Eerie blackwater dive image shows paper nautilus floating on stick after volcanic eruption

A Paper Nautilus drifts on a piece of ocean debris at night, surrounded by heavy sediment. (Image credit: Jialing Cai, Ocean Photographer of the Year)

Winner: Jialing Cai, Philippines

A beautiful image of a paper nautilus captured in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption has won the 2023 Ocean Photographer of the Year award. The image, by 25-year-old photographer Jialing Cai, was taken during a blackwater dive in the Philippines. 

The paper nautilus, the species of which is unknown, was floating on a piece of debris in the ocean after the Taal Volcano erupted. "The water column filled with particles from stirred-up sediment," Cai said in a statement. 

"Navigating through the low visibility and dense fog during a blackwater dive, I found this female paper nautilus taking a ride on a drifting wooden stick. When I pressed the shutter, the particles reflected my light. The scene felt unusually serene following the natural disaster and reminds me of a fairy tale set in a snowy night."

The competition winners were announced on Sept. 14. 

Second place: Andrei Savin, Philippines

A crab sits in the center of a sea anemone as it sways in ocean current. (Image credit: Andrei Savin, Ocean Photographer of the Year)

Andrei Savin's second place work showcases a crab within the medusa of a sea anemone.

Third place: Alvaro Herrero López-Beltrán, Mexico

A whale struggles on, its flukes severely damaged as a result of continued entanglement. (Image credit: Alvaro Herrero López-Beltrán, Ocean Photographer of the Year)

A whale tries to swim for the water's surface, but it is held back due to entanglement on a stake and fishing line in this haunting third-place piece by Alvaro Herrero López-Beltrán of Mexico.

The Ocean photographer of the year competition is produced by Oceanographic Magazine, in partnership with Blancpain, Arksen and Tourism Western Australia.

Annie Corinne Shaink
Production Editor

Annie is the production editor at Live Science. She has a background in writing and digital media and studied English and Anthropology at Fordham University in New York City.