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Possible depiction

Thor Heyerdahl, the captain of the raft Kon Tiki, claimed to have seen strange phosphorescent creatures while on his trans-Pacific voyage. There are countless denizens of the sea which phosphoresce (create light), but it is never specified what these creatures looked like.

The Sighting

Kontiki

The Kon Tiki boat.

The Kon-Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Inca sun god, Viracocha, for whom "Kon-Tiki" was "said" to be an old name.

The trip began on April 28, 1947. Heyerdahl and five companions sailed the raft for 101 days over 6900 km (4,300 miles) across the Pacific Ocean.

Kon-Tiki left Callao, Peru, on the afternoon of April 28, 1947. To avoid coastal traffic it was initially towed 80 km (50 mi) out by the Fleet Tug Guardian Rios of the Peruvian Navy, then sailed roughly west carried along on the Humboldt Current.
Bioluminescent

The crew's first sight of land was the atoll of Puka-Puka on July 30. On August 4, the 97th day after departure, Kon-Tiki reached the Angatau atoll. The crew made brief contact with the inhabitants of Angatau Island, but were unable to land safely. Calculations made by Heyerdahl before the trip had indicated that 97 days was the minimum amount of time required to reach the Tuamotu islands, so that the encounter with Angatau showed that they had made good time.

During the journey, Heyerdahl saw, near the Kon Tiki raft, strange phosphorescent animals and other extremely large unknown creatures in the middle of the night that have never been identified.

Possible Explanations

Firefly Squid

A group of firefly squid off the coast of Japan

One possible explanation is that the Kon Tiki Creatures could be firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans), a species of squid in the family Enoploteuthidae. The firefly squid is found in the Western Pacific ocean at depths of 183 to 366 metres (600–1200 feet) and is bioluminescent. Each tentacle has a photophore organ, which produces light.

Firefly Squid2.jpg

Firefly squid close-up.

When flashed, the light attracts small fish, which the squid can feed upon.

This squid has three visual pigments located in different parts of the retina which likely allows color discrimination, each having distinct spectral sensitivities.

The sparkling enope squid measures about 3 inches (7.6 cm) long at maturity and dies after one year of life. It has the standard eight arms and two tentacles, with one pair each having three, bright light-emitting organs at the tips.

Principle of the squid's counterillumination camouflage. When seen from below by a predator, the bioluminescence helps to match the squid's brightness and colour to the sea surface above. The squid spends the day at depths of several hundred metres, returning to the surface when night falls. It uses its ability to sense and to produce light for counterillumination camouflage: it matches the brightness and colour of its underside to the light coming from the surface, making it difficult for predators to detect it from below.


In Popular Culture

LifeofPi

The Kon Tiki Creatures from the life of Pi.

In 2012, a Norwegian historical dramatized feature film was made about the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. The film features the phosphorescent creatures sighted by Heyerdahl. It was the highest-grossing film of 2012 in Norway and the country's most expensive production to date.

The 2001 novel and 2012 featured film, The Life of Pi, contains Heyerdahl phosphorescent creatures during the lonely night scenes throughout the film. Life of Pi emerged as a critical and commercial success, earning over US$609 million worldwide. It was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards which included the Best Picture – Drama and the Best Director and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. At the 85th Academy Awards it had eleven nominations, including Best Picture, and won four (the most for the evening) including Best Director for Ang Lee.

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