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Science

The winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest were announced and they are incredible

From rare river dolphins to abandoned aircrafts, there's an entire world to explore just below the water's surface.

underwater photography
Kat Zhou/UPY 2023 (USA), Shane Gross/UPY 2023 (Canada)

There's an entire universe down there.

Space might be considered the final frontier, but right here on planet Earth, entire universes remain unexplored beneath the water’s surface.

Every year, the prestigious Underwater Photographer of the Year contest highlights stunning images from all over the world that offer a small glimpse into this mysterious world, reminding us of its breathtaking beauty, fascinating wildlife and—perhaps most important of all—the need to respect and care for its resources.

American photographer Kat Zhou won the title for 2023. (Technically, she also won Up & Coming Photographer of the Year—way to go, Zhou.) Her image of a rare Amazon river dolphin, captured at the perfect moment of smiling while poking its nose out from under the water, rose to the top in a sea of 6,000 entries. Due to river contamination and being killed or injured by fishermen, the species is listed as vulnerable in certain areas by the World Wildlife Organization, making this apparently happy interaction all the more impactful.

As judge Alex Mustard wrote, “In dark, tannic waters, Kat has created a striking composition capturing this rarely photographed and vulnerable species at the perfect moment…By far the best image we've ever seen of this species.”

Zhou also explained the river dolphin’s folklore in her entry.


Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 Winner: “Boto Encantado” by Kat Zhou (USA)

Brazilian Amazon

river dolphin

“Boto Encantado” by Kat Zhou

Kat Zhou/UPY 2023 (USA)

“There’s a legend among locals in the Amazon that river dolphins, or 'botos,' can transform into handsome men known as 'boto encantado' at night to seduce women. Though I did not witness this elusive boto transformation, at dusk I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I knew I want a split shot at sunset. Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!

As indigenous communities settled by rivers in the Amazon, river dolphins began living in closer proximity to human populations, even making use of food scraps. Frequent dolphin sightings led to tales like boto encantado, but there’s a darker side to the legend, as it was often used to excuse pregnancies after women were assaulted or forced into prostitution. While botos are generally revered as mythical creatures, many scorned husbands have killed dolphins because of these stories. Furthermore, many river dolphins have also been killed for use as fish bait. Though there have been bans on this practice, it has not been eradicated. With this, alongside even bigger impacts like mercury poisoning due to the gold mining industry and large development projects that have disrupted the river ecosystems, I fear that one day botos will truly become no more than mythical creatures.” – Kat Zhou

Take a look below at the winners from other categories:

Wide Angle Winner: “Fade” by J. Gregory Sherman (USA)

Stingray City, Cayman Islands

stingrays

“Fade” by J. Gregory Sherman

J. Gregory Sherman/UPY 2023 (USA)

“My dive partner and I chartered a boat to arrive at Stingray City on Grand Cayman before dawn so as to capture the morning light and undisturbed sand ripples. Just as the sun broke the horizon, a line of southern stingrays headed straight for me and I captured this image as they glided across the sand. Using a large dome port allowed me to create a split image showing the intensely colorful dawn sky contrasted against the nearly monochromatic stingrays and sand beneath the surface chop.” – Gregory Sherman

Wrecks Winner: “Engine with a Saddle” by Brett Eldridge (USA)

Point Loma, California

wrecked planes

“Engine with a Saddle” by Brett Eldridge

Brett Eldridge/UPY 2023 (United States)

“We were out scanning targets in June when we saw a very small, but promising sonar blip 230 feet deep. I geared up and jumped in hoping for something special. After some searching, my heart started racing when I first saw fish then the propeller of an almost completely intact, single-engine WW II airplane! It turned out to be a F8F-1 Bearcat, a rare aircraft that Neil Armstrong famously once said was his favorite and has been described as 'An Engine With a Saddle.' Alone on the first dive with limited bottom time, I took enough photos to build a 'draft' model and identify the wreck. Needing a better photogrammetry model for the UPY contest and with deadlines quickly approaching, I booked December 19th and crossed my fingers. We fortunately had epic conditions and I got the photos I needed. It was my last dive of 2022.” – Brett Eldridge

Behavior Winner: “Make Love Not War” by Yury Ivanov (Indonesia)

Tulamben, Bali

octopus

“Make Love Not War” by Yury Ivanov

Yury Ivanov/UPY 2023 (Indonesia)

“A couple of coconut octopuses 'making love' (mating). I knew that I can find this species of Octopus at one of dive sites near Tulamben village (Bali, Indonesia) and they are active only at night time in that place. I dive there only after 7pm hoping to photograph something unique – their mating. I've done more than 30 night dives at the dive site and finally I got lucky. The photo shows the end of their love.” – Yury Ivanov

