I still remember the first time I saw it.
It was fifth grade. It was the days of AOL chatrooms and Windows 95 — the good ol' days, when you had to really earn it to find something good on the Internet.
One day, my grandpa brought home a shiny edition of Microsoft Encarta, and I was hooked. Not just for MindMaze (remember MindMaze?!) but for all the illustrations and encyclopedic information available within a few clicks. This was life before Wikipedia, and I was addicted.
I decided to research the deep ocean for a school project and ... oh god ... I stumbled into something that looked like ... this!
"What the WHAT, man!" is what my tiny child brain repeated unto itself for time immemorial. "That ain't cool!"
Thankfully, at the time, there was no actual footage of anglerfish to haunt my nightmares. But all that changes ... now.
Because for the first time, at this depth, we have visual contact, people!
BEHOLD! LOOK UPON THY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR:
...hold up, did you hear that?
It's only nine centimeters?! This thing has been the stuff of my nightmares for years and it ain't even bigger than my hand?!
But here's the thing: As horrific as this fish was to me (fifth-grade me legit hid under a desk after stumbling across it that first time), it gave me a lifetime of respect and fascination for the deep sea. I mean ... I couldn't get this thing out of my head! How does it exist?
...and what kind of food does it attract with its ... interestingly shaped apparatus?
...and how could ANYTHING exist at 600 meters below? That's 2,000 feet deep! A 20-story building!
That's why articles about islands of plastic trash in our oceans or warnings from Sea Queen Sylvia Earle hit me a little harder. I turn into a little fifth-grade version of myself, daydreaming about the mysteries and wonder of the deep — yes, even the mysteries of the bizarre and monstrous anglerfish — as well as how to preserve and protect it.
Did you know that we've only explored 5% of the ocean? That's right, we haven't explored 95% of our own planet's ocean. Crazy, right?
Think of all the anglerfish just waiting to be found! Wait, you know, nevermind, don't think about that.
Share this with a fifth-grader you know and pass the wonder down to the next generation — because it's fun to scare kids into caring about something cool.