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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.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

A group of students staring at their phones.

The Norwegian government is spearheading a significant initiative to prohibit students from having smartphones in schools. This move comes in the wake of compelling studies demonstrating the positive impact of removing these devices from students’ hands and allowing them to focus more on their learning.

The effects have been particularly beneficial for girls.

Over the past few years, smartphone bans have cropped up in several school districts throughout Norway, allowing researchers to study how the bans affected students. Sara Abrahamsson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, analyzed students at 400 middle schools and found that the bans had psychological and academic benefits.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health published the results.

1 Girls made fewer appointments for psychological help

The study found that there was a significant decrease in the number of visits that girls made to see a psychological specialist for mental health issues. “Relative to pretreatment this is a significant decline by almost 60% in the number of visits,” Abrahamsson wrote in the study.

2. Steep drop in bullying

The study shows that girls experienced a 46% reduction in bullying after smartphone bans were enacted and boys had a 43% reduction.

smartphone, smartphone ban, norway

Boys looking at memes on a smartphone.

via Max Fischer/Pexels

3. Improved grades for girls

The study revealed that introducing a smartphone ban at the beginning of middle school improved girls' GPAs and increased their chances of enrolling in an academic-oriented high school track versus a vocational study. On the other hand, the ban appeared to have no notable effect on boys’ GPA, teacher-assigned grades, or likelihood of pursuing an academic high school track.

4. The ban had a more significant effect on economically disadvantaged girls

The study found that the ban resulted in greater benefits for economically disadvantaged girls regarding academic performance, appointments for psychological symptoms and the probability of attending an academically focused high school.

The positive impact that the bans have on girls is significant, given the fact that studies show they’ve been the most deeply affected by the rise in mental health issues amongst young people that have coincided with smartphone adaptation.

One of the most disturbing trends is the dramatic rise in suicide rates among girls in developed nations.

smartphones in schools, norway, smartphone ban

Students taking a selfie in school.

via RDNE Stock Project

Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness” and advocate for banning smartphones in schools, explained why smartphone use is more damaging for girls than boys.

“There is a special relationship between social media and girls,” Haidt told “The Reason Interview with Nick Gillespie” podcast. “When boys get together … they're likely to organize themselves into groups to compete [on multiplayer video games].”

“Girls are much more interested in talking about relationships. Who is on the outs with whom? Who's dating who? They have a more developmental map of the social space,” Haidt continued.

When there is conflict within peer groups, social media poses a much greater threat to girls.

“Boys' aggression is ultimately backed up by the threat of physical domination and punching or pain, " Haidt continued. “Girls' aggression is equal in magnitude, but it's aimed at relationships and reputation. It's called relational aggression. Video games, if anything, prevent boys from getting in fights. … The platform settles everything. But girls' relational aggression is amplified. The worst year of bullying is seventh grade. I'm really focused on middle school.”


Family

Every parent thinks they'd never forget their child in the car. But 'never' still happens.

Tragic hot car deaths are preventable, but only when parents acknowledge they are fallible.

No one thinks it could happen to them until it does.

I never thought it was possible for me to forget my child in the car—until the day I did.

I was a super conscientious mom, reading all the parenting books, cautious about health and safety, 100% committed to my children's well-being. I held my babies close, figuratively and literally, wearing them in slings and wraps much of the time and taking them everywhere. They were like physical extensions of me–how could I possibly forget them?

Here's how. My oldest was nearly 4 years old when I had my second child. One day, when the baby was a few weeks old, our family was out running errands. Everyone was hungry, but I needed to grab something from Michaels craft store, so I dropped my husband and 4-year-old at home first to start dinner. The baby was sleeping in her car seat and I decided to take her with me in case she woke up and needed to breastfeed.

Somewhere between our driveway and Michaels, I completely blanked that I had a baby in the car.


I hadn't been in a car with a child for several years without any sound—my oldest was always talking or singing or something. It was never quiet in the car unless I was alone, so my sleep-deprived brain interpreted the silence of my sleeping baby in the car as me being alone.

I got to the Michaels' parking lot, got out of the car, locked the door and went inside. I grabbed a shopping cart and headed to the back of the store to pick up whatever I needed. When I flipped down the plastic seat on the cart where you put a kid, it triggered the awareness that I didn't have a child with me and everything stopped. Even 19 years later, I can perfectly picture the moment it dawned on me what I'd done when the world went into slow-motion as I ran through the store and out to my car.

