Today the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena shares a rare and incredible sight: a pod of sperm whales fast asleep, floating in a vertical position, some with noses pointed up towards the water’s surface, some pointed down to the ocean floor. It’s a haunting sight, something the whales are believed to do for only brief periods of about 12 minutes at a time. Quick, vertical power naps.

Researchers have observed sleeping sperm whales exhibiting the same sort of Rapid Eye Movement that’s associated with dreaming in humans. So now we’re wondering what sorts of awesome things whales dream about.

Above gif and image taken from video footage used in the Discovery Channel series The Magic of the Big Blue (episode 4 of 7). Click here to watch.

[via Twisted Sifter and Sploid]

Last week we shared a phenomenal time-lapse video of an undulating cloud formation that looks like turbulent ocean waves. Today we’re treated to a tricksy video that turns the ocean itself upside-down. This beautifully surreal video created by freedivers Francisco and Armando del Rosario, aka The Ocean Brothers, along with their friend Armiche Ramos. Together they played with perspective, creative camera angles, and their exceptional ability to hold their breath for extended periods to make it appear as though they’re able to walk on water or fly through the air.

It’s a short video full of beautiful optical illusions, created without using any special effects. It recently won first prize in the 2014 World ShootOut underwater photography competition.

[via PetaPixel and Sploid]

Bangkok-based photographer Visarute Angkatavanich (previously featured here) continues to take breathtaking photos of Siamese fighting fish, also known as betta fish. His fascination with their splendid, flowing fins and brilliant coloring is apparent in the extraordinarily detailed portraits he creates. The photos are so perfectly clear and close-up that it’s easy to forget the fish are underwater and not floating in midair.

Angkatavanich recently told Popular Photography that he only started photographing the fish after encountering them for the first time three years ago at a fish show and has since become obsessed with the different species which vary greatly in size, shape, and color patterns.

Head over to Visarute Angkatavanich’s 500px gallery to view more of his gorgeous betta portraits. Limited edition prints of his photos are currently available through La Lanta Fine Art.

[via Colossal]

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders ventures under the sea to share some beautiful examples of feather star Crinoids, awesome marine creatures from the phylum Echinodermata described as the “flowers of the coral seas.” Crinoids are found in shallow water down to depths as great as 20,000 feet. There are currently about 600 known species of feather star, some of which grow to be more than three feet in diameter. They usually have a stem which they use to attach themselves to a substrate, but some only remain attached to a surface while they’re juveniles and become free-swimming as adults.

Click here to learn more about these stunning sea creatures.

Photos by/via Nhobgood, Alexander Vasenin, Facts And Details and Starfish.ch respectively.

[via Dark Roasted Blend]

Plenty of people know how to crochet and knit, but how many of them do it underwater? Polish yarn-bombing artist Olek (previously featured here) recently undertook an awesome new artistic adventure in the Caribbeans creating an installation in the waters off Isla Mujeres, Mexico off the coast of Cancun, home to a large population of whale sharks. To voice her concern about the ongoing decline of the global shark population, Olek used her signature vibrant camouflage-patterned crochet to cover two sculptures in Isla Mujeres’ underwater museum, Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA).

The MUSA is an underwater sculpture park created to encourage the natural growth of coral reefs and has been open to the public since 2010 (though scuba diving skills are a must to be able to go see it).

For the project, Olek used safe, biodegradable materials and colors that mimic the reds, yellows and browns of the coral reef. The artist was inspired by a quote from Jason DeCaires Taylor, the original sculptor of the pieces in the MUSA, comparing the global oceans’ health to a ticking time bomb as ecosystems decline from overfishing and pollution. She specifically chose to crochet the bomb sculptures as a symbol of solidarity and call for environmental protection.

After finishing the installation Olek collaborated with Tre Packard of Pangeaseed on a stunning underwater photo shoot of divers wearing crocheted mermaid tails, bodysuits and butterfly wings.

Visit Hi-Fructose for additional images.

[via Hi-Fructose]

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]

Slow Life from Daniel Stoupin on Vimeo.

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.