Portrait Winner: “The Trunk” by Suliman Alatiqi (Kuwait)

Phuket, Thailand

elephant

“The Trunk” by Suliman Alatiqi

Suliman Alatiqi/UPY 2023 (Kuwait)

“The elephant's trunk is one of the most distinctive anatomical features in the natural world and this photo aims to emphasize it. Luckily, he was curious about my camera and was happy to feel it out which gave me the opportunity to capture this perspective despite otherwise bad conditions for an over-under photo (choppy water and poor visibility). In my first attempts, the nostrils were not fully lit because of how close they were to the lens (which was necessary for the intended photographic effect). So I returned at a specific time window when I thought the sun’s angle would be optimal and managed to fully light the nostrils. This added a lot more detail to the key part of the image without which the photo would not be as effective.” – Suliman Alatiqi

Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023 Winner: “Hopeless” by Alvaro Herrero (Spain)

Baja California, Mexico

whale

“Hopeless” by Alvaro Herrero

Alvaro Herrero/UPY 2023 (Spain)

“A humpback whale dies a slow, painful and agonizing death after having its tail entangled in a ropes and buoys, rendering its tail completely useless. A reflection of what not only our oceans are suffering, but also our planet, the product of man's selfishness and lack of responsibility. Taking this photograph was, for me, the saddest moment I've experienced in the ocean. Especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing with my own eyes how they are sentient and intelligent beings. But I'm 'happy' to being able to capture that moment and show the world what is happening, what we are doing. I really hope this image make us aware , open our eyes and drive us in to make real changes.” – Alvaro Herrero

Black & White Winner: “El Blanco – The White One” by Don Silcock (Australia)

Península Valdés, Argentina

whale photos

“El Blanco – The White One” by Don Silcock

Don Silcock/UPY 2023 (Australia)

“The image was taken on the last morning of a five-day trip to Peninsula Valdés in Argentina, in August 2022, under a special permit to enter the water with the Southern Right Whales that gather there between June and December each year. The mother, who can be seen in the background, accepted our presence and allowed the calf to interact with us. It was very playful but careful not to hit us with its tail and seemed to be really enjoying it all – almost as much as we were! White calves are very rare and referred to locally as 'El Blanco' or the white one!

Peninsula Valdés is an incredibly important safe haven and breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales of the southern Atlantic and Argentina has done an excellent job of managing it. It was, without doubt, my best ever underwater experience!” – Don Silcock

Compact Winner: “Klunzinger's Wrasse In Motion” by Enrico Somogyi (Germany)

Marsa Alam, Egypt

underwater photography

“Klunzinger's Wrasse In Motion” by Enrico Somogyi

Enrico Somogyi/UPY 2023 (Germany)

“When I was snorkeling in Marsa Alam I saw countless Klunzinger's Wrasses. One of them was particularly curious and very interested in my lens. I was able to take some good classic wide angle pictures. After a while I figured it would be a good idea to try a long exposure. So I set my camera to the smallest aperture f11, the ISO value to 64 and the exposure time to 1/13s. For this picture, I moved the camera forward a bit while the shutter was released. This created the zoom effect in the lower part of the image. I was very happy with the result.” – Enrico Somogyi

Macro Winner: "Unsung" by Shane Gross (Canada)

Location: Vancouver Island, Canada

baby fish photograph

“Unsung” by Shane Gross

Shane Gross/UPY 2023 (Canada)

“Walking along a rocky shoreline we would peer under rocks using a probe lens and my camera's LCD screen to check for plainfin midshipman nests. Once found I would lay on top of the barnacle-covered rocks, cutting my elbows, trying to compose images of fish most people have never heard of despite having one of the most interesting lifecycles of any animal. Plainfin midshipman are deep water fish that travel to the intertidal zone to spawn. The males sing to attract females and she will lay as many eggs as his singing deserves before moving on to the next singer. Now, the male has a chance to fertilize the eggs, but only if he is not beaten to the punch by a sneaker male who looks like a female. The singer male will then guard the nest never knowing the kids may not be his. Drama!” – Shane Gross

There are even more incredible images swimming around on the UPY website. You can even download a free yearbook featuring all the winning images and their captivating stories here.

Education

Someone criticized a middle school teacher's behavior. Her comeback was an A+.

When a person commented, "your a teacher act like it," Amy Allen hilariously took the advice to heart.

