In October 2019, U.S. Navy Commander David Fravor, who was the subject of a 2017 New York Times article about his 2004 UFO sighting, discussed a spooky new discovery a fellow pilot revealed to him after they were both out of Navy service: there was a chance he had spotted an underwater UFO.
According to Fravor, the eyewitness was a former pilot of the MH-53E Sea Dragon, the Navy version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Sea Stallion, based at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, on the island of Puerto Rico. Twice while recovering spent practice munitions out of the water, the pilot spotted a weird underwater object—what we now call an unidentified submerged object.
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In the first incident, the pilot saw a “dark mass” underwater as he and his team retrieved a flying practice drone. The pilot described the object as a “big” mass, “kinda circular,” and he was certain it wasn’t a submarine. In the pilot’s second sighting, a practice torpedo that the pilot was sent to recover was “sucked down” into the depths of the ocean in the presence of a similar underwater object. The torpedo was never seen again.
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Elsewhere in the interview, Fravor reveals that a 79-year-old woman contacted him after his sighting went public. The woman explained that her father, a naval officer, was at one time based at the naval station in San Francisco in the 1950s. When she was a child, her father showed her a telegram that stated unidentified submerged objects had been sighted going in and out of the water at a now-forgotten set of latitude and longitude coordinates. The woman’s father told her, “We get these all the time, and it’s always in the same area.”
These sightings are similar to Fravor’s own sighting. According to the retired Navy pilot, the only reason he had seen the now-infamous “Tic Tac” UFO was because it was hovering above a mysterious larger object that was sighted underwater. Fravor describes the object as cross-shaped and approximately the size of a Boeing 737 jetliner. He has further described the water above it as though it were “boiling” or “frothing,” and said the object disappeared after it caught his attention.
In 1970, biologist Ivan Sanderson published the book Invisible Residents. Sanderson, a noted student of unusual phenomena, devoted the book to sightings of what were later called Unidentified Submerged Objects, or USOs. USOs are defined as unknown craft that are sighted in the water, sighted rising up out of the water, or diving into the water. Sanderson catalogued scores of reports of USOs:
On the 19th of April, 1957, crew members aboard the Kitsukawa Maru, a Japanese fishing boat, spotted two metallic silvery objects descending from the sky into the sea. The objects, estimated to be ten meters long, were without wings of any kind. As the hit the water, they created a violent turbulence. The exact location was reported as 31° 15’ N and 143° 30’ E.
Sanderson also reports an incident that reportedly took place off the coast of Puerto Rico in 1963 during an anti-submarine warfare exercise:
The maneuvers were conducted off Puerto Rico in the Atlantic some 500 miles southeast of the continental United States. All reports seem to agree that there were five “small” naval vessels concerned, but in more than one account the aircraft carrier Wasp is stated to have been the command ship …
A sonar operator on one of the small vessels, otherwise listed as a destroyer, reported to his bridge that one of the submarines had broken formation and gone off in what appeared to be pursuit of some unknown object. This operator did not, of course, know if this was a “plant,” since the maneuvers they were engaged in were exercises designed to train personnel in detection of enemy craft … However, this operator’s report was not all within the limits of any such simulation. Trouble was that said subaqueous object was traveling at “over 150 knots!”
According to Sanderson, “no less than  craft,” including anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft, tracked the high-speed, unknown object. Furthermore:
It is said that technicians kept track of this object for four days, and that it maneuvered round about, and to depths of 27,000 feet.
USS Wasp was indeed an anti-submarine warfare carrier in 1963 and served in the Atlantic Fleet until its decommissioning in 1972. Unfortunately, Sanderson doesn’t provide any sourcing for the incident, nor is there any other information about it posted on the internet.
The National UFO Recording Center maintains a database of sightings reported to the NUFORC, both by email and hotline. There are many reports of UFO-type objects seen coming out of or going into the ocean.
After about 5 minutes, three softly glowing objects came into view – three uniform, nearly spherical objects, evenly spaced in a line parallel to the ship’s hull and hovering just above the water surface … They appeared to stay in one place while the ship moved past them. They were hovering, but didn’t disturb the water below them. Just as they went out of my sight, the left one (toward the bow) splashed down into the water and disappeared.
One report logged in April 2019 states that an object resembling a “small white boat” flew up out of the water near Imperial Beach, California, “at about  feet.” The object promptly “flew south at a very high rate of speed.”
Whatever USOs are—figments of the imagination, mechanical malfunctions, secret government craft, or even the work of extraterrestrials—there’s a long history of sightings. Fravor’s anonymous helicopter pilot is just the latest in a long line of mysteries.
Writer on Defense and Security issues, lives in San Francisco.