Happy International Skeptics Day!

Written by on January 13, 2014 in Other News

Today, January 13, is International Skeptics Day. But it’s also apparently celebrated on the first Friday in January and/or October 13. Perhaps the idea is to remain skeptical about what day International Skeptics Day actually is…For the sake of this post, let’s all pretend that it really is today.

From close encounters with sharks to freakish natural phenomena, wild photos have gone viral and stories get told over and over again. Some of them make sense and some of them are completely bogus. In most cases, it pays to be a little skeptical. Here are the five best photos, hoaxes and stories about the oceans that I’ve come across.

Helicopter shark.

Helicopter shark. Photo credit: Ross Mayfield via photopin cc.

Helicopter Shark – Hoax
We are all fascinated with sharks, but even this one goes a little far. The image of a shark lunging at a diver hanging from a ladder extended from a helicopter was circulated through email in 2001 with the subject “AND YOU THINK YOUR [sic] HAVING A BAD DAY AT WORK!!” The email continued to say this is a real photograph taken off the coast of South Africa during a British Navy exercise and that it was chosen as National Geographic’s “Photo of the Year”. The picture is a composition of two photos. You can see the original shark photo here. But so many people asked National Geographic about it that they had to respond. Check it out.

Cyclops Shark – Real
A few months after pictures of a Cyclops shark began circulating the web, scientists confirmed that it was, in fact, the real deal. In a tweet from November 28, 2011, Discovery news confirmed that it was “a real one-eyed dusky shark fetus.” It was found inside a pregnant dusky shark caught near Cerralvo Island in the Gulf of California. Learn more here: Cyclops Shark is the Real Deal.

Lobsters Mate For Life – False
We probably have Phoebe Buffay to thank for this one: “It’s a known fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life. You know what? You can actually see old lobster couples walking around their tank, you know, holding claws” (Friends, season 2, episode 14). Unfortunately, there isn’t any evidence to support this. Lobsters mate one and then never see each other again. Instead of mating for life, lobsters mate for about a week. The most dominant male lobster defends his territory and when females are ready to mate, they take turns spending a week or son in the male’s den. Then, the part ways and probably never sea each other again. Here’s an amusing but accurate description of the whole process. But to restore your faith in the animal kingdom, here are 11 animals that do mate for life.

Lobster love.

Lobster love. Photo credit: Great Beyond via photopin cc.

Frozen Antarctic Waves – Real Photos, False Description
These photos went viral, usually accompanied with the title “Frozen Tidal Wave” and some description of how it’s SO cold that the wave immediately froze after coming in contact with the air. The pictures are real but the description is not. What’s actually pictured is beautiful blue ice. Blue ice forms as ice gets compressed and trapped air bubbles are squeezed out. If the bubbles were not compressed, they would scatter the light, making it appear white. Instead, red light is absorbed and blue light is transmitted back out. Here you can see the whole photo series, taken by Antarctic scientist Tony Travouillon.

Close up of some blue ice.

Close up of some blue ice. Photo credit: Mark Brandon via photopin cc.

Penguins don't topple that easily.

Penguins don’t topple that easily. Photo credit: CharlesFred via photopin cc.

Penguins Falling Over To Look at Planes – False (but funny)
This one has been circulating for a decade, but was first reported way back in 1982. The story goes that bored Royal Air Force pilots stationed on the Falkland Islands during the 1982 war with Argentina created a new game: fly over a penguin colony and watch them all turn their heads so far that they fall over while watching the plane go by. British Antarctic Survey researchers studied the ‘phenomenon’ in 2000, even though one of their members, Dr. Richard Stone, firmly believed it to be an urban myth. In 2001, the Associated Press reported Dr. Stone’s findings, which confirmed that he was right.

Here’s a bonus five from Snopes and Hoax-Slayer (both good places to check if you need to confirm or deny some crazy new photo!):

And finally, one last one making the rounds on Facebook: Man eaten by a shark. When someone asked me about this one, the video was titled ‘Shark Eats the Swimming Man in Ocean’ but now it’s changed to ‘World’s Largest Snake Found in Brazil’. But no matter what it changes to next, it will still be a hoax. So beware the next time you see [EXCLUSIVE] or [SHOCKING VIDEO] on FB.

What shark, whale, or fishing hoaxes have you heard about?

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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