Rare 18-foot fish found off coast of California

Rare 18-foot fish found off coast of California

BIG FISH: An 18-foot long Oarfish was found off the coast of California. Photo: Reuters

By Tim Gaynor

(Reuters) – A California marine instructor’s leisurely weekend snorkel turned into the discovery of a lifetime when she found the carcass of a massive, eel-like creature of a species thought to have inspired legends of giant sea serpents.

Catalina Island Marine Institute instructor Jasmine Santana spotted the 18-foot oarfish, which is as thick as a man’s torso, while snorkeling in clear waters off the island’s coast on Sunday afternoon, the institute said.

The creatures are found in all temperate to tropical waters, but because they dive to depths of 3,000 feet, they are rarely seen and remain largely unstudied. Little is known about their behavior, the nonprofit educational institute said.

“Jasmine Santana was shocked to see (a) half-dollar sized eye staring at her from the sandy bottom,” the institute said in a statement. “Her first reaction was to approach with caution, until she realized that it was dead.”

Oarfish have a pug face, a crest running the length of their bodies and a skeleton of bone rather than cartilage common to fish species like sharks. They can grow up to a length of 56 feet. Because of their strange appearance, they are believed to have inspired legends of giant sea serpents.

It took a group of 15 adults to pull the fish’s massive carcass up the beach to a better viewing area, the institute said. Its longest serving employee, Mark Johnson, could not believe his eyes. “In 32 years here,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this!”

The body of the fish appeared almost perfectly intact. The institute sent tissue samples and video footage to a University of California at Santa Barbara fish expert, and is awaiting a final determination on the species.

A spokesman for Guided Discoveries, the educational nonprofit that operates programs on Catalina Island, said the sea creature’s skeleton will likely be put on display for visitors.

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

‘Rambo’ is coming to the small screen


"Rambo: New Blood" will be executive produced by the "Rocky" star, who will also appear in the series.

in Entertainment

George Lucas to new ‘Star Wars’ film: I’m your divorced father


"Star Wars" creator George Lucas, who was not involved in making the long-awaited new film, "The Force Awakens," said he is as ambivalent about seeing the movie as a divorced father would be about attending his child's wedding.

in National, World

U.S. deploying special force to boost fight against Islamic State


A specialized expeditionary targeting force will help Iraq put additional pressure on Islamic State and be positioned to conduct operations into Syria.

in Entertainment, Viral Videos

Sleeping Santa makes Christmas pics a snap


Santa Claus won't be stopped by a sleeping baby boy. He'll improvise!

in National, Sports

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber to argue for new trial

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in an undated FBI handout photo

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court on Tuesday to seek a new trial for their client, who was sentenced to death in June for the 2013 bomb attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.