A rude commenter got a lesson from Ms. Allen.

Being a teacher isn't easy. Teaching middle school students is especially not easy. Teaching middle school students who spent several of their formative years going through a global pandemic in the age of smartphones, social media and a youth mental health crisis is downright heroic.

If you haven't spent time in a middle school classroom, you may not fully grasp the intensity of it on every level, from the awkwardness to the body odor to the delightful hilarity that tweens bring to the table. When you connect with your students, it can be incredibly rewarding, and when you don't…well, we all read "Lord of the Flies," right?

Skilled teachers bring out the best in young people, and that can be done in many different ways. For Amy Allen, it's by making her middle school classroom a fun, welcoming place to learn and by bonding with her students.


"I love teaching middle schoolers because they are awkward, and I’m awkward, so we get along," Allen tells Upworthy.

She plays games with students, gets rambunctious with them and creates opportunities for them to expend some of that intense pre-and-early-teen energy in healthy ways. For instance, she shared a video of a game of "grudgeball," an active trivia game that makes reviewing for a quiz or test fun and competitive, and you can see how high-energy her classroom is:

@_queenoftheclassroom

If this looks like fun to you, pick up my grudgeball template (🔗 in bio) #qotc #grudgeball #10outof10recommend @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️

"I think for teachers, we always want to create moments for our students that are beyond the standard reading, writing, memorizing, quiz, 'traditional learning,'" Allen says. "Games are a great way to incorporate fun in the classroom."

Allen clearly enjoyed the game as much as her students—"I love the chaos!" she says— and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fun keeps teachers sane, too. But one person took issue with her classroom behavior and commented, "your a teacher act like it." (Not my typo—that's exactly what the person wrote, only with no period.)

Allen addressed the comment in another video in the most perfect way possible—by acting exactly like a teacher.

Watch:

@_queenoftheclassroom

Replying to @كل الكلبات تريد مني Come see me if you have any further questions. #qotc #iteachmiddleschool #weDEFINITELYdonthavefuninhere @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ #Inverted

There are two solid ways to handle a rude comment without making things worse—you can ignore it or you can craft a response that makes the person look like a fool without being cruel or rude yourself. Allen's grammar lesson response was A+ work, right down to the "Come see me if you have any further questions" caption.

In fact, the person apparently went back and deleted their comment after the comeback video went viral, which makes it all the more hilarious. The video currently has more than 4 million views on TikTok and over 18 million views on YouTube.

"What’s funny is I left my correction on the board accidentally, and the next day, students asked me what that was all about," Allen says. "When I explained it, they thought it was cool because 'why would anyone go after Ms. Allen'? At that point, the video had maybe 10,000 views. I never imagined the video would go viral."

Two days later, as the video was creeping toward a million views, she upped the stakes. "Some of my students are my ultimate hype people, and they were tracking it harder than I was," she says. "I made a 'deal' with my fifth period if it reached 1 million during their class, they could sit wherever they wanted the entire week. During lunch, I checked, and it reached 1 million. So when they came back from recess, I announced it, and it was like I was a rockstar. They screamed and cheered for me. It was an incredible moment for me."

The irony, of course, is that Allen was acting like a teacher in her grudgeball video—an engaged teacher with engaged students who are actively participating in the learning process. Just because it doesn't look like serious study doesn't mean it's not learning, and for some kids, this kind of activity might be far more effective at helping them remember things they've learned (in this case, vocabulary words) than less energetic ways of reviewing.

Allen has her thumb on the pulse of her students and goes out of her way to meet them where they are. Last year, for instance, she created a "mental health day" for her students. "I could tell they were getting burnt out from all the state tests, regular homework, and personal life extracurricular activities that many of my students participate in," she says. "We went to my school library for 'fireside reading,' solved a murder mystery, built blanket forts, watched the World Cup, colored, and completed sudokus. Is it part of the curriculum? No. Is it worth spending one class period doing something mentally rewarding for students? Absolutely."

Teaching middle school requires a lot of different skills, but perhaps the most important one is to connect with students, partly because it's far easier to teach someone actually wants to be in your classroom and partly because effective teaching is about so much more than just academics. A teacher might be the most caring, stable, trustworthy adult in some students' lives. What looks like silly fun and games in a classroom can actually help students feel safe and welcomed and valued, knowing that a teacher cares enough to try to make learning as enjoyable as possible. Plus, shared laughter in a classroom helps build a community of engaged learners, which is exactly what a classroom should be.

Keep up the awesome work, Ms. Allen, both in the classroom and in the comment section.

You can follow Amy Allen on TikTok and YouTube.

