The mysteries of the ocean’s abyss continue to awe us, and the diversity of its aquatic creatures is increasingly fascinating, enigmatic, and somewhat terrifying to some.
In November, while exploring the dark, murky depths of the Pacific, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) team encountered one of these marvels.
During their data collection at a depth of approximately 3,200 feet using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the MBARI team was treated to an unusual sighting of the stygiomedusa gigantae, more commonly known as the giant phantom jellyfish.
The name “phantom” is very appropriate since sightings of these elegant, spectral creatures are infrequent. Although they can inhabit any depth, even up to almost 22,000 feet, the elusive jellyfish is typically found in the midnight zone, which is located between 3,280 and 13,120 feet beneath the surface.
And among the thousands of deep-sea dives conducted by their ROVs, the research institute has only observed this mysterious species a total of 9 times. According to MBARI, researchers have encountered the giant phantom jellyfish about 100 times in total since its discovery in 1899. Fortunately, this time, the researchers were able to capture it on video.
In the video, the graceful creature’s flowing tentacles dance in the water like delicate drapes of silk swaying in a gentle breeze. The ethereal forms seem more fitting for a high-fashion underwater photoshoot than on the body of a massive deep-sea creature. With a bell measuring over 3 feet in diameter, the giant phantom jellyfish’s four “ribbon-like” arms function as mouths and can expand to over 33 feet in length.
Its gelatinous body – which appears to be a deep reddish-brown hue in the murky depths – is also adorned with beautiful swathes of red that almost seem to radiate. The jelly’s graceful movements, so smooth and fluid, almost appear as if they were choreographed for a magical underwater performance.