Recreational Terror

Further proof of what a hot commodity the macabre is these days: the September/October “Bizarre Issue” of SportDiver. A friend passed a copy of the magazine along to me, rightfully assuming that it would be right up my nightmare-loving alley. Landlubber though I might be (you’d sooner catch me flaying my own skin than scuba diving), I can enjoy the vicarious experience of the sea’s darkly fantastic fathoms. This special issue provides plenty of opportunity for such experience, presenting “101 Stranger Things” of the marine world–“the unknown, the freaky and the outlandish.”

Some of the sublime highlights include the bell spider, an underwater predator that sounds like it would be right at home in the sewers of Derry; the Neptune Memorial Reef off the coast of Key Biscayne, an aquatic necropolis where your cremated remains can be stored inside a molded sculpture; the female Maine lobster, who attempts to seduce her potential mate by repeatedly dousing him with her urine; “white gold” treasure hunters who make a fortune retrieving and reselling golf balls from water hazards. Other cataloged items waiting to intrigue readers: the blobfish, exploding whales, the train graveyard buried off the Jersey shore, and the (John Wayne) Bobbitt Worm.

One amazing stat from the issue that has stuck with me: 95% of the ocean is still unexplored, and an estimated 67% of the planet’s marine species have yet to be discovered/described. The most alien world humanity might ever encounter is not off in deep space, but lurking below the surface of earth’s own waters.

The Bizarre Issue abounds with horrific portraits of already-known creatures, from the Gollum-looking oddity on the cover to the king ragworm and the fangtooth fish, which almost make Cthulhu and Dagon appear innocuous as guppies by comparison. Reading this special edition of SportDiver, I couldn’t help but wonder what that unparalleled seafearer, H.P. Lovecraft, would have made of the images modern exploration has brought back from the watery unknown. Such sights might have inspired him to concoct monstrosities that would beggar the wealth of bogies populating his mythos fiction. Or, like one of his unfortunate narrators, he simply might have been left drowning in hysteria.