American Oceans

Common Ocean Myths

Estimated to be about 139 million square miles, the ocean is an enormous body of water, much of which we know nothing about.

the horizon of the pacific ocean

So, naturally, ocean myths are quick to arise, and generations continue to pass the tales down.

Despite how widely held they are, myths are often untrue and unexplainable. However, with such little public information about the ocean, it’s easy to wonder if there’s a possibility that these myths have validity.


The city of Atlantis is a mythical island mentioned by the famed Plato. According to this Greek philosopher, Atlantis is a utopian island kingdom that existed approximately 9,000 years before his life and then mysteriously disappeared.

an image of atlantis

The people of Atlantis were considered a powerful warlike race, though they were later defeated in a war against ancient Athens.

As for the city, it was said to contain all worldly pleasures.

Although this city originates in works of fiction, many claim there may be truth behind the myths and even speculate about this lost city today.

According to Plato, Atlantis sank into the sea after a tsunami or an earthquake.

Some suggest this lost underwater world is in the Mediterranean Sea, whereas others believe it may be in Antarctica.

Other stories claim that the original civilization is of extra-terrestrial origin. So, needless to say, the theories are endless. 

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is a section of the North Atlantic Ocean where several airplanes and ships have mysteriously gone missing.

a map of the bermuda triangle

Although the “triangle’s” boundaries are not universally agreed upon, the shape is marked by the Atlantic coast of the Florida panhandle, the Greater Antilles, and Bermuda.

Reports of unusual occurrences date back to the mid-19th century. Some ships were abandoned for no apparent reason, while others went missing without transmitting distress signals.

Shockingly enough, some were never heard from or seen again. Airplanes, too, have vanished, with rescue missions disappearing when flying in the area.

But despite the missing aircrafts and ships, no physical wreckage exists. There are logical explanations paired with paranormal reasonings for these unexplained disappearances.

One theory states that these planes didn’t account for the agonic line while approaching the Bermuda Triangle, resulting in navigational error.

Another hypothesis is explained by “rogue waves,” which can reach heights of 100 feet and are thought to be powerful enough to destroy evidence of a ship or plane.

However, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard state that there are no supernatural explanations for these disasters, as there is no evidence that more mysterious disappearances occur in the Bermuda Triangle compared to other large, well-traveled areas in the ocean.

The Kraken

The Kraken is an aggressive cephalopod or giant squid that could destroy entire ships and drag sailors to their doom.

an image of the mythical kraken sea monster

According to Scandinavian mythology, this enormous sea creature stretches a mile long. And according to other stories, this monster was so giant that some mistook it for an island.

Despite its origination in Scandinavian folklore, many cultures worldwide have a myth regarding a tentacled monster terrifying seamen.

For example, Pliny and Aristotle wrote about Theuos, a similarly menacing squid-like monster in ancient Greece.

Although the Kraken is a legend, such a species does exist in marine life. Meet the giant squid: a squid that reaches up to a whopping 43 feet in length.

But as massive as this animal is, it’s still much smaller than its mile-long mythical counterpart. 

To this day, many wonder if there are more enormous squids or squid-like sea creatures lurking in the ocean.

With how large the ocean is and how far the depths reach, there may be large creatures in the deep blue still unknown to man.

Sirens, Mermaids, and Sea Nymphs

Although sirens, mermaids, and sea nymphs are similar mythical creatures, they have distinct differences. Simply put, all three have different origins, shapes, and habitats. 

an image of a mythical mermaid in the ocean

Mermaids have a human upper body with a fishtail, while sea nymphs may take human form.

Sirens were initially thought to have a human head upon the body of a bird, but over time, they began to resemble mermaids infamous stories. 

Nymphs and sirens originate from Greek mythology, while mermaids were first mentioned in Syria.

According to myths, sirens lure passing sailors with enchanted songs and drag them to their deaths. They continue to symbolize dangerous female temptation throughout the medieval era and Christian art.

While mermaids aren’t always evil, they’re sometimes associated with disastrous events such as rough storms, shipwrecks, and drownings.

There’s also the male counterpart, mermen, and the community as a whole, referred to as merfolk.

The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is a fabled Dutch sailor condemned to sail the seas until Judgement Day. Essentially, it is considered a bad omen if sailors come across the ship.

an image of the flying dutchman mythical ship

The oldest version of the Flying Dutchman myth dates back to the 18th century, though there are supposed reported sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Truth be told, it is unclear who the Flying Dutchman is.

Some say the caption was Hendrick Van der Decken, who naively ventured into a storm and, ignoring the fears of his seamen, contributed to his ship being destroyed on the coast of the Cape.

