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"The seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake
You dream about going up there, but that is a big mistake."
The Little Mermaid, lyrics to "Under the Sea"

To the average person, most people would not consider much what was going underwater, despite it making up 70% of the world. Given how humanity cannot survive underwater without special equipment only developed recently, it does make a fair bit of sense.

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Yet, when people were finally able to go underwater, they discovered how breath-taking it all isnote .

Thanks to the endless potential of fiction along with the growing advancements in technology and science for underwater exploration, many creators have been awed at the abundance of life and mystery held beneath the waves. Beyond the strange and exotic-looking creatures is the fact that it remains unexplored, maintaining this sense of mystery under the waves.

Then there is the centuries of lore and mythology associated with the ocean since humanity first set out to sea. Besides the classic romance of sailors and explorers with the sea, humanity has always maintained fascination with what magical or monstrous beings lived underwater, a new world where humanity could not tread. This has been reflected in various folktales and stories in all sorts of human mythologies. Combine this with the potential discovery for ruins of ancient or modern human creations and you have an underwater world of awe. Awe-derwater if you will.

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Probably contains an Underwater City (usually Atlantis) inhabited by mermaids, Apparently Human Merfolk and or Fish People. For wildlife, you will find Sea Monsters, fish and dolphins, both playful and heroic.

For related underwater tropes, see: Water Is Air, This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman, Flying Seafood Special, Under the Sea. Subtrope of Scenery Porn. Contrast Atlantis Is Boring.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece with Fishman Island. It's visually impressive, being several massive bubbles, partially filled with water, coral reefs, and regular buildings within the branches of a massive phosphorescent underwater tree. It's constantly visited by string of pirates (being the only way across the Red Line without going through the marines and or the Calm Belt), slaver raids (fishmen are superhumanly strong, and mermaids are seen as incredibly beautiful), and a long running battle over human relations (join humans or screw humans). Indeed, it was a long-awaited journey there since the timeskip in One Piece and it did not disappoint.
  • Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea has an extensive underwater village and a significant portion of the plot going on there. While there's some Artistic License – Physics to make it more relatable for the viewers, there's plenty of wonder down there, and they usually don't forget about the additional dimension.

    Comic Books 
  • While it's true that comics writers often have trouble making Aquaman and Namor interesting (as mentioned in the trope Atlantis Is Boring), there have been notable aversions.
    • Peter David's run on Aquaman, is often lauded as an example, in which Aquaman became a badass with an extensive supporting cast, complicated cosmology, and lengthy story arc.
    • Aquaman as LITERALLY 'King of the Seas' makes for a potentially fascinating badass backstory character, too. Imagine if he has access to enough military power, for example, to limit or stop oceanic cargo transport, for example, or to interdict the movement of national navies.
    • Rick Veitch's 2003 run on Aquaman was pretty good, too. This was partially due to the work Peter David did over the previous decade and partially Veitch's addition of a sword-and-sorcery undertone (c'mon, he's a king named Arthur). Tad Williams amped the fantasy element Up to Eleven in his run in 2008.
  • Namor's Atlantis features plenty of underwater machines and strange sea life. While the political elements often repeat themselves (Namor keeps being elected king, abdicating for various reasons, doing superhero stuff on the surface, returning to Atlantis or a remnant made of his most loyal followers, rinse and repeat), it's still a classic part of Marvel's mythos and keeps being revisited. He is one of Marvel's oldest superheroes and his Byronic Hero elements maintain him a cult following. As of recently, he has also quarreled with other superstates (such as Black Panther and Wakanda as well as Doctor Doom and Latveria.)
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    Fanfic 
  • There is a scene in The Crimson Badger where Winokur, a river otter, gets to swim in the ocean for the first time. The author does a wonderful job making the underwater world interesting and colourful.

