Space is often regarded as the "final frontier" for humanity. It's unimaginably vast, dark, and potentially filled with terrors. It's easy to be frightened by the idea of space. It's deadly to us humans, disaster feels inevitable at every turn, and who knows what kind of world-destroying life could be out there, intelligent or otherwise? Many a quality film has explored this exact concept.
But there's something even scarier in our own house (galactically speaking): the ocean. It is vast, although not unimaginably so. It is filled with terror of all shapes and sizes, but also wonder. We've humanized the ocean because it's near and dear to our hearts and bodies. It's been romanticized more than space, because what's more romantic than the sun shining on the ocean blue?
Unlike space, the ocean is knowable. It is familiar. Less than one percent of one percent of the human population will ever float in zero gravity above the earth, but the vast majority of us will feel the ocean water between our toes, and every single one of us feels we have at least a general idea of what it consists of: fish, some crazy-looking fish, the occasional deadly mammal, and a whole lot of empty space.
But it's this latter assumption that's wrong, which makes it downright frightening. According to the National Ocean Service, only five percent of the ocean has been explored or mapped by the human species. Five percent! That doesn't speak to how little we've done in that department (because, over the centuries, we have done a lot) but rather just how gigantic it is. There's so much unexplored territory beneath the waves it's difficult to comprehend.
Then there's what actually lives in that 95 percent of the unknown. We all know there are some real freaky-looking ocean-dwellers out there. Just look at the cover photo of this article. That's a real fish, called a frill shark, that was found off the coast of Japan just over a decade ago.
You wanna talk about aliens? That thing is alien. And it's just one of potentially thousands of species that would give you nightmares. There's the sheepshead fish, which has rows of human-looking teeth.
Then there's the sarcastic fringehead fish. Cute name, right? Well, this fish is a freaking vampire and no one can tell me otherwise.
Not to mention whatever the hell this goblin shark is supposed to be evolved from. Unhinged is an understatement.
These are the species that we know of. From the five percent of the ocean we've explored. Just thinking about what kind of insane stuff exists in the deepest trenches of the ocean makes my skin crawl.
I understand why most like to think space is indeed the final frontier. We've always had access to the ocean. Space is relatively new in the lengthy history of our species. We don't understand it at all. We like to think we understand the ocean, because we believe we have tamed it. We ride its currents and waves to get to where we want. Drowning is always a risk, but learning to swim is possible. Learning to breathe air in space is not. We won't discover signs of intelligent life down at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, but we just might if we use our spaceships to get far enough away. Space is ripe with both horrifying and wondrous things. The ocean, as we perceive it, is mundane. It's always been there. The human mind likes to think about the unknown, because the possibilities are endless.
But man, we're wrong. The ocean is not tamed. It merely lets us have our fun. Space will eventually be the same way, even if that's thousands of years off. The ocean won't suddenly bring a species from elsewhere ready to annihilate or love us, like space possibly could. But because we think we know it, we don't think about what could be lurking under the waves. But when one does, it grows scarier than Alien or Aliens.
Food for thought on this fine Friday morning, right?