Darin's Point of No Return

There are a lot of things that I don’t know. Or, at the very least, a lot of things that I don’t understand.

Basic home repair escapes me, as does every single aspect of advanced mathematics. Molecular engineering? You might as well replace that phrase with xjdkjrh734 23p89dca. They hold identical weight with me intellectually.

My daughter asks me questions about fingernail polish, and I give her the same glassy, dead-eyed stare I give Susan Lyons when she starts talking with me about the Coastal Point’s budget. Gardening? Identifying birds? Walking and chewing gum at the same time? Breathing and walking at the same time?

Look, I’m not smart. That’s been established.

But perhaps the greatest mystery of all to me is what exactly takes place under that water surface of that big puddle to the east of us, and I don’t mean downtown Bethany Beach after the dew hits in the morning. I’m talking about the ocean, and all other massive bodies of water like it. There’s stuff that lives in there, folks. Scary, slimy stuff. With teeth. Lots of teeth.

To be fair, the “teeth” thing might not have a lot of merit to it. We’ve established that I’m not smart. However, I do know for a fact that there is some pretty scary stuff that manages to breathe and live under the water — stuff that is smart and predatory by nature and can sing ridiculously well for, you know, being under water and all. (Editor’s Note: A lot of my understanding of aquatic life comes from watching Shark Week and “The Little Mermaid.”)

So, you can imagine my heightened consternation when I saw a headline on NPR’s site that read as such: “Scientists discover fossil of a 4-legged whale with a raptor-like eating style.”

There’s a lot to digest here. For starters, I’m not crazy about NPR using “4” in this instance, as opposed to “four.” I mean, come on. What are we doing here? The second part that stands out to me upon first perusal is that there was at some point a four-legged whale that eats like raptors? The third part is, well, I don’t exactly know how raptors purportedly ate. So let’s just stick with the first two for now.

Actually, upon further review, there is indeed a third part that jumps out pretty quickly in the story. The fossil, reported to be 43 million years old, was discovered by a team of Egyptian scientists in the Sahara Desert.

I understood that the presence of four legs most likely meant it was amphibious at some level, but whales that live in the desert? Are they going to stumble upon a shark with a scorpion tail and a camel hump next? This is all just too much for me to handle. I searched for more information, and found an article on insider.com that explained that this fossil was found in the Fayum Depression in Egypt’s Western Desert, which was once an undersea region, according to that publication.

So, I guess there’s that.

“We discovered how fierce and deadly its powerful jaws are capable of tearing a wide range of prey ... this whale was a god of death to most of the animals that lived in its area,” explained Abdullah Gohar, one of the scientists, per Insider.

The scientists published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and said that this finding offers clues as to how early whales that were believed to be land-dwellers made the transition to being sea creatures. They apparently walked.

Just how big was this walking whale that served as a “god of death” to all living things in its vicinity? Well, according to the study, the “phiomectus anubis” was estimated to be about 10 feet long, weighed approximately 1,300 pounds, carried around a jackal-shaped head on its shoulders and had a powerful jaw that gave it “a raptorial feeding style.”

Any chance of sleeping over the next week or so was pretty much destroyed by this walking whale, so I dove right back into my research, and started looking up other terrifying things found under the sea.

Sea what I did there? I wrote “dove” because this is a column on underwater creatures. And then, in a bonus for you, I wrote “Sea” instead of “see.” How do you people get this stuff for free every week?

Regardless, I didn’t have to search long. On July 31 of this year, NPR published another aquatic discovery. I will present the first two paragraphs of this piece to you uninterrupted.

“An ocean expedition exploring more than a mile under the surface of the Atlantic captured a startlingly silly sight this week: a sponge that looked very much like SpongeBob SquarePants.

“And right next to it, a pink sea star — a doppelganger for Patrick, SpongeBob’s dimwitted best friend.”

The sighting and accompanying photo went semi-viral, and Christopher Mah, one of the scientists, found that rewarding.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this is perfect. This is great. I can’t believe this is true.’ So, if we can bring positivity and we can make people happy by showing them nature — well, that’s what nature has always done for us before.”

Want to make us happy? Find Ariel and Flounder. I have a bad feeling about those two, with these walking whales and the like.

Executive Editor

Darin is a native of Washington, D.C, and studied journalism at Temple University. He is a combat-veteran Marine, and has worked as a reporter and editor throughout the country. He is married and has one daughter, who doubles as his harshest critic.