Saturday, August 30, 2014

40 Percent of Restaurant Workers Live in Near-Poverty

 

Fundamentally this all ties in with the failure to link minimum wage regulation with welfare rates and the average paid for in demand semi skilled labor.  All which would see a minimum wage set at around $15.00.  Instead we have illegals been used to suppress the minimum wage itself.

Add in my suggestion to provide four hours of certain work in exchange for bed and breakfast and lunch doing environmentally useful work and the market will be able to sort all this out becasuse no one will be really idle at all.

The truth is that the food industry is been subsidized by families accepting substandard wages in order to accumulate enough for all to live on.  This produces at least three additional folks who are unlikely to actually buy a restaurant meal.  Changing this alone will massively boost food revenues and make viable alternatives attractive.


40 Percent of Restaurant Workers Live in Near-Poverty

—By Tom Philpott

| Wed Aug. 27, 2014



http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/08/40-percent-restuarant-workers-live-near-poverty


It isn't just fast-food empires that rely on a low-paid, disempowered, and quite-often impoverished workforce. As a stomach-turning new report (PDF viewable here) from the Economic Policy Institute shows, the entire restaurant industry hides a dirty little labor secret under the tasteful lighting of the dining room.


Here are some highlights:

• The restaurant industry is a massive and growing source of employment. It accounts for more than 9 percent of US private-sector jobs—up from a little more than 7 percent in 1990. That's nearly a 30 percent gain.

• The industry's wages have stagnated at an extremely low level. Restaurant workers' median wage stands at $10 per hour, tips included—and hasn't budged, in inflation-adjusted terms, since 2000. For nonrestaurant US workers, the median hourly wage is $18. That means the median restaurant worker makes 44 percent less than other workers. Benefits are also rare—just 14.4 percent of restaurant workers have employer-sponsored health insurance and 8.4 percent have pensions, vs. 48.7 percent and 41.8 percent, respectively, for other workers


• Unionization rates are minuscule. Presumably, it would be more difficult to keep wages throttled at such a low level if restaurant workers could bargain collectively. But just 1.8 percent of restaurant workers belong to unions, about one-seventh of the rate for nonrestaurant workers. Restaurant workers who do belong to unions are much more likely to have benefits than their nonunion peers.

• As a result, the people who prepare and serve you food are pretty likely to live in poverty. The overall poverty rate stands at 6.3 percent. For restaurant workers, the rate is 16.7 percent. For families, researchers often look at twice the poverty threshold as proxy for what it takes to make ends meet, EPI reports. More than 40 percent of restaurant workers live below twice the poverty line—that's double the rate of nonrestaurant workers.


• Opportunity for advancement is pretty limited. I was surprised to learn that for every single occupation with restaurants—from dishwashers to chefs to managers—the median hourly wage is much less than the national average of $18. The highest paid occupation is manager, with a median hourly wage of $15.42. The lowest is "cashiers and counter attendants" (median wage: $8.23), while the most prevalent of restaurant workers, waiters and waitresses, who make up nearly a quarter of the industry's workforce, make a median wage of just $10.15. The one that has gained the most glory in recent years, "chefs and head cooks," offers a median wage of just $12.34.

• Industry occupations are highly skewed along gender and race lines. Higher-paid occupations are more likely to be held by men—chefs, cooks, and managers, for example, are 86 percent, 73 percent, and 53 percent male, respectively. Lower-paid positions tend to be dominated by women: for example, host and hostess (84.9 percent female), cashiers and counter attendants (75.1 percent), and waiters and waitresses (70.8 percent). I took up this topic in a piece on the vexed gender politics of culinary prestige last year. Meanwhile, "blacks are disproportionately likely to be cashiers/counter attendants, the lowest-paid occupation in the industry," while "Hispanics are disproportionately likely to be dishwashers, dining room attendants, or cooks, also relatively low-paid occupations," the report found.


• Restaurants lean heavily on the most disempowered workers of all—undocumented immigrants. Overall, 15.7 percent of US restaurant workers are undocumented, nearly twice the rate for nonrestaurant sectors. Fully a third of dishwashers, nearly 30 percent of nonchef cooks, and more than a quarter of bussers are undocumented, the report found. So a huge swath of the people who feed you pay payroll taxes and sales taxes yet don't receive the rights of citizenship.

Thus you can't opt out of supporting deplorable labor conditions for the people who feed you simply by refusing to pass through the Golden Arches or to enter the Burger King's realm.

So what can you do? One thing is to seek out restaurants that explicitly pay their workers a living wage. Two I can think of offhand: Austin's Black Star Co-op, a cooperatively owned gastro-pub that's managed by a "workers assembly" as a "democratic self-managed workplace." Another is Chapel Hill's excellent Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe. I'd love to hear about more examples in comments.

But these examples are vanishingly rare. The only real solution to the industry's bottom-feeding labor practices are legislative, the EPI report makes clear. That means reforms like a much higher minimum wage and a path to legal status for undocumented workers. Anyone who wants to learn more about working conditions in our nation's eateries should read Saru Jayaraman's outstanding 2013 book Behind the Kitchen Door. (Read the Mother Jones review here.)