89Stocker and cottonbro studios|Canva

Mom makes case for getting life insurance on child's other parent

Nobody wants to think about what happens if their child's other parent dies unexpectedly. It's not a pleasant topic but unfortunately it is something that happens sometimes and parents have to do their best to pick up the pieces after such a tragic loss. One mom, had the unfortunate experience of living through this tragedy and she took to social media to explain the steps she took to prepare for this day.

Kelsey Pumel, a multi-hyphenate TikTok creator recently had to help her young daughter process the unexpected loss of her biological father. Pumel and Kobe's father were never married and had broken up years prior but she admits to carrying a life insurance policy on him. The topic was brought up when her viewers informed her that she should file for social security death benefits to assist with the financial responsibility of caring for Kobe.

That's when the mom of five revealed that she took out a life insurance policy on Kobe's father when she was pregnant for multiple reasons.


"I have gotten many rude comments about the life insurance and some wild accusations made but I'm going to say this and I need y'all to hear me. If you have a child with somebody, you should have life insurance one that person, period," Pumel says. "If something were to happen, you're going to get that kickback of money to help you either raise your kids or to make up for the income that is now missing."

In a follow up video she clarifies that you do need the other person's consent in order to take out the policy. Pumel also answers the question on what she's doing with the insurance money after the death of her child's father.

"When I first got the money, I did take a chunk of it and I paid off all of my student loans, now stick with me. Why did I do that? Well, I had about $95K worth of student loans, my interest was over $6K a year. I wasn't even cutting any of it down trying to pay it with that type of interest." She reveals after talking it over with her dad who was helping pay the loans.

"So we came up with a payment plan that pays the entire $95K plus interest back to Kobe, paying it monthly into a 529 Plan, which is a college fund for her. So all that money will go into that plan for her. If she doesn't go to college or doesn't use all of it, it will be kicked over in an investment account that she will be able to pull at retirement age."

@growingwithkelsey

Replying to @bossyasf83 Correct me if im wrong about SS benefits but thats what I was told. But Kobe is going to be alright! I promise you I am getting her the brightest future possible set up! ♥️🫶🏼 #lifeinsurance

Not only is Pumel making sure Kobe has money to retire with, she's taking some of the money and putting it into a high yield account for her daughter. She also plans to buy a real estate property that will go to the little girl when she turns 18. Really, Pumel has thought of everything she could to make sure her daughter is set up to be financially secure her entire life.

While no one wishes for their children to experience the death of a parent before their time, this mom proves that having a life insurance policy on a coparent is simply a smart choice. Parents in the comments are applauding her for talking about this so openly.

@growingwithkelsey

Replying to @ohitsamber84 There are so many ways to set up an financial future for your children without big chunks of money! I strongly recommend talking with a financial advisor if you have kids and seeing what options you may have to ensure them a strong future. ♥️🫶🏼

"And BOOM that is how generational wealth is made baby! Good for you mama," one person says.

"Girl your daughter may not understand now. But when she gets older she will thank you immensely," another writes.

"That's perfect! Exactly what she'll need! Car, college, house...set her up to have no debt," someone else proclaims.

There's one word you can't say on a cruise ship.

On December 10, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas set sail on the Ultimate World Cruise—a 274-day global trek that visits 11 world wonders and over 60 countries. This incredible trip covers the Americas, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Mediterranean and Europe with a ticket price that ranges from $53,999 to $117,599 per passenger.

Aboard the Serenade to the Seas is popular TikToker Marc Sebastian, who has been sharing his experience on the platform.

In a recent video with over 4.3 million views, he revealed what he’s learned over his first few weeks aboard the ship; the biggest was the one word you’re not allowed to say: Titanic.


“Who knew that? I didn’t,” Sebastian said. “I brought it up to an entire room of people having lunch that our ship is only 100 feet longer than the Titanic — when I tell you that utensils dropped. Waiters gasped. It’s dead silent.”

@marcsebastianf

someone get whoopi on the line girl i have some goss for her #ultimateworldcruise #worldcruise #serenadeoftheseas #cruisetok #cruise #9monthcruise #titanic

After the unexpected reaction, his cruise friend told him, “You’re not allowed to talk about the Titanic.” It makes sense. Who wants to be reminded of the tragedy that killed around 1,500 people while sinking one of the most impressive engineering feats of the era? "When I went on a cruise, my mom told me saying Titanic was equivalent to screaming ‘bomb’ at an airport," Mikayla wrote in the comments.

Later in the video, Sebastian admits he was surprised to learn that cruise ships have godmothers and that the pools are filled with seawater.


