The ocean brims with surprises, but it seemed as though 2014 produced an extraordinarily high number of exciting, odd, and sometimes bizarre sightings, catches, or events that were captured in photographs or on video. Here's a random look back at some of what transpired:

ocean stories

Great white shark image courtesy of ©Amanda Brewer

1) Most viral shark photo. The incredible photo atop this post was viewed by millions of people around the world, and probably was the most viral shark photo of 2014. The woman who captured said it "really was just luck."

In fact, Amanda Brewer had not even owned a camera before planning her shark-diving expedition off South Africa, and had purchased a GoPro just days beforehand.

The image, as viewers can see, is a vivid portrayal of a great white shark looking absolutely ferocious as it bares its teeth, with fully extended jaws. Brewer, who was in a cage but without scuba gear, looks to have been just inches away, but she said that was not the case. Click here for the full story.

Black seadevil

Black seadevil image is a video screen grab

2) Black seadevil videotaped for the first time. The ferocious-looking anglerfish, or black seadevil, was videotaped in the fall at a lightless depth of 2,000 feet, by a remotely operated vehicle in Central California’s Monterey Bay.

The seadevil, which looks large and imposing but only measures about 3.5 inches, also was collected for study. Dr. Bruce Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute described the critter, which baits prey with a glowing bulb at the end of a wand on its head, as being "among the most rarely seen of all deep-sea fishes." Click the full story, photos and video.

humpback whale

Humpback whale image courtesy of J.T. Gray/North Shore Surf Photos

3) Humpback whales surf Pipeline. Not much to this story other than it was a rare and astonishing sight for those who witnessed two humpback whales riding a large outside wave at the world-famous Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore.

The person closest to the whales, a bodyboarder on an inside wave, missed out on the sighting. But photographer J.T. Gray captured an image—perhaps the only image of whales surfing Pipeline—moments before the leviathans kicked out and moved on. Click here for Gray's explanation.

By-the-wind sailors

By-the-wind sailors; photo by ©Jodi Frediani

4) By-the-wind sailors litter West Coast beaches. Many exotic visitors appeared off California and the West Coast during the summer, thanks to unusually warm water that existed offshore from late May through September.

Among them were by-the-wind sailors, or Velella velellas, which are mysterious, gelatinous critters who are at the mercy of wind and currents. Strandings of these jelly-like creatures—which are not actual sea jellies—occur primarily during warm-water event, and they were being found from Washington to Southern California.

But the most astonishing sight of all was that of perhaps millions of by-the-wind sailors that pushed ashore in the Washington Community of La Push. Click here to view that image, and for more on the story.

tiger shark

Tiger shark image is a video screen grab

5) Large tiger shark craves affection from diver. This type of lead-in might seem over the top, but a shark named Tarantino actually seemed pleased to see the return of dive master Jim Abernethy to Tiger Beach at the Bahamas. It also seemed to crave his caresses so much that it kept coming back for more.

Said Abernethy: "I wish there was some way that I could get the world to see what these beautiful creatures are really like, so we could end the needless slaughter and keep our oceans healthy, not only for them but for our own existence on the planet." Click here to see the amazing footage.


6) Epic mullet migration, epic feeding frenzy. The photo posted above shows a shark surfacing during the annual mullet migration off Florida's east coast, but the frenzy also included voracious jacks, tarpon, and other predators taking advantage of this opportunity to relentlessly gorge.

Even a few swimmers were caught off-guard, and found themselves amid the churning chaos. Click here to view the footage, and thank your lucky stars that you were not born as a mullet.

Sperm Whales

Sperm whale image is courtesy of ©Carla Mitroff

7) Sperm whales convene en masse off Southern California coast. Perhaps the rarest of many rare events to occur off Southern California, because of the warm water mentioned above, was the sudden arrival on the morning of October 6 of nearly 100 sperm whales off Orange County.

It was an unprecedented coastal showing of these legendary toothed whales, which are known to engage in ferocious battles with giant squid at great ocean depths.

The sperm whale convention, which featured lots of social interaction in a daylong display, was chronicled by boaters, who enjoyed extremely close encounters, and captured all kinds of footage. Click here for more on this extraordinary event, and for underwater video. (Note: The story states that as many as 50 sperm whales were sighted. That estimate grew after the story had been published at mid-day.)


Anchovy school image is courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography

8) Massive school of anchovies looks like oil slick. In early July, beachgoers and scientists were startled to see what at first glance appeared to oil covering a vast expanse of ocean alongside Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California.

It turned out to be a very unusual coastal mass gathering of anchovies, perhaps millions of them, tightly bunched in a wide swath just beyond the surf zone. Experts were quick to document an event they said had not occurred in San Diego County in more than 30 years. Click here for more on the story, as well as photos and video.

great white shark

Great white shark image is a video screen grab

9) Great white shark chews on inflatable boat; boaters hope for the best. Great white sharks sometimes investigate objects as possible prey.

They do this by biting, and last May boaters off South Africa found themselves aboard a rubber vessel that was being seriously investigated—enough so that one of the pontoons was popped by the charm, as it teethed on the side of the boat. Click here for the full story and to view the amazing footage.

whale shark

Whale shark image is via Long Beach Sportfishing

10) Whale shark documented off Southern California. People might expect to see these gentle giants at tropical or subtropical dive destinations, but not off Southern California. However, the summer-fall season off Southern California was among the Most bizarre ever, in terms of sightings of exotic creatures, and that of a whale shark in September off Santa Catalina Island was extremely rare.

Again, credit was given the unusually warm water, which gave SoCal waters a subtropical feel. Click here for more on this story, and to view footage of the whale shark.

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