There she was, blissfully snoozing away in her car seat, totally unaware of my panic. It was a cool evening and she was only in there for 5 minutes, tops, but it was an eye-opening and humbling moment. If a brain blip like that could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

That's the idea behind a new heatstroke prevention PSA from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council called "Never Happens." The message is powerful, as there are so many things we swear we would never do as parents that we end up doing. Some of those things are conscious choices as we realize parenting is far more complex than we thought, but some are a result of being fallible humans with imperfect human brains. The key is recognizing that fact so you don't fall into the trap of "I would never."

Watch:

Pediatric vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related fatalities for children 14 and younger. No parent thinks they could possibly forget their child in a car, but that's how more than half of car heatstroke deaths in children occur. According to the NHTSA, heatstroke statistics can be split into three main scenarios:

- 52.7% of hot car deaths happened because a child was forgotten in a hot car

- 25.8% of deaths happened because a child gained access to an unlocked car and became trapped

- 20.1% of deaths happened because a child was left behind in a vehicle, and the parent/caregiver did not realize how quickly internal car temperatures can rise.

A child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, so we can't use ourselves as a gauge of how long is too long to be in an enclosed car.

The inside of a vehicle is never a safe place for a child to play or be left alone, because hot cars can be deadly for children in a matter of minutes," Sophie Shulman, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, tells Upworthy. "No one wants to think they could forget their child, but the facts show it can happen to anyone. Our ‘Stop. Look. Lock.’ campaign educates and empowers parents and caregivers to make simple changes to prevent unimaginable tragedies."

Some of those simple changes might include putting your purse or wallet in the back seat, keeping an item like a teddy bear in the backseat and placing it in the front seat whenever you have a child in the car with you. Both of those simple visual cues could be life-saving. And always lock your vehicle after getting everyone out of it so a child can't get in.

Never think it could never happen. Then, take proactive steps to ensure that it never does.

Joy

'90s kid shares the 10 lies that everyone's parent told them

"Don't swallow that gum. If you do, it'll take 7 years to come out."

via 90sKid4lyfe/TikTok (used with permission)

90sKidforLife shares 10 lies everyone's parents told in the era.


Children believe everything their parents tell them. So when parents lie to prevent their kids to stop them from doing something dumb, the mistruth can take on a life of its own. The lie can get passed on from generation to generation until it becomes a zombie lie that has a life of its own.

Justin, known as 90sKid4Lyfe on TikTok and Instagram, put together a list of 10 lies that parents told their kids in the ‘90s, and the Gen X kids in the comments thought it was spot on.


“Why was I told EVERY ONE of these?” Brittany, the most popular commenter, wrote. “I heard all of these plus the classic ‘If you keep making that face, it will get stuck like that,’” Amanda added. After just four days of being posted, it has already been seen 250,000 times.

Parents were always lying #90s #90skids #parenting

@90skid4lyfe

Parents were always lying #90s #90skids #parenting

Here are Justin’s 10 lies '90s parents told their kids:

1. "You can't drink coffee. It'll stunt your growth."

2. "If you pee in the pool, it's gonna turn blue."

3. "Chocolate milk comes from brown cows."

4. "If you eat those watermelon seeds, you'll grow a watermelon in your stomach."

5. "Don't swallow that gum. If you do, it'll take 7 years to come out."

6. "I told you we can't drive with the interior light on. ... It's illegal."

7. "Sitting that close to the TV is going to ruin your vision."

8. "If you keep cracking your knuckles, you're gonna get arthritis."

8. "You just ate, you gotta wait 30 minutes before you can swim."

10. "If you get a tattoo, you won't find a job."

Family

Mom claims the biggest 'parenting flex' is having grandparents who are 'voluntarily involved'

Grandparents that are eager to help raise their grandkids are a game-changer.

via Kelsey_p90/TikTok (used with permission) and Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Kelsey shares why it's great to have involved grandparents.

Grandparents are often stereotyped as doting and eager to be a big part of their grandchildren's lives. In movies and TV, we often see parents of child-free women begging them to have kids so they can be grandparents.

However, that’s not always the case. Many grandparents are unable to help raise their grandkids because of their location or health. There are also far too many who aren’t that eager to do the work.

For many parents, the presence of grandparents who actively participate in raising their kids can be a game-changer. The support they provide, whether it’s watching the kids on a Friday night or picking them up from school, can significantly ease the juggling act of modern parenting.


Kelsey, a popular TikTok and Instagram mother of two, recently celebrated the joy of having “voluntarily involved” grandparents, calling them the biggest “parenting flex.” Of course, the subtext of the post is that, unfortunately, many grandparents are uninvolved with their grandchildren’s lives and their families could use their help.

