Southeast Asia in the Coral Triangle area, they’re incredibly small - measuring only two centimeters long - which ranks them among the smallest seahorses on earth. So between their itty-bittiess and their amazing ability to blend in amongst the the sea grasses, soft corals and gorgonians that they inhabit, it’s a wonder they were discovered at all.

Photos by Daniel Kwok, Jayvee Fernandez, Pacific Klaus, EOL, Graham Short, and Steven Childs respectively.

Click here to learn more about these awesome little fish and visit Ark in Space for additional images.

[via Kuriositas and Ark in Space]

Today we learned that it’s possible, with the right electronics, to operate a record player that’s underwater. Artist Evan Holm created this awesome Submerged Turntable installation. It produces nearly perfect audio and looks hypnotically beautiful while doing so. Click here to view a short documentary video and learn more about this unusual art project.

[via Colossal]

Australian photographer and marine biology PhD student Daniel Stoupin took 150,000 macro photos and used a processing technique called focus stacking to create this awesome time-lapse video of corals and sponges. Entitled Slow Life, this breathtaking video reveals that these beautiful marine animals are not the still and static creatures we might presume.

"Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives."

Click here to learn more about the making of this amazing video.

[via Booooooom!]

Look closely, these aren’t you’re average landscape photos. These are aquascapes. Did you notice the fish swimming past? Aquascaping is the craft of arranging aquatic plants as well as rocks, stones, driftwood and other hardscape elements in an aquarium. It’s gardening under water, often with fish who reside in the beautiful underwater landscape.

It’s a challenging hobby and, like many other hobbies, for those interested in such things there’s also a competitive element:

"The world of competitive aquarium design, or aquascaping, is just as difficult, expensive, and cutthroat as any other sport but requires expertise in many different fields to guarantee success. Aquarium designers possess large amounts of expertise in biology, design, photography, and excel in the art of patience, as individual aquascapes can take months if not years to fully mature into a completed landscape.”

The aquascapes seen here were part of the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest (IAPLC), the world’s largest nature aquarium and aquatic plants layout competition.

Head over to Colossal to view more.

Grab a snorkel because today the Department of Awesomely Good Deeds is taking us under the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Garden Eel Cove just off the coat of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It was there last January that Keller Laros was participating in a Manta ray night dive when an amazingly astute bottlenose dolphin approached him and lingered long enough for Laros to notice that the animal was injured and asking for help.

The dolphin had a fishing hook stuck in his left pectoral fin attached to a length of fishing line that was tangled around the fin and even caught in his mouth. Fortunately Laros had a pair of scissors in his diving kit, so he quickly set about freeing the dolphin, who stayed remarkably still considering how uncomfortable the process must’ve been. Fellow diver Martina Wing filmed the extraordinary interaction. Once freed from the nasty hook and fishing line, the thankful dolphin swam away, disappearing into the darkness with a crazy tale to tell his friends.

[via Twisted Sifter]

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders introduces us to, as RR Helm calls it, “The most beautiful animal you’ve never seen,” a tiny species of crustacean called a Sapphirina copepod or Sea Sapphire. This video footage, shot by liquidguru, feels like something Mulder and Scully might’ve been called to investigate, but there’s nothing supernatural or extraterrestrial about these dazzling animals.

"Copepods are the rice of the sea, tiny shrimp-like animals at the base of the ocean food chain. And like rice, they are generally not known for their charisma. Sea sapphires are an exception. Though they are often small, a few millimeters, they are stunningly beautiful. Like their namesake gem, different species of sea sapphire shine in different hues, from bright gold to deep blue."

"When they’re abundant near the water’s surface the sea shimmers like diamonds falling from the sky. Japanese fisherman of old had a name for this kind of water, “tama-mizu”, jeweled water.”

Visit Deep Sea News to learn a lot more about these awesome little creatures.

We share all sorts of amazing things that aren’t what they seem at the Geyser of Awesome. Here’s another one, and it’s a doozy:

You may think you’re looking at photos of beautiful undersea invertebrates, but these delicate beauties are actually models made of clear, coloured, and painted glass. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team of master glassmakers (previously featured here), painstakingly created these extraordinary glass models of invertebrate animals (jellyfish, snails, sea anemones, corals, hidroids, starfish, sea-cucumbers, squid, seaslugs and bivalves) from the mid 1800s until the 1930s.

Photographer Guido Mocafico visited the natural history museums which still house collections of the Blaschka’s work, including Harvard University Herbaria, the Corning Museum of Glass/Cornell University, and the Natural History Museums in London and Ireland, in order to create a marvelous series of photographs celebrating these exquisite models. He set the pieces against dark backdrops and carefully lit them to emphasize their different colours and textures.

As you can see here, the results that Guido Mocafico achieved for his travel and effort are completely wonderful. Click here to view more.

[via Faith is Torment]

Behold one of the most awesomely tentacular sights ever captured on video. You may think you’re looking at an alien, but this is an extraordinarily rare glimpse of a deep-sea cephalopod known as the Bigfin Squid from the family Magnapinnidae. It was caught on camera in 2007 by a Shell Oil Company ROV at a depth of 2386 meters (roughly 1.5 miles) at the Perdido oil drilling site down in the Gulf of Mexico. This fantastic image is a composite created using the haunting ROV video footage. (Click here to watch the original video.)

Magnapinna squids are one of the deep-sea more ethereal creatures. Little is known of these squid as very few have ever been captured, although over the last decade with the increased usage of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and submersibles more and more video is emerging of them.
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Wikipedia has a nice entry on the history of their discovery.

[via Super Punch and Deep Sea News]

Behold one of the most awesomely tentacular sights ever captured on video. You may think you’re looking at an alien, but this is an extraordinarily rare glimpse of a deep-sea cephalopod known as the Bigfin Squid from the family Magnapinnidae. It was caught on camera in 2007 by a Shell Oil Company ROV at a depth of 2386 meters (roughly 1.5 miles) at the Perdido oil drilling site down in the Gulf of Mexico. This fantastic image is a composite created using the haunting ROV video footage. (Click here to watch the original video.)

Magnapinna squids are one of the deep-sea more ethereal creatures. Little is known of these squid as very few have ever been captured, although over the last decade with the increased usage of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and submersibles more and more video is emerging of them.

They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.

Wikipedia has a nice entry on the history of their discovery.

[via Super Punch and Deep Sea News]

Any animal that resembles a muppet is automatically awesome in our books. The unusually plush and clam-like fish in this video, shot at a Japanese aquarium, is called a Starry Handfish or Red Batfish. It looks like something dreamt up by The Jim Henson Company, but it’s a very real fish found on the continental shelves of the Indo-Pacific oceans at depths of between 50 and 400 m. They grow up to 30 cm (11.8 in) long and would probably make fast friends with Animal.

[via Smithsonian.com]