Erik van der Goot described his recent encounter with a giant Mola mola as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” which seems a rather bland assessment judging by his amazing footage.
The strange-looking sea creature is utterly massive, dwarfing several scuba divers in its midst, looking more like an alien being than a mere fish as it traverses the dark-blue waters off Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mola mola has long been a favorite among divers, much like whale sharks and giant mantas, because of its size and docile nature.
These ocean sunfish, which feature truncated bodies and comically-long faces, are the world’s heaviest bony fishes and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Their rounded bodies can measure about 15 feet from top to bottom, and about 10 feet in length. (Only sharks and rays, which are cartilaginous, are heavier.)
But few divers ever get to share such an intimate encounter with a truly gigantic Mola.
Van der Goot does a good job of keeping up with the sunfish he encountered off Gozo, and presenting it from various angles, including a frontal view that shows the critter’s long face and tiny mouth, and a host of small fish tagging along to forage on skin parasites.
According to National Geographic, the Mola mola’s near-circular shape has to do with the fact that it never fully develops a tail fin.
Though the fish are born with a tail fin, it does not grow and instead folds in upon itself and forms a sort of rudder, with which the Mola mola propels itself clumsily through its azure realm, dining on sea jellies, algae, zooplankton, and even small fishes.
(Mola molas are found in tropical and temperate seas throughout the world.)
Emails sent to Van der Goot inquiring about the encounter were unanswered at the time of this post, but it’s probably safe to assume that his “once-in-a-lifetime experience” was also mind-blowing, surreal, and just plain awesome.
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