And just for fun, here's the Mother Jones fast-food wage calculator, which will give you a sense of what some workers are up against:

Sulfate, Sleep and Sunlight: The Disruptive and Destructive Effects of Heavy Metals and Glyphosate





The hypothesis that the epidemic levels of autism (and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease) currently seen in the Western world are caused by a severe deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain is completely presented here and it is compelling.  Worse, the impact has been a six fold leap in a family of brain diseases that is devastating and is certainly an epidemic.


Calling this to account has been assiduously avoided to date.  This is far worse than AIDs in terms of direct impact and as damaging but mostly in the long term.


What it does mean is that all of us have low level toxicity that is not beneficial or even been addressed or tested for.

Sulfate, Sleep and Sunlight: The Disruptive and Destructive Effects of Heavy Metals and Glyphosate


By Claire I. Viadro, MPH, PhD

 http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/05/claire-viadro/clean-out-your-brain/

Neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases—they seem to be everywhere these days. Scientists writing in Neurology in 2007 estimated that the burden of neurologic illness affects “many millions of people in the United States.”1

Autoimmune illness, too, is at epidemic proportions—nearly 24 million Americans as of 2012.2 These trends are disturbing enough in their own right, but even more disturbing is the general scientific apathy about why the surge in these diseases is occurring.

Why do the causes of these alarming epidemics remain “underrecognized and underaddressed?”3

Stephanie Seneff is one of the all-too-rare scientists who is trying to ask the questions and connect the dots. Dr. Seneff4 is a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with an illustrious career and lengthy publication record. Of late, she has been using computer science and natural language processing (NLP) techniques (NLP is a field of computer science, artificial intelligence, and linguistics) to delve into the impact of environmental toxins on human health.

She has developed some particularly convincing hypotheses relating to autism and, more recently, cancer. At the Third International Symposium on Vaccines,5presented in March 2014 as part of the 9th International Congress on Autoimmunity, Dr. Seneff was one of 15 speakers invited to present scientific research by the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute6 (CMSRI) on the adverse health effects of aluminum adjuvants and aluminum-adjuvented vaccines.

She discussed “a role for the pineal gland in neurological damage following aluminum-adjuvented vaccination.” Along the way, she made many fascinating connections between various strands of her recent work, briefly summarized in this article.

The Critical Role of Sulfate

Dr. Seneff persuasively makes the case that neurological brain diseases have a common origin that begins with an insufficient supply of sulfate to the brain. Sulfate is the oxidized form of sulfur. Dr. Seneff has argued that systemic sulfate deficiency “may be the most important factor in many of the health issues facing us today.”7

[ this provides the explanation for the pathological  existence of development gaps on the surface of the brain in a victim of autism. - arclein ]

I’ll get to her thoughts on why so many people are deficient in sulfate in a moment, but suffice it to say that one of the consequences of insufficient sulfate in the brain is that it impairs the brain’s ability to eliminate heavy metals and other toxins. To make matters worse, those same toxic metals also interfere with sulfate synthesis. The net result can be an accumulation of cellular debris.

How do our brains get rid of cellular debris? Dr. Seneff cited recent work showing that sleep is crucial in this regard.8 Sleep is the brain’s “housekeeper.” This housekeeping takes place in the lysosomes. (Lysosomes—the cell’s waste disposal system—are filled with enzymes that break down unwanted materials.) However, the lysosomes cannot perform their important clearing work without sulfate, specifically heparan sulfate.

Heparan sulfate belongs to the family of glycosaminoglycans or GAGs—complex polysaccharides that provide structural integrity to cells. Heparan sulfate regulates many different biological functions, including ion and nutrient transport as well as molecular signaling cascades for most of the body’s cells. It also plays an important role in fetal brain development.9 The role of heparins and heparan sulfate as “endogenous antioxidants” protecting against damaging free radicals was recognized over 20 years ago.10

Interesting evidence of what happens when heparan sulfate is deficient comes from human and mouse studies of autism. In one study, “designer” mice engineered to have impaired heparan sulfate synthesis in the brain displayed all the classic features of autism, including sociocommunicative deficits and stereotypies.11

To understand this area of autism research, it is helpful to visualize the ventricles in the brain. The ventricles—a “communicating network of cavities filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)”12 —consist of two lateral ventricles, the third ventricle, the cerebral aqueduct, and the fourth ventricle.