    Film — Animated 
  • Finding Nemo does a good job of creating a diverse underwater environment with plenty of exciting action scenes. In fact, during the production of the film, Pixar required plenty of people to go scuba-diving so they could fully capture life underwater. Needless to say, they succeeded beautifully.
  • The Little Mermaid franchise's prequels were able to maintain a fairly interesting underwater setting. While the first film took place on land a lot (it was kind of a given, since the story it was adapting was about a mermaid becoming human) - the sequels and spin-off TV series were far more focused on the underwater adventures.
  • During the lesson spent as a fish in Disney's The Sword in the Stone, Merlin comments that there are all different types of underwater environments, each with their own challenges. Though we never see any of them, knowing Merlin it's probably true.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman is the best-grossing film in the DC Extended Universe on the international market, with significant chunk of the movie taking place underwater in the kingdom of Atlantis.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs has several books centered around deep sea action. Exaggerated when the characters travel to the mostly aquatic planet Leera. There the scattered islands and lone continent are mostly dull, barren rock, while the sea is filled with bizarre, colorful lifeforms everywhere you look.
  • Inverted in Rupert Brooke's Heaven, which imagines Christianity from a fish's point of view, ending with "And in that Heaven of all they wish / There shall be no more land say fish."
  • H. P. Lovecraft was terrified of (among other things) the ocean, and ended up creating a mysterious, terrifying world where the seas held ancient secrets and monsters, providing inspiration for non-boring ocean-related stuff for years to come. So awesome in the Biblical sense of the word (meaning terrifying.)
  • Willard Price's Diving Adventure (part of a Values Dissonance rife series about teenage animal trappers) has the setting of an undersea town/experimental community and does make full use of its setting.
  • David Brin's Startide Rising is a fast-paced exciting book which takes place primarily in an alien ocean (it helps that the protagonists' ship is one primarily manned by sentient dolphins). Of course the other half of the book is about a space battle, but still. It works.
  • Slightly before Lovecraft, Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is (this being Jules Verne) hardly boring.
  • Starfish has this spectacularly: its deep-sea vent setting is stunning, with every excursion by its genetically-modified protagonists a brush with death, darkness-induced telepathy, undersea robots, and giant versions of "regular" vent creatures... which aren't nearly as dangerous as their land-based counterparts. Its sequel, while still having an interesting, land-based setting, isn't nearly as astounding. Of course, Starfish couldn't help but include this trope, what with the author being a marine biologist and all.
  • L. Frank Baum's children's novel The Sea Fairies deals with a young girl and her crusty seacaptain friend being temporarily transformed into the titular mermaids/mermen. They tour the queen's kingdom, meet all kinds of magical sea creatures, and end up captured by an evil sorcerer. This is actually the dominant plot of the book, so despite its scientific inaccuracy there's a lot of interesting things that happen.
  • Amphibian Man by Russian SF author Alexander Beliaev gives a breathtaking poetic account of undersea beauty as experienced by a young man with gills, which naturally force him to spend most of his life in the ocean. Beliaev, who was paralyzed and ill for much of his life, had nothing but his imagination to take him to incredible places, and he clearly put a lot of thought into a picture of the young man's underwater environment, a cavern that he furnishes with seashells, pearls, and various plant life.
    He placed the table in the middle of the grotto, the vases on the table, poured the earth into the vases, and planted the aquatic flowers. The earth, washed by the water, clouded for some time above the vases like smoke, but then the water cleared. Only the flowers, stirred by light ripples, swayed quietly, as if in a breeze.
  • One scene in the Nine Princes in Amber books sees the characters going into a Castlevania-style inverse version of their own castle, which goes even further than most inverse castles by being under water. They initially go with Walk, Don't Swim (and they can breathe, for some reason), but eventually one of the characters gets sick of a particularly long spiral stair and swims down the bottom.
    • Most of the time Rebma is on the placid side, however, and deliberately so as its ruler favors stability and usually is too busy trying to cope with the reflections of changes in Amber (which Rebma is both a literal and figurative reflection of) to do much that's noticeable on her own.
  • The trope is analysed to some extent in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Lucy observes some mermen on the sea floor and reflects that human concepts do not apply directly to the sea and some are inverted—for example, the safe, homely places are on the tops of 'mountains', nearest the surface, while heroes go to fight monsters in the dark, dangerous 'valleys' where the sea is deepest.
  • The Dark Life series takes place entirely underwater 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke. You'd never expect a novel about underwater whale herding to be exctiting, but then again, Clarke specializes in putting mundane ideas into interesting seetings and making them awesome.
  • Atlan boasts both a bizarre sea-girt jungle kingdom and a strange, colorful undersea path to said Lost World.
  • The Dirk Pitt Adventures: Many heart pounding action sequences happen below water as well as above. Justified in that the characters work for the National Underwater Marine Agency and are the nations foremost civilian underwater experts.
  • Everworld: The mayor of Atlantis is also a refugee from Earth, and spends his time fending off attempts by both Neptune and Poseidon (and presumably other sea gods of all religions) to conquer his city (it helps that gods of different pantheons hate each other).

