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This must be underwater love.

Posted in Style & Travel, and Things We Love

underwater-mystery-circle-8This is the story of a curious man and an undersea artist.

At 71 years old, Yoji Ookata thought he had seen it all … underwater. He’d been diving since his 21st birthday. Worked as a professional deep sea photographer since he was 40 and spent the past 31 years beneath the surface of the planet. Immersed in the infinite mysteries of the sea. A world that became as familiar to him as the camera in his hand.

Until one day off Amami Oshima, a semi-tropical island which is part of the Ryukyu Archipelago in Japan. That day Ookata spotted something on the seabed he had never seen before. And, when he returned to the boat, it turned out no-one on the surface had seen before either.

Yoji’s pictures revealed a geometric, circular structure. Laid out, perfectly undisturbed, in the sand. The “mystery circle” was more than six feet in diameter and made up of intricate patterns: ridges and scallops all radiating out from a raised center. It seemed to be an underwater crop circle. An unexplained phenomenon. But was it natural or man made? Or was it something else, entirely?

Ookata’s pictures intigued film makers at Japan’s National TV Station. So they set sail immediately – determined to discover what could have created this perfect architecture: 80-feet below the surface of the ocean.

A small male puffer fish.

They watched amazed as our hero used only his flapping fin to carve the circular ridges. Working day and night to perfect his design. Once he was satisfied – our unlikely artist cracked small sea shells, lining the grooves with the delicate pieces – intricately decorating his masterpiece.

Puffer fish are valued in Japan as a delicacy known as sashimi chiri. Only specially licensed sushi chefs are permitted to prepare chiri. Because their bodies hold an incredibly powerful neurotoxin in the ovaries and livers. Eat a little – and it can cause mild intoxication. Ingest a lot – and it will cause your death.

But this fish had no intention of being eaten. He had other things on his mind. He knew female puffers, attracted by the grooves and ridges, would make their sultry way along the dark seabed to his creation. They would mate – and lay their eggs at the centre of the circle.

He also knew they had standards: the more ridges the circle contained, the more likely it was he would get lucky. And those little sea-shells played their seductive part  too – providing vital nutrients for the eggs when they hatched. With the ridges and patterns further protecting the eggs from predators by deflecting the currents.
George Santayana once wrote: “Everything in nature is lyrical in its ideal essence, tragic in its fate, and comic in its existence.” I think our fish would have agreed, then added: “and made in Japan”.

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  1. Absolutely amazing! I wonder if the Nasca Lines in Peru hold a similar, natural explanation…

    July 20, 2013
  2. Lisa

    great posting/nice read. I had heard about the poisonous delicacy but those patterns are amazing…….

    July 19, 2013
  3. silvia

    That’s incredibly beautiful, this little fish is a real artist, an artist made by nature.
    And red hen made a point

    July 19, 2013
  4. Great story! For a moment there I heard the sounds of electronica, with Smoke City’s “Underwater Love” – this must be underwater love, the way I feel it slipping all over me … 🙂

    July 19, 2013
    • YES! Totally pinched from the song – which I love!

      July 29, 2013
  5. I agree with @RedHen. Always an adventure stopping by your blog. Thank you.

    July 19, 2013
  6. I love that your blog is just so versatile and always so well written. One never knows what you two will come up with but it will always be interesting and always beautifully written.
    This puffer fish story is wonderful. And it proves my point.

    July 18, 2013

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