A 2013 study in Behavioural Brain Research found heparan sulfate deficiency in the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles of four autistic individuals. The authors posited that this “may be a biomarker for autism, and potentially involved in the etiology of the disorder“13 [emphasis added]. Other studies have identified heparan sulfate depletion in the third ventricle.14

Enter the Pineal Gland

A notable feature of sulfate is that it is difficult to transport.15 Dr. Seneff’s extensive work on sulfur deficiency has led her to consider the important but perhaps underestimated role of the pineal gland in the transport process. The pineal gland is a neuroendocrine organ of the brain that resides in close proximity to the ventricles, as seen in the following illustration.
Figure 1. The brain and the pineal gland


A key role of the pineal gland is to synthesize and secrete melatonin, which controls the sleep/wake cycle.16 Dr. Seneff suggests that one of the critical purposes of melatonin, in turn, is to deliver sulfate to the neurons at night during sleep. In her words, melatonin is clearly a “sulfate delivery system.” Dr. Seneff outlined this intricate and elegant delivery system as follows:

  1. With sunlight exposure serving as a catalyst, the pineal gland builds up supplies of sulfate by day, storing it in heparan sulfate molecules.
  2. The pineal gland produces melatonin in the evening, transporting it as melatonin sulfate to various parts of the brain, including the third ventricle, where the melatonin releases the sulfate into the CSF.
The association of autism with heparan sulfate depletion in the lateral and third ventricles1718 now gets more interesting, because the tip of the third ventricle is encased in the pineal gland. The pineal recess is in fact the “main site of penetration of melatonin into the CSF.”19 In other words, under normal circumstances the pineal gland delivers melatonin sulfate to the third ventricle, which then diffuses the sulfate throughout the CSF. In addition, melatonin not only transports sulfate but also is an outstanding antioxidant and binds toxic metals to help dispose of them. It may come as no surprise, then, that melatonin impairment has been implicated in autism.
In healthy individuals, melatonin also plays an important role in inducing REM sleep, which may be the most important stage of sleep. Interestingly, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with reduced REM sleep and a calcified pineal gland. Sleep disorders are also linked to autism as well as other neurological diseases, including depression, schizophrenia, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and others.

[  we suddenly have a plausible chain for alzheimer's and i suspect Parkinson's. arclein ]

Your Pineal Gland and Heavy Metals

If one recognizes that heavy metals play a part in the modern-day epidemic of neurological diseases, then part of the explanation for the sleep disorders encountered in various neurological diseases may be that both aluminum and mercury (thimerosal) disrupt the pineal gland and its ability to make sulfate. When the pineal gland’s ability to make sulfate is impaired, this, in turn, reduces production of melatonin, all-important for adequate and healthy sleep. The pineal gland is particularly susceptible to aluminum and other heavy metals because it is not protected by the blood-brain barrier and has a very high blood perfusion rate.

The pineal gland’s vulnerability to aluminum is illustrated in a 1996 paper showing that the concentrations of aluminum in the pineal gland were “consistently observed” and “markedly higher” than in other brain tissues examined (pituitary, cortex, and cerebellum).20 Returning to the link between the pineal gland, heavy metals, and sleep, a telling fact gleaned by Dr. Seneff from the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is that insomnia occurs more often as an adverse reaction to aluminum-containing vaccines than to vaccines not containing aluminum.

Scientists are taking note of the fact that we live in an “age of aluminum,” with aluminum exposure occurring through vaccines as well as multiple other channels.2122 Moreover, although many experts would have us believe that the question of thimerosal and vaccine safety went away after federal agencies issued lukewarm recommendations to reduce its use as a vaccine preservative in the early 2000s, Dr. Seneff noted that thimerosal is still very much relevant.

Why Some Children May Be More Prone to Vaccine Damage

She called attention to a 2013 paper that reminds us that thimerosal not only is not found in nature but is a “designer” mercury compound created by humans that is the most toxic nonradioactive metal—”even more toxic than lead to human fetal and neuronal cells.”23 Bringing things full circle back to sulfur/sulfate, Dr. Seneff pointed out that the article makes an important link between autism and sulfation, concluding that children with abnormal sulfation chemistry (among other factors) may be particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of the thimerosal in flu and other childhood vaccines.24
In fact, due to expanded recommendations for flu shots in pregnant women and young children, exposure to thimerosal through vaccination has remained widespread in the US, and more than half of all flu vaccine doses are still thimerosal-preserved.25Incredibly, the authors of the 2013 paper note the following:
“Estimates are that the maximum lifetime exposure to [thimerosal] a vaccinated person may receive is now more than double what it would have been had the pre-2000 vaccination schedule been maintained.”26 [Emphasis added]
Dr. Seneff has done a lot of investigations using the VAERS database, which—despite its limitations—can be very informative. She notes that concurrent with the aggressive peddling of thimerosal-containing flu shots and other aluminum-containing vaccines, there has been a rise in reporting of both vaccine adverse events and autism spectrum disorders. She described one careful analysis of the VAERS database.

In a graph that speaks for itself (Figure 2 below), she plotted the number of VAERS reports mentioning three types of adverse events (autism, pervasive developmental disorders or PDDs, and anxiety disorder) against the total burden of two heavy metals (aluminum and mercury) in vaccines according to the current vaccine schedule. One can immediately see that the adverse event and heavy metals lines are quite similar. Moreover, both lines show a sharp spike around the year 2000, which is when the burden of aluminum and thimerosal increased. Dr. Seneff commented that while aluminum and thimerosal are each bad enough on their own, they also work synergistically to cause harm.