    Live Action TV 
  • Gerry Anderson's Stingray (1964) has lots of interesting underwater environments and varieties of aquatic races, many of whom want to give our heroes a hard time.
  • Sea Hunt, which was quite popular in the '60's. Lloyd Bridges played sea diver Mike Nelson, and he took on a new dangerous assignment of one sort or another each week, encountering seafaring crooks, Soviet spies, a sunken ship carrying nerve gas, sharks, alligators, and even a fake sea monster.
  • Stargate Atlantis. The city of Atlantis is meant to be on the surface of the planet (which is mostly water) but can be submerged if necessary. The shields on the city keep it from flooding; should they fail, the city gets flooded, and everyone dies. Played straight with the ocean of the planet as it is mostly empty and boring (this is repeatedly noted by the expedition members.)

    Mythology 
  • Classical Mythology: In one version of a Greek creation myth where Zeus, Hades and Poseidon decide who gets dominion over what, Zeus goes first and chooses the sky, being so high and majestic, but Poseidon (knowing Zeus would take the empty sky) chooses the sea, which is full of life. Hades took what was left, the Underworld (that is filled with precious stones and metals and there is always room for one more).
  • Japanese Mythology: Being an island nation, stories of the sea are common in Japan, but most famous all revolve around Ryūgū-jō, the underwater palace and home to Ryūjin, the dragon god king of the seas. In fact, this was the source of inspiration for Fishman Island from One Piece and Dragon Palace from Okami.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Rifts tries to assure this with a number of Sourcebooks, notably "Rifts' Underseas" and "Coalition Navy". Of course, how well that is done is up to the players...
  • In Scion, there are two major aquatic environments listed: Atlantis and the Drowned Road. The former is the ruins of a Titan-worshipping civilization (worshippers still present) buried under Antarctica, and requires immense effort just to get there. The latter is the Titan of Water, and if you're in there, it should be entertaining by sheer virtue of taking the fight to the enemy.
  • Transhuman Space with the sourcebook Under Pressure, which details the oceans of Earth and of terraformed Mars, as well as the subsurface ocean of Europa.
  • Somewhat subverted in Planescape — the Elemental Plane of Water was actually one of the more hospitable planes (at least compared to most of the Inner Planes, or the Lower Planes), and was recommended as a setting for low-level adventurers.
  • Blue Planet focuses on a mostly water-covered planet named Poseidon that was discovered on the other side of a stable wormhole. Part of what makes the setting exciting is all the strange alien things lurking beneath the waves, but there's plenty of loving detail beyond that and the setting makes extensive use of real oceanography.

