Snorkeler discovers 18-foot ‘sea monster’ off California coast

BY newsdesk  October 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM EST

This is considered the first video of an oarfish in the wild, recorded in 2011. Video by Mako Technologies/Hornbeck Offshore Services

Jasmine Santana was snorkeling by Santa Catalina Island when she saw a scaly monstrosity in the shallow waters. The ‘monstrosity’ was an 18-foot-long oarfish, a creature thought to have inspired sailors’ tales of sea monsters. According to a CBS News report, as she swum around the creature, she realized, “I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me.” Santana, a marine instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, tried to bring the oarfish to shore herself, but the creature was too large. Other instructors had to pitch in, and it eventually took 15 people to bring the immense sea creature to shore.

Eighteen feet isn’t especially long for an oarfish. They can grow to more than 50 feet, it’s the largest bony fish in the world. Also called the ribbon fish, not much is known about them. They dive down as far as 3,000 feet, making them extremely difficult to study. But in 2011, what scientists believe to be the first-ever video of an oarfish in the wild was released, showing oarfish being propelled through the water by its single dorsal fin.

This oarfish apparently died of natural causes, and samples of its tissue were sent to the University of California, Santa Barbara for study. The carcass was put on display for a day so that middle-schoolers studying at the Catalina Island Marine Institute could examine the unusual creature. It has since been buried in the sand, but the Institute hopes to exhume the skeleton and use it as a teaching tool.

Report by KTLA 5 News

H/T Marc Sollinger