It sounds like something out of a horror story: Jasmine Santana was snorkeling off the coast of Southern California’s Catalina Island when she spotted a half-dollar sized eye staring up at her.
It wasn’t a Halloween prank, though, but the body of a giant oarfish resting on the sandy bottom in about 20 feet of water. Instead of panicking at the sight of the sea creature, Santana called in the troops. After all, she is a marine science instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. Even as such, she had probably never seen anything like this 18-foot oarfish before. The elusive sea creatures live thousands of feet deep in the ocean and are rarely seen alive or dead.
“It just amazed me,” said Jeff Chace, director of the Catalina Island Marine Institute, speaking to the LA Times, adding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery.
It took 15 people to lug the giant oarfish out of the ocean, but for an oarfish, 18 feet is nothing. The creatures are the longest bony fish in the world, known to reach 56 feet in length. The oarfish is also known as a ribbon fish, or sometimes the king of herrings due its impressive size, which also makes it the most likely basis for stories about sea serpents.
The rare fish apparently died of natural causes.