    Video Games 
  • The Forever Blue / Endless Ocean games, while not exactly brimming with excitement, do a fantastic job of conveying the diversity of the sea's life and environments.
    • However, there are a few levels that take place in sunken ruins implied to be similar to Atlantis, which are more boring than regular levels because you spend a lot of time swimming down long featureless corridors.
  • The Ecco the Dolphin series plays its setting and protagonist's species for all they're worth. The result? Lots of Scenery Porn and levels that require thinking in two or three dimensions.
  • Aquaria shows extreme variety in its environments, coupled with a diverse array of wildlife, both natural and fictitious.
  • Final Fantasy X has an added feature of three of your party being able to breathe underwater and there are several underwater places to go, complete with water-based fiends and boss battles.
  • The first few Kingdom Hearts games include an Atlantica level based on The Little Mermaid. Fans are pretty divided on the first one and its swimming mechanic, but most prefer it to the musical mini game in II. Chain of Memories simply had the characters walk around on the ocean floor unimpeded, which sort-of made sense as they were in a memory world rather than physically there.
  • X-COM: Terror from the Deep is partly aversion, partly straight playing. It's underwater, there are various runs on the sea bottom, but underwater physics are nonexistent, and weapons not so different from land weapons. The denizens of the sea bottom are Gillmen, the first or second "alien" species you will encounter in TFTD. More precisely, they are an Earthly species and have prostrated themselves before the Aliens in exchange for their miserable hides (and a slice of the surface world, once it's conquered).
    • TFTD was a cheap repainted version of X-COM: UFO Defense with the difficulty amped up. You would think that underwater, you would't be restricted to stumbling around the ocean floor ... but until you get the ultimate suit (equivalent to the original game's Flying Suit), your characters are stuck in two dimensions ... alien elevators and all. Apparently they cannot swim.
      • The last part is somewhat justified in that the soldiers are likely carrying a hundred pounds of metal in the form of armor, weapons and ammo.
  • BioShock: the city of Rapture is underwater but rife with crime, murder, crazy people... Of course, its urban art deco appearance sometimes makes you forget you're under the ocean.
  • Ocean class planets in the Master of Orion series work exactly like planets not entirely submerged in water.
    • Subverted in Master of Orion II, a race with Aquatic ability gain more benefit from ocean planets or those with "wet" environments other than Gaia (Tundra, Swamp, Terran). At no time do they ever exceed the food productivity or maximum population of Gaia worlds at similar levels of development.
  • PC game Civilization: Call to Power and its successor include this trope in the science fiction phase of the game. Once players can build submarines the ocean is revealed to have a huge variety of features such as volcanoes, rifts and giant squid; sea colonies have access to many more resources than land-based ones, and in addition to the variety of undersea units, players can engineer underwater tunnels to move land units quickly around on the sea bed. (O'Neil's proposed habitats never did make practical sense.)
  • Partly played straight, partly averted in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. While the sea only has a couple kinds of terrain, the same goes for the land. For most factions, the deep sea is useless; the Pirates, however, find it highly useful and productive.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth starts with Atlantis Is Boring, then subverts it in the Rising Tide expansion pack. Most factions can traverse in water, but it has little to offer, RT expands its role by making certain resources obtainable underwater, and colonies and other structures can be built on water. It also adds newer aquatic alien lifeforms.
  • Pretty much inverted in Pokémon, where (reflecting real life wildlife) there are more Water-types than any other type. They are also extremely diverse, as the Water-type has been paired with nearly every type in the game.
    • Note that this only applies to fishing; surfing and diving are both extremely monotonous.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: The Sea is one of the post-story environments that can be explored and its recent expansions have made it one of the best. A brutal challenge with penalties regarding obtaining wealth and items along with maintaining oxygen, you end up exploring the various areas while helping out the Sea Monkees. Then they updated it where you finally visit the mysterious city of the Mer-Kin and things quickly go Lovecraftian from there, resulting in fighting two Eldritch Abominations depending on which path and each dropping a piece of gear depending on your class. This means to get the full set, you'd need to fight each of the two six times, as each class before combining the pieces of gear with their counterpart to form a new uniform which unlocks one last boss to get the last piece of equipment to one of the strongest set. One of the best post-story areas to explore and without requiring special items or equipment that involve cash donations.
