There was a time in my life where I didn’t think twice about jumping into a body of water, be it ocean, lake, or bathtub. As I’ve gotten older, the bathtub has gotten smaller, and the lakes and oceans have become increasingly more terrifying. Just watch Planet Earth is you don’t know what I’m talking about. Or just ask these folks, who have experienced both the horror and beauty that the water holds.

1. Now that’s how you enjoy riding the waves

I have family who sail around the world. One day in the North Atlantic, their sailboat was going over some GIGANTIC swells. They didn’t have breaks at the top, so it was safe, but the boat was rising and falling way beyond the neutral. At the bottom of a trough my uncle looked up to see the sun behind a wave and the silhouette of a whale inside, above him.

2. Sounds like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie

When diving, a huge seiner net drifted towards me. It wasn’t anchored or attached to anything. Just a huge whirling cloud of death, full of barnacles and dolphin skeletons and decomposing fish.

3. Close call

Out near the Great Barrier Reef and my brother, who gets sea sick, decides to go for a swim to settle his stomach and less than a minute after getting back into the boat a 17 foot great white went under the boat.

4. Best poop ever

Toilets on boats are usually plumbed with sea water because it makes no sense to use your limited drinking water. One night I was taking the watch on a long haul sail up the US east coast. I had to use the head, so I went below and pumped some water into the bowl. It was glowing in the dark. Freaked me out so much. Turns out there are bioluminescent phytoplankton in the water which will glow if pumped into a dark toilet bowl.

5. No light pollution

The stars. When you’re three days from the nearest land, and it’s a clear night, you can see more stars than you could ever imagine. And enough shooting stars to make you run out of wishes.

6. Creepy stuff

My father, back in his commercial fishing days, noticed that there was a t0shirt in the middle of his net after one tow. After a little investigation he found that it was not a shirt, but a human torso wearing a shirt. His captain radioed ahead and they brought the torso back to the docks, where they were met by the police and a coroner. They were eventually able to identify the body (based on the clothing) as a victim of a plane crash that had occurred fairly recently.

7. That’s certainly…unusual

I was on a fishing charter boat on Lake Erie. It was around 5am in the morning, and the water was scary calm and glass-like, and it was so foggy you could not see more than 30 feet if that. We all started hearing this plopping sound, like somebody was slapping the water with open hands, it kept getting louder and closer. We all just stood there and listened to this plopping sound getting closer and closer, and to the shock of us all, a deer swam by the boat. Yes, a deer! It looked to be a very large buck with at least 10 points on his rack. We were more than 10 miles off shore so it made no sense at all! Can you say FREAKY?

8. Seems unsettling

In the military. On Sept. 11th 2013, I was on a ship in the Red Sea. We were having a ceremony in remembrance of 9/11, when up floats a dead body right next to the ship. We were all locked down pretty quickly so that they could send out a couple small boats to retrieve it. Never did hear anything more about it.

Sailing around in the Arabian gulf, you could look out and see flaming flares from all of the oil rigs. You get so used to blackness when you’re out to sea at night and suddenly you see massive pillars of fire rising from the ocean all around you.

9. Maybe he didn’t do it himself…

I came across a man who’d hung himself on his boat five or six miles offshore about four or five years ago. The eerie and truly creepy part was realizing what it was. We just saw a boat out in the middle of ocean without anything other than blue horizon in sight, at the break of dawn, and there was fairly thick fog, as it had rained the night before. Realizing that the figure hanging from the boom was a man was one of the most haunting things I’ll ever see.

10. Most of these stories do not end well

I was working on a car carrier 4 years ago in the Middle East. Our typical route went through pirate waters at times, and so we always picked up four ex-Marines as security in Aqaba, Jordan before we went. One night while we were going through pirate waters off of Yemen, we started to have problems with the main engine. So we stopped and had to drift for a bit. During this time I was working on the stern (back end) of the vessel. I couldn’t really see anything out in the ocean, everything was dimly lit on the ship. I don’t know why, but I got bored and turned on the spot light and there he was, this guy with a gun in a rusted little boat staring at me about 15 feet from the ship. I just stared back at him, kind of stunned. I was afraid if I reached for the radio to call one of the marines he’d shoot me (the marines had weapons, I didn’t). So he looked at me and I looked at him and he sort of gave me a nod as if he was telling me, “Well played,” and I gave him one back. Then he slowly rowed his boat back off into the deep pitch black night. I didn’t know how many others there were. But I did call it in on the radio as soon as I lost sight of him. I still remember his face today, that deep stern concentrated look.

11. Wow

When I was off the coast of Japan in 2007, I watched a whale die. I couldn’t tell the gender, but I remember hearing those faint whale cries that you can sometimes hear at night beneath the surface. The moon was full and I could see it on top of the water and I saw other whales passing around it. Do whales have funerals? Because it felt like a vigil or saying goodbye. You could hear the faint puffs of the blowhole spraying out water in a labored way. I don’t know if it was hurt or just old. These other whales made a few passes and then they left, and the whale wasn’t spouting air anymore. This was all in a 15-minute period as we cruised passed. I guess the whales may have been there longer, but I feel that they know that they don’t want to stay around dead bodies for long. It was haunting and beautiful and I don’t think I had ever cried as much as I had that night.

12. These guys have some balls

Hurricane Katrina. We followed it down to provide aide for what everyone knew was going to be a disaster. It was as if the world had split in two. Above us was this beautiful sky with a few clouds strewn about, and then, not far ahead, was this ghastly monster that engulfed up the rest of the sky. It was green and purple and black. The clouds twisted in a way I’ve never seen before. And the seas were very deceptive. If you looked at the water you were sailing on the swells didn’t look THAT intense. But I saw frigates and destroyers swallowed bow first and shot through the other side.