Diver Reveals the 'Monsters' Lurking in the Frozen Depths of the White Sea

An underwater photographer has captured the ethereal creatures which inhabit the depths of the Arctic sea, as he revealed the true "monsters" which live beneath the waves.

Alexander Semenov is the head of the scientific diving team at the The White Sea Biological Station (WSBS) in remote Russia.

Semenov has dived thousands of times times to the frozen depths, as he admitted the remote location means he has seen creatures no one else has.

He revealed the atmosphere beneath the waves, as he told Newsweek: "It's quiet, but not silent. The sea is full of sounds, and the sounds vary from biotope to biotope.

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. Alexander Semenov captures a beautiful lizard worm.

"And yes, where I work, most of the time it is cold: 3-4 months a year I'm submerged in water at -1.5 degrees Celsius. Actually, diving represents a special world, almost a portal to another universe, and the experience of being in it depends quite a lot on each individual's experience.

"So even after 2,500 dives I am always focused. Still, every dive for me is a kind of meditation. You are alone with nature, with animals, with a wonderful world that very few people have seen.

"Looking at all my working adventures from the outside, I've dived in places where no one has ever been and seen animals that no one has seen before. Those are rather fascinating feelings and emotions.

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. Semenov has completed more than 2,500 dives in his career. Alexander Semenov / Aquatilis

"Curiosity, excitement, focus and at the same time complete peace of mind, a willingness to pass on what you have seen and tell everyone about what you have learned."

Semenov shares photos to his Instagram account, Team Aquatilis, @aquatilis_expedition, and his website, Coldwater.science, which explains: "We have created our own expeditionary popular scientific project and named it Aquatilis.

"The aim of the project is finding, studying and photographing the most interesting and unusual denizens of the ocean."

Among the fascinating creatures he has photographed, none stand out more than the Sea Angel, a misleading name for a fearsome predator.

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. One of the most infamous is the Sea Angel, which is in fact a fearsome predator. Alexander Semenov / Aquatilis

Semenov explained: "Sea angels are actually real monsters. More precisely, the monsters hide inside the angels until the hunt. Once they sense their prey—a close relative known as Limacina helicina (a sea butterfly)—their appearance changes dramatically: their head opens in two halves and in an instant 6 enormous hunting tentacles, called buccal cones, are released out of it.

"The angel begins frantically flapping its wings and circling in an attempt to catch its food. Sea angels are legendary creatures of the Arctic seas, and some of the most spectacular. They can also be found further south, but are still tied to very cold water and so can only be found during certain seasons.

"Long ago they had a common ancestor with the ordinary snail, which crawled on the seabed, but through evolution their foot developed into two muscular wings, they gained the ability to swim beautifully and they lost their shell. However, the sea angel larva has a shell inside the egg!"

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. Semenov says he sees something new each time he dives, this time snapping a hyperia galba. Alexander Semenov / Aquatilis

The marine biologist claims they are often used in the scientific field, as their translucent bodies allows scientists to study their entire nervous system.

Despite this, there are still mysteries surrounding the predators, particularly their life cycle between July and February, a question Semenov says he hopes to solve for himself.

Semenov has been photographing invertebrates since 2007, which explains how he ended up at the remote research station.

The isolated settlement is situated near the polar circle, and as the WSBS website says: "There is no road. Communication to the nearest village and railway station Poyakonda (nine miles) is possible only by boat during summer navigation, and by snowmobiles in winter."

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. Semenov captured this colorful Aggressive Sepiola. Alexander Semenov / Aquatilis

He quit a "well paid" job to move to "the middle of nowhere at the Polar Circle in an isolated science village."

Semenov explained: "I began my career as a diving assistant and just grabbed beautiful creatures out of the water and photographed them in the lab in a Petri dish.

"Gradually I was getting good at it, and in a year, the director of the station, seeing my enthusiasm and nice results, proposed to invest into underwater photography kit and, at the same time, to make an illustrated atlas with the most widespread species of the White Sea.

"So I got both the gear and a huge amount of work, via which I learned almost to a professional level. In another couple of years I found out how to sell photographs and earn money from scientific shoots, articles and lectures, combining my education as a marine biologist with beautiful photographs and stories.

"I have several major and insanely interesting projects in the Arctic and other seas. At the station we have all kinds of cool professional equipment, a small fleet and toys like underwater robots, and a small team of awesome divers who know how to use it all, and make films for some of the biggest documentary projects around the world."

Underwater images in the Arctic sea.
Underwater images in the Arctic sea. Semenov, who lives near the polar circle, captured a Cyanea capillata with yellow Cyanea in tentacles. Alexander Semenov / Aquatilis