  • Spyro 2 had an entire level set underwater - half in an underwater cavern, half in a huge ocean city!
  • The seaQuest DSV GAME of all things. Now, if only the entire 2D portion wasn't That One Level after That One Level filled with mindbending button/mending puzzles. But until you're forced to do these mini-missions the game is quite fun. If only mode 7 had been implemented at the time... Then rather than deal with these you could have different 'scales' so when you use a different vehicle the scale zooms in. But anyway, the top-down 'overworld' is pretty good, and the first few non-Nintendo Hard 2D levels.
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden; despite being the first area, and thus the smallest, the water level feels more 'alive' and populated than the amphibian level. Possibly due to the feeling of being the first step into a true epic, and the numerous tutorial NPCs.
  • Archimedean Dynasty includes this by taking a heaping handful of the nautical tropes common in the space shooter genre (stealth by silence, minefields, escort missions, Ramming Always Works) and leveraging them for all their worth in their native Under the Sea environment. The end result was surprisingly awesome.
  • The Ocean Hunter thanks to the twitch-inducing gameplay.
  • Champions Online. One of the higher level zones is "Lemuria", set in an ocean trench. The waterbreathing Lemurians have suffered a political schism, and the 'bad guy' Lemurians have taken to worshipping Eldritch Abomination types called the Bleak Ones, and transformed into humanoid reptile/fish things, who use both freaky sci-fi subs and shark-shaped subs for travel faster than they can swim. Meanwhile the humanoid sharks of Doctor Destroyer have also set up shop, there's the radioactive undead crew of a Russian sub that sank, a ghost ship with ghost pirates (and a few robot pirates down there, too), lots of sea life both hostile and not really THAT hostile, myriad forms of plant life, et cetera. A power that summons wolves on dry land summons sharks, instead, and many other pet summons are similarly altered - robot drones have artificial fins, for example. However, this is weakened considerably by the unfortunate lag suffered in that zone, which leads many to avoid it. Sad, really, there's plenty of action down there.
    • Yet in a way it's played straight. Mechanically, it's just any other zone, except everything "flies".
  • Monster Hunter Tri: the ocean is full of beautiful marine life that wants to kill you.
    • There actually are underwater ruins in the game that you get to visit. They serve as the backdrop, armaments included, for the battle with the Final Boss, the Ceadeus. Special note must be taken in that said Final Boss is what brought said ruins underwater in the first place, and threatens to repeat this with Moga Village above.
  • In Dominions, while 2D Water is in effect, the oceans have special considerations and challenges; one of the bigger hurdles in the game for land-based species is developing the ability to operate in the water, and vice versa (except for Atlantis, which is truly amphibious, and a guide for the race refers to it as "a submarine" when it's fully geared up).
  • Vashj'ir, World of Warcraft's first fully underwater zone introduced in Cataclysm, is one of the most colorful zones in the game thanks to abundant use of coral reefs. It is divided in three subzones, roughly correlating to kelp forest, tropical reef and deep-sea. Overall, Vashj'ir at least subverts the most common signs of this trope. The zone is varied, has interesting races, a story that doesn't seem like it belonged above the water and was definitely created with swimming in mind. And yet, players still complained, making it one of the least favorite zones of Cataclysm — not because it was boring, but because 3D movement underwater was disorienting and too different from the rest of the game.
    • Plus the very first spell you get takes care of the breathing issues, and after a quest you get your very own seahorse mount.
    • Something about being able to swim over the entire zone if you so choose makes it feel less threatening to some players. True, you can fly over the land-based zones on your flying mount, but when you're underwater, you're always kind of flying. It seems like most humans have a tendency to think of sea level as "home", which is high above the action in the case of underwater gameplay.
    • It helps that one of the lead designers for the game is a former marine biologist.
  • Guild Wars 2. Though underwater areas are not as common as terrestrial ones, they're just as beautifully crafted as the rest of the game. Combat also changes appropriately when underwater; you use a different weapon while swimming, which has a different set of skills than what you're used to. There are Renown Heart quests and dynamic events that take place entirely underwater, and resources, scenic views and skill points can be collected just like anywhere else. You're also equipped with a breathing device right from the beginning, so you don't need to worry about the annoyance of drowning.