According to the myth, this act enraged the gods, who punished the captain by trapping his soul in the sunken ship for eternity.

Other versions state that the devil heard him and trapped him in his ghastly boat forever. However, the devil also allowed the Flying Dutchman to redeem himself if he found a faithful woman’s love.

Since its origin, sightings of the Flying Dutchman have existed for centuries. And needless to say, countless efforts have been made to understand these events.

The most logical explanation is that sailors see an optical illusion, Fata Morgana, which occurs when atmospheric conditions paired with light distort distant objects.

The Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster, also known as Nessie, is a sizable eel-like creature that is said to linger near Loch Ness, Scotland.

a rendering of the loch ness monster swimming beneath the surface

Reports of this serpent-like monster date back to ancient times, like the stone carvings by the Picts, which depict a mysterious animal with flippers.

Nessie’s first written account appears in a 7th-century biography of St. Columbia. According to the biography, the monster bit a swimmer and then attempted to bite another.

Columbia intervened, ordering the monster to “go back,” which it obeyed.

The legend would grow in 1933 when they finished the road adjacent to Loch Ness, offering an unobstructed lake view.

A couple claimed to see a giant dragon-like animal that disappeared into the lake as they crossed the bridge. After a newspaper reported the sighting, other sightings followed.

Over the years, various monster hunters have flocked to the famous lake, with some of the most recent trips taking place in the early 2000s.

But despite using tools like the sonar to detect the monster, their attempt to uncover evidence was admittedly unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Loch Ness continues to entice tourists who are eager to catch a glimpse of this mythical creature.

The Sea Goat

The Sea Goat is a mythical creature described to have the head of a goat and the lower half of a fish, which became the image of Capricorn.

capricornus constellation depicting a sea goat mythical creature

This creature has appeared in the mythology of several cultures throughout the years, most notably in Ancient Latin, Greek, and Egyptian myths.

Unlike many other mythical sea creatures, the Sea Goat is more of a symbolic entity rather than an actual presence in historical encounters.

It’s been clear from its origination that this being does not exist nor has ever existed. Instead, it represents an idea.

However, one tale suggests that Amalthea, the foster mother of Zeus, was sent to live amongst the stars as a reward for caring for him since childhood.

The constellation of Capricorn is the Sea Goat, and the astrological symbol in the zodiac follows the same image: a half-goat and half-fish creature.

Another states that the sea goat is the wilderness god, Pan. According to the legend, Zeus leaped into the Nile River to escape the deadly monster, Typhon.

He moved too quickly as he attempted to turn himself into a fish, causing only his lower half to transform.


Originating from Jewish mythology, Leviathan is said to be a sea serpent and appears in the prebiblical Mesopotamian myth.

a drawing of the leviathan sea monster

In the Old Testament, Leviathan emerges in Psalms 74:14 as a seven-headed sea monster that God kills to give as food to Hebrews in the wild.

In Isaiah 27:1, Leviathan appears as a sea serpent and symbolizes Israel’s enemies who will be slain by God.

In Job 41, it is an ocean monster that represents God’s power of creation. Throughout all works, Leviathan shows up as a fast-moving, evil-natured sea creature.

Leviathan also appears as an image of the devil, endangering God’s creatures by attempting to eat them in Christianity.

This dragon-like creature can be found in the Book of Revelation. While the Old Testament doesn’t identify Leviathan as the devil, it does discuss the battle between the seven-headed beast and God.

Essentially, Leviathan may refer to any sea monster. In early 17th century works it was referred to as overwhelmingly powerful things or people.

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, it symbolizes the White Whale.


Selkies are one of the most notable mythical creatures to appear in Scottish and Irish legends.

a statue of a selkie in scotland

In the Legend of the Selkies, they’re also called seal folk, which are mythological creatures capable of transforming from seal form to human form by shedding their skin.

Most tales involve selkies being forced into relationships with people who stole and hid their seal skin.

One famous legend in Scottish folklore told the story of a man who found a naked female selkie on the seashore.

He then stole her seal skin and compelled her to marry him. While captive, she longed to return to the deep blue sea and repeatedly gazed at the ocean.

From that point onward, the story varies from place to place. Some say that the selkie eventually found her seal skin, while others say that one of her children happened to stumble upon it. In any case, once she found her skin, she then returned to her true home: the ocean.

While most stories feature female selkies, there are also stories of male selkies with handsome human forms and seductive powers that are irresistible to mortal women.

Legend has it that male selkies tend to seek young women who are unsatisfied with their lives. If the woman desires said selkie, she then goes on to shed seven tears into the ocean.

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