Figure 2. Link between reports of vaccine adverse events (VAERS database) and aluminum (Al) and mercury (Hg) burden in current vaccine schedule (Figure kindly provided by Nancy Swanson)


The Role of Sunlight

Returning once again to the topic of sulfate, Dr. Seneff underscored the important and neglected fact that sunlight is absolutely essential for human health because of its role in catalyzing sulfate production. We will be sulfate-deficient if we do not get enough sun. The pineal gland plays an important role in this process. Specifically, endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide synthase—both of which are present in the pineal gland—produce sulfate from reduced sulfur sources catalyzed by sunlight.

When this process is impaired through lack of sunlight exposure, the result is sulfate deficiency and—where a serum sulfate deficiency is present—an individual will also have an impaired ability to dispose of aluminum.27 Aluminum accumulation in the pineal gland over time will disrupt sulfate supplies to the brain by interfering with the pineal gland’s ability to make sulfate. High-SPF sunscreens are one way in which the body can accumulate not-insignificant amounts of aluminum through skin absorption. Sunscreens contain aluminum nanoparticles, which are more dangerous than larger-sized aluminum particles and highly destructive in the brain.

A 2012 study found that nanoalumina destroyed mitochondria (thus severely depleting ATP, the body’s energy source), induced autophagy and programmed cell death in brain endothelial cells, and decreased expression of tight-junction proteins, thereby contributing to elevated blood-brain barrier permeability.28 The nanoparticle effects were persistent and damaging. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, use of sunscreen is neither beneficial nor safe. (Dr. Seneff noted in passing that wearing sunglasses is also a terrible idea.)

Sunlight May Be Protective Against Autism

Dr. Seneff further assessed the importance of sunlight by compiling data from demographic studies in the 50 states (Table 1).

Table 1. Correlation of sunlight exposure and autism in public school students in 50 states (grades 1–6, 2007–2008)

Demographic Pearson Correlation Coefficient Category
Number of clear days -0.40 Sunlight exposure
Rainfall and latitude +0.34 Sunlight exposure
Vaccination rate +0.38 Aluminum, mercury


Public schools in the US keep track of the number of students enrolled in each grade, and they also keep track of the number of students enrolled in programs specifically targeting autism. Using a ratio of these numbers, Dr. Seneff and co-investigators calculated a measure for autism in each state (using grades one to six for the 2007-2008 school year). They also obtained data for weather-related factors, using these as proxies for sun exposure (e.g., number of clear days and a combination variable capturing latitude and rainfall) and looked at states’ vaccination rates as a proxy measure for aluminum and thimerosal exposure.

They then calculated Pearson’s correlation coefficients as a way of understanding the strength of the relationship (or correlation) between sunlight exposure and autism. (Correlation coefficients range from -1.0 to 1.0, and a coefficient that is close to zero signals a weak relationship.) Bearing in mind that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, their analysis nonetheless produced correlations suggesting that sunlight is protective against autism, although other factors also clearly explain some of the variability.

One of the ways that the protective effect of sunlight exposure makes sense is recognizing the critical role that vitamin D plays in sulfate homeostasis. A study in mice found that activated vitamin D prevented sulfate wasting from the kidney in urine, and mice engineered to have defective vitamin D receptors (or with vitamin D deficiency) had significantly reduced serum sulfate levels, which were associated with sulfate depletion in the skeleton. Children with autism have high sulfate in their urine but low serum sulfate levels, which clearly indicates both generic sulfate deficiency and vitamin D deficiency.

Glyphosate: The Elephant in the Room

Dr. Seneff began paying attention to glyphosate after she had been intensely researching autism for five or six years. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide (known to the world under its trade name Roundup®). Among its many nefarious health effects, glyphosate disrupts the way the body manages sulfur.

In the process of examining all the known toxic chemicals in the environment and assessing which one(s) would be most likely to be causal for autism—given the specific comorbidities associated with autism—Dr. Seneff found that glyphosate matched up almost perfectly.

Both glyphosate and autism are associated with low melatonin, impaired sulfur metabolism (and low serum sulfate), low vitamin D, sleep disorders, disrupted gut bacteria, and more. Glyphosate—already a very dangerous chemical on its own—causes aluminum to be much more toxic. Glyphosate and aluminum can be viewed as “partners in crime,” working synergistically with one another. This partnership plays out in several ways:

