Thing On The Ocean Floor

A history of the Eltanin's photo of a deep-sea object

Here's another mysterious event of which I am not very fond. It sneaks into Ufology via the back door. It's just there, and therefore, supposedly, has a UFO connection. The TRUTH as to what this THING is lies at the end of this history. Keep in mind that the actual date of the photograph is in question as UFO researcher, Tom DeMary, found a discrepancy between the trip dates and the news article. Since the discovery of what this is makes a change of date inconsequential, I feel the date should remain as originally cited. His source is:


This is the start of the whole thing.

Comment: The following newspaper clipping includes the famous Eltanin antennae photo. Murray Bott sent the clipping copy to me [Peter Hassall]. It originally comes from Henk Hinfelaar's files. There is a hand written note (presumably by Henk) that says, "Taken 29.8.64 Time 1.25 AM Lat. 59.08 South Long. 105 West Depth 2250 Fathoms U.S. Eltanin". 

Note that in this original presentation, the author of the article starts the ball rolling with “shows something like a complex radio aerial”

New Zealand Herald 5 December 1964

Puzzle Picture From Sea Bed

       The American research ship Eltanin sailed into Auckland yesterday with a mysterious photo taken at 2250 fathoms 1000 miles west of Cape Horn.

       The photograph, which to a layman shows something like a complex radio aerial jutting out of the mud bottom, was taken on August 29 by a submarine camera.

       The camera is housed in a metal cylinder pulled along by a cable from the ship. It bounces along the sea bed taking pictures at regular intervals.        

       The photo on the cover [See photo in the news clip - CF] was taken by deep-sea camera at 13,500 feet by the oceanographic ship Eltanin, Aug. 29, 1964, 1,000 miles west of Cape Horn. There has been speculation on what the thing is, including suggestions that it is some sort of machine or electronic device -- artificial, but maybe not man-made.           

       Interesting as this theory is, we wonder if maybe the answer is that it's just a "new" type of animal. Note the picture of the Umbellula, a long-stemmed polyp about three feet high with a cluster of hydra-like tentacles. This photo was made 350 miles west of the Cape of Good Hope, by the oceanographic ship Kane at a depth of 15,9OO feet. The Umbellula was known before the photo, having been dredged up before, when it was probably luminescent.

       The ocean deeps turn out to be more populated than was previously thought. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was assumed that the enormous pressure would prevent anything except the tiniest animalcules from living below a few thousand feet. But as the 0hallenger expedition and succeeding ones scouted the deeps more and more was turned up, until now it is clear that life exists down as far as we have investigated. The oceanographic ship John Elliott Pillsbury recently brought up out of the Puerto Rico Trench, from a depth of about five miles, a fish of the genus Bassogigas.

       In the Morning of the Magicians, Pauwels and Bergier note a strange track found in the mud by oceanographic probes at 15,000 feet. We obtained copies of this photo, but additional photos have shown the creature making the track-- a type of acorn worm.

       So maybe our outlandish thing down there in the South Pacific is some sort of animal like the Umbellula. But then again-- maybe not. There are some other strange stories of tracks way down there. In the Arctic Ocean, 400 miles from the pole, Dr. Kenneth Hunkins dropped a camera through the ice to a depth of 7,000 feet and got photos of "chicken tracks", 2 ½ inches long, half an inch wide. (N.Y. Times Feb. 24, 1958). And in the Kermatek Trough, north of New Zealand, Nikita Zenkevitch got photos of "a big, unknown sea animal" at a depth of six miles. (Manchester Guardian, Mar. 19, 1958.)


       These two cases suggest that some rather strange things must be living down there. The thing on our cover may be an animal as strange as we know how to imagine.                                                                                                               

This reference: The INFO Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3, Fall-Winter 1970, p. 14 (International Fortean Organization)



With thanks to Larry Hatch for permission to post his text to my website. And thanks to him again, for being the focal point for the researchers involved in resolving this issue. Note that Mr. Hatch copyrights the following text. (See reference below text) and:

The Eltanin ‘Antenna' Identified

22 October 2003.


       The USNS Eltanin, an ice breaking cargo ship, was launched and acquired by the US Navy in 1957. Reclassified as an Oceanographic Research Vessel for the National Science Foundation in 1962, it became the world's first Antarctic research ship.