  • Ever17 is about a trip to an underwater amusement park, which by the way is named after Lemuria, gone wrong.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, compared to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 which barely cares about naval units, Red Alert 3 makes water travel easy, many land and air units are amphibious and naval units can travel in land. Plus certain buildings such as refinery's and power plants can be built on water.
  • In Jurassic Park: The Game, the marine exhibit is where a lot of the drama unfolds, and it includes an attempt to sneak past the fearsome Mosasaur.
  • The first expansion of Civilization: Beyond Earth, appropriately names Rising Tide. The ocean now provides new resources and the ability to harvest existing ones, aquatic cities and an expanded roster of ocean going craft, both for the Player and the native aliens.
  • The Legendary Starfy completely, taking place almost entirely underwater despite the title character being from the sky.
  • The Legend of Zelda actually makes very good use of underwater settings. The first 3D outing, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced diving and later walking and breathing underwater. Every 3D game after except The Wind Waker would use it (the ocean is an in-universe symbol of death, and the land of Hyrule trapped beneath the waves is suspended in an air bubble), and even Oracle Of Ages had essentially an entire other overworld under the ocean because you can transform into a merman.
  • Warframe has maps where the player can travel through the coral reefs of Uranus (no, we don't know how they got there) using their Archwing, a personal jetpack normally used for space travel. The underwater segments are strikingly detailed, and the players haven't leveled any complaints about the mode that Archwing combat didn't already have.
  • ABZÛ is a beautiful example of this. You play an anonymous individual going through beautiful and varies areas of the ocean, seeing various underwater fauna (including supposedly extinct ones) and even the ruins of a lost civilization. Furthermore, this is pretty much the Spiritual Successor to Journey (while not made by the same company, Abzu was conceived and created by that game's art director, Matt Nava, and scored by its composer, Austin Wintory.) You just take in the beautiful sights with no fears of drowning and trying to figure out the mystery of what you are exploring.
  • Poseidon: Master of Atlantis naturally seeks to use this (one of the main differences with the Greek civilization from Zeus: Master of Olympus is that athletics, philosophy and theater are replaced by science and learning), though of course it all takes place before Atlantis goes under (there exists a species of Fish Men with Underwater Cities, but these are never seen or visited, though they can be conquered with land troops... somehow). The campaigns are an Alternate History in which Atlanteans conquer most of the Mediterranean before finally being destroyed.
  • Ōkami loves showing off its beautiful art style of the game and it is taken Up to Eleven in the Dragon Palace, inspired by the Japanese mythos as noted above. It includes many emotional moments and the boss fight leading up from the events is against a malicious doppelganger.
  • Subnautica basically runs on this trope. The player is stranded in the middle of a shallow reef on a planet mostly covered in ocean, and spends 90% of the game underwater. To survive and find a way home, the player must explore deeper and deeper in beautiful—and increasingly deadly—underwater environments.

    Webcomics 

     Web Original 
  • In Hector's World, Silicon Deep is a generally-happy underwater town with lots of computers and an arcade.

    Western Animation 
  • Sharky And George were the crime busters of the sea, and they were great. This being a cartoon, they had underwater equivalents of most overland things and even an aeroplane (a whale that everyone sat inside).
  • Oddly enough, Jabberjaw has one of the best-developed "colonized ocean floor" settings you'll ever see. The show still gets no respect! No Respect!
  • Samurai Jack: In "Jack Under the Sea", while it's somewhat played with in that the Triseraquins complain that since their city was sunk they haven't received any visitors, as they seem to be the only people under the sea, the underwater realm itself is lushly portrayed as beautiful and full of strange life (there's a rather nice sequence during Jack's trip devoted to showing just how much weird stuff there is down there), and there's certainly plenty going on to keep Jack busy in Oceanus itself.
  • Although we never actually see it, Rick and Morty went to Atlantis in one episode. They had so much fun with "mermaid puss", they wanna go there again!
  • The Deep is about the Nekton family, who live on a submarine and devote their lives to exploring wonders of the deep.

    Real Life 
  • Any oceanographer would tell you that Real Life oceans are far from boring.

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