This article originally appeared on 1.25.24

@inspiringbelfast/TikTok

Maybe this dose of wholesome humanity brighten your day.

Imagine walking down the street, minding your own business, when a complete stranger unfurls a red carpet at your feet. What do you do? Awkwardly avoid it and continue along your route? Tell the person off for not respecting boundaries? Or do you wholeheartedly accept the impromptu invitation and strut your best stuff?

For the passersby of Belfast, option three was the only choice.

Alan Wallace, who routinely posts uplifting videos that “share the warmth” of his hometown over on TikTok, recently added a video of himself going up to random folks on the street and giving them a moment to shine. And let’s just say, they nailed it.


Folks from all walks of life—including a construction worker that could be Michael Sheen’s doppelgänger—lit up at the opportunity to catwalk, skateboard, cartwheel and even do the worm down the crimson strip.

In a mere matter of seconds, we see all that humanity has to offer—humor, free expression, joy, inclusivity, connection. Such powerful stuff shown in the simplest way.

Even if the moment wasn’t quite as spontaneous as the video makes it appear (Wallace likely asked for permission before rolling the carpet out each time) these people still agreed to play. And that’s what’s magical about it.

“Everyone understood the assignment, from young to old, it was perfect,” one viewer wrote.

@inspiringbelfast Red carpet for strangers in Belfast #inspiringbelfast #belfastcity #belfast #heartwarming ♬ Beautiful Things (Sped Up) - Benson Boone

It’s natural for most people to not want to interact with strangers. And of course there are legitimate safety reasons influencing this instinct. But a lot of the time our avoidance comes from expecting things to be unenjoyable. And yet, research shows not only that people are often pleasantly surprised by how much connection, kindness, belonging and optimism they end up experiencing.

So maybe we don’t need a red carpet to simply enjoy saying hi to someone we meet on the street and reaping the benefits. But hey, it certainly helps.

Representative Image from Canva

Every parent should know about this game. Many have experienced it as kids.

Nurse and mom Jinny Schmidt wants parents to be aware of a game that’s circulating amongst tweens right now, because it’s not a game at all.

In a PSA posted to her TikTok, Schmidt shared that her daughter informed her that boys in her class were beginning to play what she called “The Firetruck Game.”

As Schmidt begins to describe what the “game” entails, it’s easy to see why she’s concerned. All parents should be.


Here’s how the game works: a boy puts his hand on a girl’s lower thigh. And he tells her “my hand is a firetruck” as he slowly moves it up her leg. When the girl gets uncomfortable, she is supposed to say “red light.” Except for when the girl says “red light,” the boy responds with “sorry, firetrucks don’t stop for red lights.” And so they run their hand all the way up the girl’s leg, Schmidt explains, and sometimes they “touch the girl’s crotch.” Yikes.

Many viewers noted growing up with the Firetruck Game, or a version called “The Nervous Game,” or “Red Light Green Light.” Suddenly The “Squid Game” version of “Red Light Green Light” doesn’t seem so bad.

No matter what it’s called, though, it’s touching without consent, and is inappropriate on so many levels, not least of which being that it’s an excuse for sexual assault. Hence Schmidt’s alarm.

“I know that kids will be kids and kids will do some stupid shit, But we’ve got to do better teaching our boys to keep their hands off of other people and teaching our girls that it’s okay to have boundaries,” she says, before asking parents to “be aware” if they hear their kids talking about it.
@the.funny.nurse Y’all gonna see me on the 6 O’clock news. #jrhigh #kids #tween #preteen #parents #moms #momsoftiktok #dads #dadsoftiktok #teacher #teachersoftiktok #publicschool #school #firetruck #firetruckgame #firetruckgameawareness #girls #boys #game ♬ original sound - Jin-Jin

And she is, of course, absolutely right. Folks who watched her video wholeheartedly agreed that the behavior should not be tolerated, and many shared some pretty intense, although warranted, reactions to it.

“We’d be playing a game called Ambulance next,” one person wrote.

“Press charges,” said another.

“We have a game also. It’s called ‘oops I broke your finger,’” a third added.

But many also chimed in to say that they would be talking to their kids immediately about it, which is probably the best route overall. That way kids can protect themselves, and others around them.

Middle school years in general are pretty rough. They can be just as difficult to navigate for parents as they can be for the kids going through it. It’s painful to watch your still baby-faced child go through many of the same awful pains that you did, many of which are unavoidable. But some things, like terrible and abusive games, can be avoided. So make sure to have those important conversations when you can.