Back in season 2, Ancient Aliens devoted an hour to “Underwater Worlds,” and now in season 8 it’s time to back beneath the waves for S08E07 “Creatures of the Deep.” Yes, we are hunting for prehistoric monsters and cryptids again. It won’t be as memorable as Giorgio Tsoukalos’s assertion in S04E10 “Aliens and Dinosaurs” that “I think it is possible that the coelacanth survived due to a direct guarantee by extraterrestrials.” But then again what is? In place of peace treaties with prehistoric fish, this time we get plankton. Space plankton.
The show opens with the mystery of how sea plankton ended up growing on the International Space Station. Are they sea monkeys from another world? While Russia’s space agency trumpeted the claim, leading to questions of panspermia, NASA said Russia provided no evidence of the plankton, and even if they had, they suspected that the creatures had been there since the station launched, contamination from earth.
After this, we look at the 1875 discovery by the H.M.S. Challenger of fish deep in the ocean, which upset the scholarly consensus at the time that the lack of light and high pressure would have made life below 1800 feet impossible. I’m not sure what this is meant to prove, but the show wants us to believe that if science in 1875 was wrong about fish, then today’s scientists are also wrong about aliens. The Challenger also discovered the first micro-meteorites, and William Henry suggests that aliens used them to send microbes to earth to seed the planet.
The show profiles some undersea extremophiles using stock footage. Ctenophores are lauded for having a second nervous system unlike that of other animals, and their sobriquet of “aliens of the sea” is used to invoke actual aliens, though no alien creatures are identified. As we go to break, Flonase pays to make sure an announcer identifies it as a proud supporter of the ancient astronaut theory. Remember, folks, if you have an allergy, use the nasal spray nose-free Grey aliens use.
(Note to the FTC: The preceding is not a paid advertisement.)
In the Miyazakai Prefecture of Japan, we examine some mummified animal parts claimed to be those of a turtle-like humanoid sea monster killed in 1818. It’s one of many Japanese nature demons, nearly all quite fictitious. Andrew Lang wrote quite a bit about “Japanese Bogies” back in the nineteenth century, and I reprinted the piece in my Hideous Bit of Morbidity. This leads to a discussion of mermaids, which conflates the fish-bottomed humanoids with the Apkallu (such as Oannes), who were humans dressed in fish suits. The show discuss the Dogon tribe’s claims about the amphibious Nommo, who descended from the sky. But this is a bit misleading since the “legend” Tsoukalos and David Wilcock describe is the version given by Robert Temple in The Sirius Mystery (1976), which is unreliable. The Nommo are indeed fish-spirits, but such fish-spirits are found throughout West African mythology. The version of the story Temple uses, from controversial anthropologist Marcel Griaule, appears to be contaminated by Christian mythology (the Nommo conduct a Eucharistic rite) and quite possibly also sightings of World War II-era aircraft, accounting for the “vessels” with “thunder” that carry the creatures from the sky. Oral histories are notoriously fluid.
The segment starts with Champ, the imaginary Lake Champlain sea monster, who has been investigated and debunked for decades. The show alleges that Samuel de Champlain saw this creature, but this is a fraud, as I covered in reviewing the segment of In Search of Aliens S01E03 that this episode is partially recycling—some of the graphics are borrowed from that show. William Henry tells us that the Loch Ness monster reminds him of a 1990s-era UFO sighting when a man saw a “one foot snorkel monster” that could be a mini-Loch Ness monster that teleports around the world through magic portals.
The show next covers the story of the kraken, but they don’t pay much attention to details. The modern version of the kraken as a huge squid, as recorded by Eric Pontoppidan in 1751, is very different from the medieval giant fish, but no one cares about that because they want to turn the maelstrom it leaves in its wake into a trans-dimensional portal, something no medieval text supports. However, the show sends David Childress to dive into a Yucatan cenote in search of a portal to the sea monsters’ home world.
In case you care, the modern legend of the kraken was largely debunked by Henry Lee back in Sea Monsters Unmasked in 1883, when he identified it as a giant squid. Oh, and Pontoppidan, the eighteenth century bishop who made the kraken famous? He similarly identified it as a big cuttlefish, pretty close to the truth, as the cuttlefish is quite similar to the squid. Ancient Aliens left that out.
David Childress tells us about Mesoamerican myths about an underwater paradise, which he believes were really telling stories about traveling through magical underwater portals to another dimension, which he identifies as the Aztec paradise of Tlalocan. The work of South African scholar David Lewis Williams would tell us that the shamanic imagery of traveling through a whirlpool refers to entering an altered state of consciousness, but Childress and the narrator believe that such stories refer to literal wormholes created by quartz found in a cenote near Tulum in what he identifies as the region of Apan in Tlalocan. The trouble is that Childress has conflated the description of Tlalocan—the “other dimension”—with its supposed entrance. Tlalocan was described in the Florentine Codex as the first of thirteen heavens, above the earth, and the description he mistakenly applies to the Yucatan itself is actually the modern Nahua usage of the term, which differs in form and content from the pre-Conquest Aztec usage. As I understand it, the eastern Apan realm of mixed underworld and surface water Childress describes is a modern belief, not a pre-Conquest one. Most of the references to the eastern Apan seem to come from the 1960s or later, and the classic study is from 1991. I am not familiar enough with all of the literature to know for certain, but I know Childress is less familiar with it than I.
In this segment, Childress goes diving in the cenote. Childress is amazed that the Aztecs were able to describe the meeting of salt and fresh water 100 feet down in the cenote, but he doesn’t seem to recognize that the description is a modern Nahua one and not an ancient Aztec one, thus possibly representing modern dives rather than ancient memories. All of the ancient astronaut theorists think that whirlpools in Mesoamerican mythology are star gates or wormholes, and the narrator speculates that bodies of water are filled with these rifts in time and space, which allow extraterrestrial fish to swim into our reality. Ancient Aliens is certainly running on fumes when they devote a third of the episode to David Childress going for a swim, and much of the rest of it to recycling fishy wormhole stories presented last year on In Search of Aliens S01E03.
My cable froze up for a minute near the end of the show, but I think that the program said that the Van Allen Belt radiation around the earth is similar in frequency to whale calls, which takes us to Star Trek IV territory. The ancient astronaut theorists think that this belt is artificial and designed as a cosmic whale call to inform passing fish-creatures that Earth has water. I’m not entirely certain why the space fish wouldn’t know this without a radiation belt. If they can measure the radiation belt and convert it to sound (since space has no sound, lacking a medium through which to transmit its waves), surely they could observe water on their own. Jason Martell says that today we recognize the importance of water, apparently unlike those blinkered fools from decades ago who had no idea water was useful. The show fizzles out asking if space fish visit our oceans through star gates beneath the waves, and throws its hands up impotently to suggest that we’ll never know. Space fish are just too sneaky… like trans-dimensional Bigfoot and his backwoods star gates from an earlier episode. Amazing, isn’t it, that these portals never open in a city?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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