  1. First, glyphosate preferentially kills beneficial bacteria in the gut, which allows pathogens such as C. difficile to overgrow. Not only does this lead to leaky gut syndrome, but C. difficile produces something called p-Cresol, a phenolic compound that is toxic to other microbes via its ability to interfere with metabolism. (C. difficile is one of only a few bacteria able to ferment tyrosine into p-Cresol.) As it happens, p-Cresol also promotes aluminum uptake by cells. P-Cresol is a known biomarker for autism and is also an important factor in kidney failure,which leads to aluminum retention in tissues and eventually to dementia.
  2. Glyphosate also serves to increase aluminum toxicity by “caging” aluminum to promote its entry into the body. Glyphosate promotes calcium uptakeby voltage-activated channels, which allow aluminum to gain entry as a calcium mimetic. Aluminum then promotes calcium loss from bones, contributing to pineal gland calcification.
  3. Bringing melatonin back into the discussion, glyphosate interferes with what is known as the shikimate pathway. Although humans do not have the shikimate pathway, our gut flora do, and we depend on our gut flora to supply us with essential amino acids and many other things. Disruption of the shikimate pathway in our gut results in depletion of tryptophan, which is the sole precursor to melatonin. Besides needing melatonin to transport sulfate into the brain, we also need melatonin to reduce heavy metal toxicity. Where supplies of melatonin are adequate, melatonin will bind to aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, and lead, and reduce their toxicity. Where melatonin is low, a lot of damage can result.
Roundup® is the number one herbicide in use in the US and, increasingly, around the world. Unfortunately, its use has increased further in lockstep with “Roundup-Ready” genetically engineered crops, including genetically modified (GM) mainstay crops such as soy and corn.


Dr. Seneff believes that when children are overexposed to glyphosate, especially through consumption of the GM foods that are widely prevalent in the American diet, they are more likely to react badly to vaccination. To illustrate this point, Dr. Seneff and Nancy Swanson plotted a graph showing autism trends in the US (as measured by autism rates in the US school system), adverse vaccine reactions reported to the VAERS system, and glyphosate application to GM corn and soy crops in the US (Figure 3). As can be seen, the trends overlap almost entirely, presenting “tantalizing links” between these variables. Dr. Seneff infers from these findings that glyphosate is making vaccines far more toxic than they would otherwise be.


figure 3. Autism, glyphosate, and vaccine reactions in the US (Figure kindly provided by Nancy Swanson)



Summary
Taken together, the body of evidence elegantly assembled by Dr. Seneff supports her hypothesis that the epidemic levels of autism (and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease) currently seen in the Western world are caused by a severe deficiency in sulfate supplies to the brain. Under optimal circumstances, the pineal gland can synthesize sulfate stimulated by sunlight and deliver it via melatonin sulfate to the brain. However, aluminum, mercury, and glyphosate are working synergistically to derail this process, and sunlight deficiency (exacerbated by the misguided use of sunscreens containing aluminum nanoparticles) is further contributing to the pathology.
Sources and References





Claire Viadro, MPH, PhD, is a professional writer and editor with two advanced degrees in public health. Her work has included serving as past editor of Autism Science Digest magazine; co-editing Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior: The Groundbreaking Story of the Gut-Brain Connection; and authoring or coauthoring over 20 peer-reviewed publications primarily focused on women's health.

Mystery Monsters of the Deep Dark Sea

deep_sea_by_nihindula 
















The deep is a biological oxygen and nutrient rick environment that  is only constrained by a lack of sunlight.   Thus it is the natural home of an extensive and uniform biome that we have barely sampled.  That process is now well begun.


 There are huge creatures down there and that surely includes the giant sea serpent although it is well enough adapted that it could simply live mostly in the Sargasso Gyre and stay quite close to the surface most of the time.


The mostly unknown 'rest' may well be mostly adapted only to the deep.  This is a survey of what we think we know so far.  It is interesting.  Yet i suspect it is a bare beginning.


Mystery Monsters of the Deep Dark Sea

  •  August 11, 2014
  •  Brent Swancer
 http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/08/mystery-monsters-of-the-deep-dark-sea/



We live on a planet mostly plunged into cold darkness. Most people know that two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, but have you ever stopped to think about how most of that area lies in the deep dark where no sunlight ever penetrates? The fact is that the majority of our planet lies in a cold, eternal night; a practically unexplored alien world deep under the sea that lies in perpetual darkness.


The sunlit zone of the world’s oceans, where 90 percent of all known ocean life resides, extends only to around 600 feet down, sunlight slowly fading in ever darkening bands as the depth increases. The rest lies within what is known as the twilight, or disphotic zone, and then deeper into the midnight zone, known as the aphotic zone. Of all of our vast oceans which cover most of our planet, 90 percent of these waters lie deep within the stygian chasms of perfect pitch blackness within the midnight zone. It is a cold place, perpetually blanketed with darkness and immense, crushing pressure, where nightmarish creatures skitter and flit far from the sunlit world with which we are familiar. Very little is known about this dark world. Such depths are notoriously difficult to study and we have only barely scratched the surface of what lies there.




All we know for sure is that the truly deep depths of the world’s oceans offer continual surprises. New species unlike any others known before are routinely discovered here, and indeed wholly new and alien biomes in extreme environments that no life had even been thought possible, such as deep sea thermal vent communities, have challenged our very notions of what life is and how it has evolved. These depths and the bizarre organisms that call them home are so alien that they are often used as a template for what we might expect to find in extreme habitats on other worlds.


