Oarfish carcass discovered near Catalina Island

And the finders are keepers. They are thrilled.

18-foot oarfish caught by Catalina marine science instructor.

A marine science instructor has made what’s being called the discovery of a lifetime: She found an 18-foot-long oarfish Sunday in Toyon Bay on Catalina Island.

While snorkeling, Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute discovered the obscure fish, which had evidently died of natural causes. When she reached the bottom of the bay, she spotted a silver creature with eyes the size of half-dollars.

Santana’s colleagues saw her struggling to move the dead animal and came to her aid, ultimately discovering that it would take 15 people to move the animal to the beach.

Mark Johnson, a longtime CIMI staffer, said in a statement that he’d yet to witness such a sight during his tenure at the institute.

“In 32 years here, I have never seen anything like this,” he said.

Nice. A sample of the specimen will be studied and it is hoped that that skeleton can be preserved and exhbited by the Institute which hosts about 15,000 students a year in school-organized trips and summer camps relating to marine biology and snorkeling.

Catalina Oarfish carcass

Catalina Oarfish carcass

The animals are not too uncommon but it is rare to find them because their habitat is the deep sea.

This post notes that the oarfish resembles the legendary sea serpent.

[A]n aura of mystery still shrouds the oarfish, but it’s nothing when compared with its reputation centuries ago.

“People always wondered if old-time sailors saw this unusual animal in the ocean and wondered if it was some kind of sea serpent,” Chace said.

“It used to scare people,” Santana added. “It is believed that oarfish is what the (sea serpent) stories were based off because of its long tapered body.”

Far from the ferocious monsters of legend, the oarfish has a that physiology suggests it is relatively harmless, Santana explained. It does not have a sharp, big jaw like many other ocean predators, but scientists simply do not know enough about it … yet.

The oarfish undulates like a snake, horizontally, while many sea serpent reports note up and down movement known from mammals. So while this is a strange looking critter, it can’t be the sole source of sea serpent legends.

We’ve had several stories about serpent like fish found. They always cause a stir. Here is a video of a live oarfish – a rare find indeed.

  8 comments for “Oarfish carcass discovered near Catalina Island

  1. Chris Howard
    October 15, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Holy schnikies! That suckers huge! How cool is that?

  2. Peebs
    October 15, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Impressive, what do they taste like?

    Before you think I’m being flippant (or flippernt!) I ask this of anything caught from the sea.

    I am genuinely interested, as another of my hobbies is trying unusual food.

  3. Chris Howard
    October 15, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    They taste like chicken. 😉

  4. Peebs
    October 15, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Thanks Chris. I should really have known!

  5. Graham
    October 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    Back in 1996 some Navy SEALS found a dead oarfish while training near Coronado.


    That photograph has since been sold to tourists in Thailand with claims that it was of a ‘Queen Naga’ captured by the United States during the tail end of the Vietnam War. (Check out the last paragraph of the article below.)


  6. neko
    October 15, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    Hi Peebs —

    “Although the larger species are considered game fish and are (to a minor extent) fished commercially, oarfish are rarely caught alive; their flesh is not well regarded due to its gelatinous consistency.” == Wikisushi.com

    JK. From the Wikipedia article on the oarfish, if you believe it. Sounds like you could purchase some. Maybe not the really big ones.

    Recently heard, according to “backstory” podcast historian, that Christopher Columbus was possibly the first person known to describe something tasting like chicken, a lizard.

    So, if true that’s two for him in the annals of western european history, neither of which involved him actually understanding the implications.

  7. Peebs
    October 16, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    Cheers for that Neko. I never stop learning here!

  8. October 16, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I have a very early childhood memory (circa 1939-1942) of seeing a ‘sea serpent’ off the Kent coast in England. Dozens of other people saw it at the same time and no one then suggested it was a hoax. I have often wondered what I saw. Have Oarfish ever been found in UK waters?

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