       On 29 August 1964 (per this account – see news clip at the beginning/CF) while coring and photographing the deep sea bottom West of Cape Horn, the Eltanin took the photo shown here. The position was 59:07'S by 105:03'W, depth 3904 meters. (See: for Larry’s map with location of the ship).   

The "Eltanin antenna" is a sponge, Cladorhiza.


       A marine biologist pointed Tom DeMary to the book The Face of the Deep (1971) by Heezen and Hollister (see below..) which reproduces the photo taken by the USNS Eltanin, and a redrawing of an earlier drawing by Alexander Agassiz in 'Three Cruises of the Blake' (1888),

       An extract from The Face of the Deep: "Cladorhiza, a particularly dramatic [sponge] which somewhat resembles a space-age microwave antenna, was not uncommon in the early dredge hauls of Challenger and Blake (2.15).

Agassiz observed that 'they are sponges with a tong stem ending in ramifying roots, sunk deeply into the mud. The stem has nodes with four to six club-tike appendages. They evidently cover like bushes extensive tracts of the bottom’”.

       The familiar Eltanin photograph shows only a solitary specimen. Otherwise it would be more apparent that it is a marine animal and not a manufactured object.

Tom DeMary scanned the figures (2.15) & (2.16) from: The Face of the Deep; by Bruce C. Heezen and Charles D. Hollister New York, Oxford University Press 1971 LOC Card Catalog Number: 77-83038 ASIN: 0195012771 pp. 39 & 40

       The drawing was re-drawn from a figure in Three Cruises of the Blake, by Alexander Agassiz, Riverside Press, Cambridge, HA 1888 #2: Fig 541 (Three Cruises was 2 volumes, now both out of print. It may have been reprinted in the 1960s. It is packed with photos of life on the sea bottom.           

[Note: From an e-mail by Tom DeMary – A more complete classification of it: “According to a just-received note from a marine biologist, the Eltanin sponge was first identified by Charlie Hollister (co-author of The Face of the Deep) as a cladorhiza concrescens. Thus, a more complete ID is:

Phylum:            Porifera

Class:              Demospongia

Order:              Poecilosclerida

Family:             Cladorhizidae

Genus:             Cladorhiza

Species:           Concrescens”.  //CF]   

       Tom DeMary deserves major credit for rediscovering the true nature of the 'Eltanin Antenna'. He contacted the marine biologist who pointed out the sources above. All of this was well known to the relevant biologists, but totally ignored it seems by the 'new age' people, numerologists and anomalists of all sorts.

       It’s a pity that anomalists and scientists don't consult one another.

Henk Hinfelaar in New Zealand secured a clipping of the original report from the NZ Herald. Murray Bott archived it, and Peter Hassall tediously transcribed it. (See text of the NZ Herald at the beginning of the article above)

       This is the original uncropped photo, giving the (often mistaken) location and identification. The source is noted above.

       A Google search for Eltanin Antenna brings up about 250 websites. Add the word 'sponge' and you might find three or four.                                                                                                                                                                              

This reference: All images and text strictly Copyrighted ©2003 by Larry Hatch.   

UFOCAT PRN - 152660

UFOCAT URN – NONE     Unidentified Underwater Saucers by Brad Steiger and Joan

                                        Whritenour as printed in Saga Magazine, June 1968, pp. 36-37

UFOCAT URN – 152660 Harmonic 33 by Captain Bruce Cathie, p. 32 © 1968

UFOCAT URN – NONE    Argosy Magazine, March 1970, I.T. Sanderson “UFOs Under Sea?,

                                       p. 30

UFOCAT URN – NONE    The INFO Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3, Fall-Winter 1970, p. 14      

UFOCAT PRN - 37997

UFOCAT URN – 037997 Computerized Catalog (N=3173), #1654 by L Schoenherr. No © date.

South East Pacific

Cape Horn – is off the southern tip of both Chile and Argentina

Cape Horn - Latitude 55-59 S, Longitude 67-16 W (D-M)

Reference: Chile Gazetteer, Prepared in the Office of Geography, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., January 1967       

UFO Loc. (UFOCAT)      Latitude 60.17 S, Longitude 105.00 W (D.%)

UFO Location (Text)     Latitude 59-08 S, Longitude 105-00 W (D-M) [Hinfelaar/ Cathie]

UFO Location (Text)     Latitude 59-07 S, Longitude 105-03 W (D-M) [Hatch]