As inhospitable as the deepest, coldest abyssal depths of the ocean may seem, this is a place in fact teeming with life, far from the desolate undersea desert it was once thought to be. Craig M. Young of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology once described the abyss as having biodiversity that “may exceed that of the Amazon Rain Forest and the Great Barrier Reef combined.” It is little wonder then that from these dizzying, midnight depths spring unexplainable mysteries and undiscovered organisms that we still do not grasp. Let us delve down, down, down into the inky murk of this dark earth and take a look at some of the perplexing enigmas that call to us from there.


Beebe’s Abyssal Fish


Some of the greatest ichthyological mysteries of the century were uncovered in the 1930s by the deep sea scientist William Beebe, who was head of the tropical research department at the New York Zoological Society. Descending in his bathysphere- a small metal spherical craft barely large enough to hold a full grown man- into the deep dark sea off of the coast of Bermuda, Beebe was the first person to brave such crushing depths and truly get a look at the alien world that lies in the eternal night of our world’s deep oceans. What he saw was a place unlike any that had been ever observed before; a vast sea of pitch black inhabited by translucent, gelatinous creatures, glowing jellyfish, fanged monsters, and the innumerable twinkling lights of bioluminescent organisms like a sea of stars in the dark cold of space. In his book Half Mile Down, Beebe wrote:
“It was stranger than any imagination could have conceived. I would focus on some one creature and just as its outlines began to be distinct on my retina, some brilliant, animated comet or constellation would rush across the small arc of my submarine heaven and every sense would be distracted, and my eyes would involuntarily shift to this new wonder.”
During his study of the Bermudan depths, Beebe made many detailed notes and sketches of his discoveries, but sadly the technology of the time did not allow for underwater photography at the depths he was operating at. Many of the creatures Beebe described and catalogued in his study, collectively referred to as Beebe’s Abyssal Fish, are still solely known from his accounts and sketches, with no flesh and blood specimen ever recovered as of yet and never seen since. Of the various unknown species Beebe observed, some of them truly stand out.


image13
Bathysphere exploring the deep.

The fish Beebe called Bathysphaera intacta was observed at a depth of 2,100 feet in 1932, and was described as 6 feet long with a row of pale blue lights along its sides. The fish also had two ventrical tentacles trailing from its sides that were each tipped with red and blue lights, and large prominent teeth that the researcher described as being reminiscent of a barracuda’s. Beebe classified this fish with scaleless black dragonfishes of the subfamily Melanostomiidae, but the largest known dragonfish of the time was a mere 15 inches in length.


Another fish Beebe encountered was what he called the Pallid Sailfin (Bathyembryx istiophasma), a two foot long fish spied at a depth of between 1,500 and 2,500 feet. The Sailfin was of a pale, olive drab color with no discernible luminous organs and possessing a prominent long, wide, filamentous pectoral 
fin. It was seen only once, and Beebe was not able to capture the specimen.


Other smaller, yet no less mysterious fish were observed by Beebe as well. The Abyssal Rainbow Gar was a 4 inch long species observed at a depth of 2,500 feet. Beebe saw four specimens swimming in a stiff, upright posture and described them as having long beaks and colorful bodies of scarlet, blue, and yellow. There was also the bizarre Five Lined Constellation Fish (Bathysidus pentagrammus), with its round body, disproportionately large eyes, and lines of purples and yellow bioluminescent lights along its sides. It was sighted at a depth of 1,900 feet and was so unusual looking that it was speculated that Beebe had in fact seen merely a cluster of jellyfish obfuscated by mist on the bathysphere’s porthole.


Bathysphere_fishys
Depiction of Beebe’s Bathysphere Fish

It is impossible to classify any of these fish with confidence as none of these species have ever been captured or sighted again, and they are only known from Beebe’s descriptions. In modern times, the technology to allow us to more efficiently explore these depths has progressed, so perhaps sometime in the future we may have some answers as to what Beebe saw through his porthole down there in the deep dark sea all of those years ago.


The Bloop


In the summer of 1997, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detected an unusual undersea sound on autonomous hydrophone listening stations situated deep in the Pacific ocean for the purpose of monitoring deep sea phenomena. The sound was an ultralow frequency and extremely loud, as it was picked up on several stations that were located up to 5,000 km apart. The bizarre sound rose steadily for over one minute, and did not exhibit characteristics inherit to man made noises such as those of submarines or drilling, nor of known geological phenomena like earthquakes or volcanic activity. The audio signature of the noise had a unique soundprint that puzzled scientists and became to be known simply as the “Bloop.”


The Bloop demonstrated some unique qualities, such as rapid variations in frequency and a rather organic sound, that fueled speculation that it had been made by some form of marine creature. The problem was that the sheer volume of the noise, which had carried it to far flung hydrophone arrays thousands of miles apart, meant that if it had indeed come from a biological organism it would be something far larger and louder than any known to currently exist. If this was some marine creature, then what sort of beast would be capable of such a massive roar?


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The discovery of the Bloop became hotly debated and highly speculated upon. Theories ranged from some gargantuan unknown leviathan to a new type of whale evolved to produce sounds more efficiently and loudly. Other, more far out hypotheses believed the sounds to be from Lovecraft’s Cthulu itself, an idea encouraged by the fact that the Bloop was emitted from a point 1,760km from the location of the sunken city of R’yleh, where according to Lovecraft Cthulhu was imprisoned.


