Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beware the Mola Mola

This is no joke.

These creatures exist.

This is the ocean sunfish, otherwise known as the mola mola. They are the heaviest bony fish in the ocean—weighing upwards of 5000 lbs! HUGE! Just look at the diver by comparison.

They've been spotted off the shore of Boston.
They may even live in an ocean near you.
And they creep the hell out of me.

It all started when I was a kid. The thought of swimming with fish scared me to begin with. When I would go swimming in the lake, I'd imagine fish gracing by my feet, ready to nibble away at me—especially if I swam out over my head.

I was reading about fish in an encyclopedia (this was what we used before Wikipedia, kids), when I came across an illustration not unlike this:

"The Fish of the Ocean" it was called—a full page illustration showing fish of all shapes and sizes. And there is was. It was labeled "Ocean Sunfish." I just couldn't make sense of it. Its body design is so bizarre, it defies explanation: no tail fin; two huge fins jutting out the top and bottom. The drawing was larger in scale than what is shown here.

But this is where the real freak-out kicks in. I imagine a scenario where I'm out in the ocean, snorkeling, when off in the distance I see a white shape that grows larger. And larger. Before I know it, I'm swimming alongside one of In fact, the horror is pretty well simulated in this video. The beast appears around the :54 second mark.

Watching this sends chills up my spine.

It should come as no surprise that no one takes my fear seriously. My wife has known about it for some time, and was thoughtful enough to buy me this:

They are not CUTE.

Mola mola will kill your family according to one group of enthusiasts.
(thx @Tarynosaurus)

So...I was tweeting about how I can't stand these mola molas the other day. The taunting continued. And then one fellow (@Abraxas579) thought maybe I could overcome my phobia by drawing one. It was an intriguing proposal, and I do enjoy drawing gross things, so I decided to take him up on it.

Some preliminary sketches.

WAIT! How'd that get in there?

I landed on this drawing. And then inked it. But I prefer the pencil.

I guess I have a better appreciation for their awkward body design now. But you won't catch me in the water with one any time soon.

Fear the mola mola. As I do.


Anonymous said...

I hate them too! There is one in the local museum that freaked me out as a kid. Here it is with my kid! -

TJ Lubrano said...

Wow! I never heard of this type of fish before. They look...weird and scary! But that was a cool idea to sketch it out! I like the pencil on better myself too, but I have a weak spot for pencil drawings.

Hehe, you're wife is really thoughtful indeed.

Chris Houghton said...

Oh wow, I've never seen this before. Terrifying, absolutely terrifying.

Chris Sabatino said...

This is a hilarious post, Bob! I think the Mola Mola would be a great subject for a Heeby Jeeby Comic!!!

Dan Moynihan said...

When I was a kid, I went on a deep-sea fishing trip out of Boston harbor, and I saw one of these guys swimming just below the surface. Totally bizarre!
Also, I love those type of illustrations like the "Fantastic Fish" that you posted; it gives the impression that there is nothing but wall-to-wall fish just below the surface!

Keith Zoo said...

Bob I agree 100%, this really is a bizarre fish. I AM going to disagree and say that the Goblin shark has got to be the most frightening tho, its mouth detaches from his FACE. So weird.

oh by the way, I think it's amazing that instead of us hanging out, you drew bizarro fish. hahahahah classic bob.

Louise Smythe said...


Carter Malouf said...

I feel this is an example of an evolutionary fail.

Unknown said...

lol, great post. I totally understand your irrational creeped out fear, however, the sun fish don't do it to me. No, what gets me are GROUPERS!
heeeeeby jeeeeies!

Anyway, I applaud your attempt to draw the sucker. Love the pencil version too.

Bill Gonzalez said...

Their main dining opportunity are jellyfish. I once saw one off the shore of Misquamicut Rhode Island. It's fin stuck up out of the water as it moved right to left about 150 yards off shore. It set off quite a panic as everyone initially thought it was a shark!

Bob Flynn said...

Ha, I love everyone's reactions to this. Glad I've brought a few of you over to my side.

There are certainly weirder looking fish. For me, its that it's so strange looking, but also SO INCREDIBLY HUGE.

I recently learned they are basically evolution's solution for puffer fish that left the coral descendants...just grew huge and evolved a new body design.

David DeGrand said...

Man what a hilarious post! And you're not alone with your fear, the ocean and it's critters have always freaked me out big time. And this guy is freakier than any shark, he looks like he's from another planet. Gotta say I love your drawing, would make a great t-shirt design to sell at aquariums!

elfelix said...

Hey Bob!
I saw one too, when I was 18 or so in my holidays in Alicante (Spain, Mediterranean Sea).
But it was much smaller, about 50cm of diameter, and dark coloured. It layed on the shore, dead... Somehow scary... And heavy! We tried to move it and it was weighted a ton!
They are called by us "pez luna", also moonfish, but don't think they reach here such a size as in the ocean.
I hate/love fish and sea too. Fascinating and scary things at the same time!

JP said...

I like your wife's idea of therapy. I first saw one of these guys at the truly awesome Jaques Cousteau museum in monaco. where I was also introduced to my 'arch nemesis'... the Japanese Spider Crab. *shudder*. I was scared to take a bath after that.

Unknown said...

I agree. I think the extra wrinkles in the ink stole away it's cutness/appeal you had in the pencil.

Bob Flynn said...

Felix — that's interesting the translation is "moon fish" in Spanish.

And Nate, you hit it on the inking. I went overboard on the wrinkles in the back part—which can happen when I pick up the brush pen. The thing has a mind of its own. The looseness of a sketch will always have it's own appeal because you're in the building phase of drawing—inking is often more purposeful and/or mechanical.

chrisallison said...

HAHAHAHA! Great post, Bob!

David said...

Hey Bob, my dad and I were fishing out behind Mass. Maritime in Buzzard's Bay a couple of years back. We were fly fishing for striped bass and up to our knees in water while in our chest waders. We could see this giant fin flipping from side to side. I thought it was a shark and proceeded to turn into a whimpering little girl, while my dad waded out to it. I had visions of myself explaining to everyone how my dad was actually eaten by a shark. Instead it was an Ocean Sunfish. It was about 5' long by 4' high. It had gotten itself stuck in the shallows at low tide. My dad gave it a shove with his leg and freed it. When he came back to shore he had the biggest blob of slime down the side of his leg where it came into contact with the fish. It was pretty gross.

ETCIllustration said...

I am so in awe of what kinds of creatures the ocean produces. Just went to the aquarium yesterday and was bugged out by some of the species (sea dragons, whaaaat??) I don't personally have anything against the mola mola, but I can assure you that if one of those guys showed up next to me in the ocean I'd soil my bathing suit.

Personally, I like the inked version of your drawing. I admire folks who can keep the magic from sketch to finish.