Warning: Strong language.

@kelsey_p90

Top tier 🙌🏻🙌🏻 #fyp #foryourpage #foryou #momtok #mom #moms #momlife #momsbelike #momsoftiktok #sahm #grandparents #grandparentsoftiktok #grandma #grandpa #parenting #parentsoftiktok

“Without question, the biggest parenting flex isn’t the mom car, not how much you make a year. It’s not how well-behaved your kids are,” Kelsey starts her video. “Biggest flex is having involved grandparents. Voluntarily involved. Holy f***, having that midday struggle with my children and then getting that text from grandma: ‘Hey, can I pick so and so up for a sleepover tonight?’ Ha ha ha, funny, you should say that! Her bag has been packed. Never unpacked it. She’s ready.”

She noted that “voluntarily involved” grandparents aren’t just doing the bare minimum. They’re stepping up and taking charge of their role in the family.

“Ones that you can text like, ‘Hey, can you fly up this weekend? We need your help.’ ‘Sure, no problem!’ I don’t know what kind of reaction that was. But it came within the depths. Nothing beats it. Nothing beats a grandparent that wants to do more than required to get that yearly Facebook Happy Birthday Grandma post,” Kelsey continued.

Unfortunately, many moms and dads don’t have parents they can rely on to help them raise their kids and it’s a big loss. “A lot of the times, people don’t have help, and I am sorry,” Kelsey said. That f****** blows. We know it’s their loss. We know. Who doesn’t want to be involved with their grandchildren?”

grandparents, grandkids, tiktok

A grandmother looks out the window with her granddaughter.

via Juan Pablo Serrano/Pexels

Many commenters shared why raising kids without grandparents is so hard.

"I recently read a quote that said 'uninvolved grandparents never intended to be parents themselves' everything made sense," Isabel Cardenas wrote. "You definitely got that right. That is the biggest flex of all time. There’s not enough money in the world that would take the jealousy I have for people who receive that type of love freely," Katy Alltop added.

Kelsey shared her thoughts on why some grandparents aren’t voluntarily involved with their grandkids.

“I think a lot of times grandparents have the point of view like ‘I did my time, I raised my children, now it’s my time to do whatever I want.’ They don’t want to be tied down with babysitting and other commitments,” she told Upworthy. “Which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing! They deserve a fun retirement. I would never want to force a grandparent (or anyone really) to be a part of my children’s lives. But it is so nice to see so many grandparents who go out of their way to foster relationships with their grandkids and who want to spend quality time with them (not just to give mom and dad a break).”

Joy

Tense video shows two barbers rushing to save little girl from running into traffic

The heroes say they went into "dad mode" and immediately acted.

@obthebarber/Instagram

Some people step into action without a second thought.

When two barbers noticed a young girl racing by their window and into oncoming traffic, they only had seconds to act. And thankfully, they did without hesitation.

Osvaldo Lugo recently posted a harrowing surveillance video to the Instagram account of his Connecticut-based business, the Look Sharp Barbershop, which shows himself and an employee, Rafael Santana, racing out to scoop up a young girl mere seconds away from bolting into oncoming traffic.

Lugo tells ABC7 that he simply went into “dad mode” the minute he spotted the girl in the shop window, who had escaped her mother at a nearby bus stop. Thank goodness he did, and that he and Santana were able to help the girl reunite with her mom, who seemed “confused and shocked but grateful,” per Today.com.

Even knowing this story has a happy ending, viewers found the footage terrifying, and commended the barbers on their bravery and fast action.

“I can’t believe how long I was holding my breath while watching, even knowing that you both were to save her before she ran into the traffic,” one person wrote.

Another added, “Omg this gave me chills! Thank God you guys saw her & most importantly went into action.”

The East Hartford Police Department also praised Santana and Lugo in a Facebook post, which read:

“Heroic Barbers to the Rescue! Today, we want to give a massive shoutout to the quick-thinking and brave duo, Osvaldo Lugo and Rafael Santana of LookSharp Barbershop.Their swift action saved a little toddler who had escaped from his mother and started moving towards traffic on Main Street. Thanks to them, a potential tragedy was averted, and a family remains whole. We’re incredibly grateful for these everyday heroes among us!”

As for Luca and Santana, their actions aren’t considered anything out of the ordinary. As Santana shared with TODAY.com, “We did this out of love and we’d do it a million times again. We protect and serve our community at all costs.”

It’s never a bad time to share stories like these. But right now, they seem more important than ever.