Trying to find some rational explanation for the strange sounds, some scientists pointed to data from undersea acoustic surveys conducted from 2005 to 2010 that seemed to suggest that the Bloop was most likely caused by one of the tens of thousands of icequakes that occur every year in the southern Pacific. Icequakes are caused by the melting, cracking, and shearing of sea ice as well as pieces of glaciers breaking off. Proponents of the icequake theory pointed to the similarities between the acoustic signatures of icequakes and what was seen in the Bloop, as well as the fact that icequake noise can travel thousands of kilometers just as seen in the mystery recording. It was also pointed out that the audio recording for the Bloop responsible for popularizing the theory of a large animal had been played back at a higher speed, giving it the illusion of having more of a biological quality than it possessed when played at normal speed.


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The official statement that the Bloop was caused by an icequake seemed to spell the end of speculation and the whole mystery was proclaimed “solved,” yet there are still those that don’t buy into the official explanation. Skeptics of this explanation point out that it has never been shown that the signature is definitely that of an icequake, and the closest that could be said was that it was “probably” an icequake. The sound signature of the Bloop does not completely match that of an icequake, and still displays some anomalies that don’t totally fit with one. In addition, upon further analysis at least one NOAA scientist has redacted his opinion that the Bloop was caused by ice activity and has continued to stand behind the marine animal hypothesis.


It seems that this mysterious sound from the deep has perhaps not been completely solved just yet. Questions still remain. Unfortunately for those who want a concrete answer, since the Bloop was only ever heard once, we will probably never know for sure.


Super Eels


A curious finding was dredged up from abyssal depths off of South Africa in 1930. The Marine Investigation Expedition was an extensive round the world research expedition led by a Professor Johannes Schmidt aboard the vessel Dana. During the last year of the expedition, the ship fished up a colossal eel larvae, or leptocephalus, in water over a thousand feet deep off the Cape of Good Hope. Due to the extreme depths, the animal was dead upon reaching the ship, but nevertheless shocked all those who examined it.


The larvae was measured as being 184cm long (just over 6 feet), which is large but all the more so when considering that the larvae of a common eel typically measures only 2 to 4 inches, which in turn grows into an eel around 4 feet long. When extrapolating from the typical growth rate of eels, the 6 foot leptocephalus was theorized to become an adult that would measure around 80 to 100 feet in length, although a more conservative estimate would be more like 70 to 80 feet. In the freshwater eels of North America and Europe, adults can be a dozen times the size of their larval forms. According to an article in The Evening Post, Volume CXVII, Issue 47, 24 February 1934, Page 24, the South Africa specimen was subsequently preserved and sent to Marine Biological Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark where it was put on exhibit.


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A similar find was made in New Zealand when another large leptocephalus, this time around 3 feet long, was pulled up out of the depths in 1959. In this case the larva was assigned the name Leptocephalus giganteus, and the South African specimen was later also classified under the same name even though it was not clear whether the two were actually of the same species.
Since no other specimens of Leptocephalus giganteus have been collected, there is little data to go on. However, judging from known growth rates of similar creatures, it would appear that the deep seas could be home to some truly monstrous eels indeed. These giant eel larvae fit neatly into the theory postulated by the cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans of giant eels of this sort, what he referred to as “super eels,” accounting for many reported sea serpent sightings. Speaking of Heuvelmans…


Heuvelman’s Super Squid


We know the seas have big squid. The once legendary Kraken, now known as the giant squid, of the genus Architeuthis, and the even more massive colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) are famous for their enormous sizes. Giant squid, for instance, are estimated to reach total lengths (including tentacles) of up to 13 meters (43 feet) and perhaps even larger, with colossal squid being even more massive. However, is there an even more monstrously huge type of squid lurking in the unexplored depths of our oceans?


The famed cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans, often referred to as the  father of modern cryptozoology, certainly thought so. Inspired by reports from outsized specimens of giant squid washed up in Newfoundland, some of the more outrageous reports mentioning squid 80 or 90 feet long, Heuvelmans wondered if there were specimens of giant squid out there, or even a new species that were far larger than the proposed size limits. Another report from 1924 further added fuel to his theory. On October 25, 1924, a Mr. White and Mr. Strachan found what they described as a “record octopus” washed up on near Baven-on-Sea, Natal, South Africa. Pieces of the carcass had been missing, including the mantle and long portions of the tentacles, making size estimations difficult, but judging by illustrations of the animal Heuvelmans estimated that the total length of the animal would have been a monstrous 115 feet long.


