What is Organism 46b?

Explaining the origins of the notorious Vostok octopus

This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Luke Smith, MFA. Luke Smith is a wikiHow Staff Writer. He’s worked for literary agents, publishing houses, and with many authors, and his writing has been featured in a number of literary magazines. Now, Luke writes for the content team at wikiHow and hopes to help readers expand both their skillsets and the bounds of their curiosity. Luke earned his MFA from the University of Montana.

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Organism 46b is a fictional giant octopus said to haunt the depth of a remote Antarctic lake. While it’s a fun bit of science fiction, it’s a hoax that’s been debunked time and time again. Still, we’re here to give you a quick primer on the curious cryptid, fill you in on the full story, and let you know exactly where the legend originated (including the media aftermath).

  • Organism 46b is a fictional creature said to look like a giant octopus that resides under the icy Lake Vostok in Antarctica.
  • Organism 46b is said to have 14 tentacles and the ability to shapeshift and paralyze its prey from long distances.
  • The story of Organism 46b was thought up by the science fiction author C. Michael Forsyth, and was passed off as true by a number of tabloids.
  1. Image titled Organism 46b Step 2

    The monster is said to have been discovered by Russian researchers. A supposed team of researchers led by a man named Dr. Anton Padalka was studying the sub-glacial waters of Lake Vostok in Antarctica when they made the “discovery.” They suspected that Lake Vostok, because of its extreme environment, may harbor life forms that may be similar to those we might find on other planets with similar environments, like Jupiter’s moon Europa.[3]

    • Fact or fiction? Lake Vostok is a real place with real scientific potential, and was first discovered by Russian geographer Andrei Kapitsa, who guessed its location from the large patch of ice he saw while flying overhead.[4]
      While Lake Vostok has hosted numerous researchers since the 90s, the researchers in the story of Organism 46b are fictional.
  2. Image titled Organism 46b Step 3

    The researchers allegedly encountered the monster on an expedition. In 2012, the team supposedly suited up and delved 12,366 ft (3,769 m) beneath the ice, claiming that the lake’s untouched waters, with their excess of oxygen trapped by the ice, might host unique life forms. But they found much more than they bargained for.[5]

    • Fact or fiction? Researchers do believe that Lake Vostok holds a plethora of unique life forms, but these are mostly single-celled organisms.[6]
      Nobody’s actually been to the water trapped under the ice of Lake Vostok, but we have retrieved water samples by drilling down through the ice.
  3. Image titled Organism 46b Step 4

    Organism 46b is said to use venom to paralyze its prey. Once underwater, the researchers apparently encountered the creature after it cut off their radio signals. They said that the creature released venom from a sac that traveled 150 ft (46 m) through the water and paralyzed one of the divers, who “tread water with a blissful smile” as the creature dismembered him with its 14 arms.[7]

    • Fact or Fiction? This is where the story veers into total fiction. That said, Organism 46b’s fictional venom resembles that of some real-life jellyfish, which paralyze their prey by wrapping them in their barbed tentacles.[8]
  4. Image titled Organism 46b Step 5

    Organism 46b is said to have shapeshifted into a human. The supposed team of researchers said that, on one expedition, they observed Organism 46b morphing into at least 15 other marine creatures, but the final morph was the most startling of all. At one point, the team counted an extra, unidentifiable diver among them. When a team member went to investigate, the mysterious diver revealed itself and dispatched the unfortunate team member with its razor-sharp beak.[9]

    • Fact or Fiction? We don’t currently know of any organism that can alter its shape to mimic such a wide range of species, but octopi and many other animals are known to change colors in order to camouflage among their surroundings.[10]
  5. Image titled Organism 46b Step 6

    The researchers said that a severed tentacle killed a team member. During one of their several expeditions, one of the divers apparently lopped off one of Organism 46b’s tentacles with an ax. The tentacle then wrenched the ax from her hands and disappeared. Later that night, the tentacle surfaced from the ice and found the diver, then strangled her in her sleep. This led the crew to believe that creature had remarkable intelligence, enough to even hold grudges.[11]

    • Fact or Fiction? Octopi definitely don’t have the ability to wield axes with their severed tentacles, but their tentacles do display peculiar behaviors when severed. In one real-life experiment, a severed tentacle tried to deliver a bit of food to an already-deceased octopus.[12]
  6. Image titled Organism 46b Step 7

    Organism 46b’s existence was allegedly covered up after its capture. Eventually, the researchers were said to have successfully captured the creature before bringing it to the surface, where they submitted their findings to the Russian government. But the Russian government, they said, took the creature and then denied that any life existed under Lake Vostok, allegedly planning to use the creature to develop military weapons.[13]

    • Fact or Fiction? Total fiction! Plenty of microorganisms have been discovered in Lake Vostok, many with interesting biological implications, but the Russian government probably doesn’t care much about covering up those discoveries. As for a giant, 14-tentacled octopus? Well, it’s a fun story, at least.
  1. Image titled Organism 46b Step 8

    Organism 46b first appeared in a short story by C. Michael Forsyth. Forsyth is an author of horror and science fiction novels. The short story, which details the fictional researchers’ encounter with the fearsome sea creature, was posted to his personal website on September 25, 2012, and was written to mimic a real-life news article.[14]

    • The story was likely inspired by recent news articles at the time, when real-life researchers at Lake Vostok drilled through the ice and collected water samples to study.[15]
  2. Image titled Organism 46b Step 9

    Tabloids turned Organism 46b into a widespread hoax. Certain tabloids, hungry for a sensational and news-worthy story, found Forsyth’s short story and published articles on it, treating the work of fiction as though it were real. Of course, it wasn’t long until people pointed out there was no real evidence, and the headlines were identified as a hoax.[16]

    • The story of Organism 46b lives on though, as cryptid and supernatural enthusiasts continue to spread it around as a fun bit of folklore.
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Source: tiengtrunghaato.edu.vn

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