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A fair amount of sightings reports also fascinated Heuvelmans. One such sighting occurred at night during WWII by an A. G. Starkey off the Maldives. He was allegedly alone on deck and saw a squid laying alongside the 175 foot (53 m) boat that was nearly the same length. He said the arms were 2 feet wide (0.6 m) and that the beak was visible. A canadian by the name of Charles Dudoward also reported spotting a squid washed up on shore in 1922 that had arms 50 feet (15.2 m) long and one tentacle 100 feet (30 m) long. The tentacle apparently ended in a hook 10″ (25 cm) wide and 12 in (31 cm) long. Dudoward’s own grandfather had also made a sighting in British Columbia of a squid which had arms over 100 feet (30 m) with suckers ranging from the size of saucers to basin plates.


Heuvelmen’s also considered as evidence of giant squid the existence of sucker marks on sperm whales far larger than normal which he took to imply truly humongous squid lurking in the depths. Upon hearing of sucker marks 4 inches in diameter, Heuvelman’s extrapolated that into a squid with a body length (excluding tentacles) measuring at least 30 feet long. Even larger sucker marks had also been recorded, with the famed cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson writing of sucker marks measuring 18 inches long. Sanderson had also made mention of sucker marks measuring all the way up to 2 feet in diameter, all of which would imply gigantic squid far, far larger than any known thus far. It was pointed out by skeptics that these extra large sucker marks may have been marks made by lampreys rather than those of squid, or that they could have been wounds inflicted on young whales that grew to appear larger as the animals matured, but Heuvelmans was not convinced by these arguments. Heuvelmans also took reports of tentacles measuring 45 feet long and speculated that they were short arms rather than the long tentacles, from which he calculated that the creature itself would reach the truly mind boggling total length of 140 to 240 feet if male and up to 300 feet if female.


Artwork by Chris Garrett at Deviantart
Artwork by Chris Garrett at Deviantart

Based on all of these observations, plus various sightings reports of super sized squid from around the world, Heuvelmans proposed that there were squid that measured well over 100 feet and in some case up to 300 feet lurking in the world’s oceans. This seems perhaps a little far fetched, yet even if they are not hundreds of feet long it is entirely feasible that squid at least larger than any currently known are out there prowling the depths.


Mystery Shark of the Mariana Trench


It is impossible to talk about the truly deep places of the world without mentioning the Mariana Trench, a massive undersea canyon stretching around 2,550 km (1,580 mi) along the western Pacific Ocean. Dropping down up to 7 miles into darkness at its deepest point, the yawning chasm of the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, and remains mostly unexplored.


Along the outer edge of the Mariana Trench lies the extremely deep Suruga Bay, Japan. It was here that researchers caught footage of a truly monstrous shark while studying the marine life of the area. Japanese marine biologists studying sea life at the bottom of a deep and little explored part of the bay set up a container filled with potently smelly bait designed to lure in a wide variety of sea life even from great distances away. The container was placed at a depth of 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile), and a camera was attached nearby to capture footage of any sea life in the vicinity. The plan was to take video of and catalog the different types of creatures that showed up.


At first, the bait attracted numerous small fish and some crustaceans, nothing particularly unusual. Things got more exciting when a shoal of rare, deep water sharks measuring around 2 meters (6.5 feet) long moved in and enthusiastically fed on the bait. Researchers were surprised when the shoal of sharks suddenly and inexplicably darted off in all directions as if they were afraid of something. At first, it was unknown what could have caused such large sharks to scatter like that away from such irresistible bait. The reason soon became apparent when a humongous shark dwarfing the others loomed into view from the surrounding murk. The incredibly large shark proceeds to slowly soar in front of the camera and show interest in the bait before gliding off again. The scientists who viewed the mysterious shark were puzzled by its sheer size, and nobody was sure just what exactly they had seen.


Still from the video footage.
Still from the video footage.

It is apparent upon viewing the footage that whatever the shark is, it is gigantic, although it is difficult to say for certain just how gigantic. When trying to ascertain its size, researchers took into account the dimensions of the bait container, as well as the length of other sharks that can be seen in the footage before the monster shows up, which were judged to be around 2 meters (6.5 feet) long. Using these as size comparisons, the mystery shark was estimated as being at least 30 feet long, with more exaggerated estimations putting it at more like 50 or 60 feet long.

The footage taken by the underwater camera near the bait station became quite popular in Japan, and it has gained some notoriety in cryptozoological abroad as well. It is unclear just what is seen in the video, and some have jumped on the explanation that the mega shark is a surviving megalodon. The researchers who originally took the video are inclined to believe it to be a very large specimen of the rare Pacific sleeper shark, and other scientists have concurred. Sleeper sharks can get quite large, and are believed to be capable of reaching lengths of up to 7 meters (23 feet) long, yet if the shark in the video is of this species then it would represent by far the largest specimen ever recorded.


Pacific sleeper shark
Pacific sleeper shark

Arthur C. Clarke once said “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when it is quite clearly Ocean.” How true this is. Our world is mostly comprised of vast, largely unexplored water plunging into an even vaster, even more unexplored perpetual twilight. Just what lies hidden down in this darkness that makes up most of our planet? We have scarcely managed to uncover even a fraction of the myriad organisms that call these abyssal places home. There in this zone of black and amidst the flickering constellations of bioluminescent lights lie ancient mysteries that remain and perhaps always will.
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