The giant oarfish discovered by a snorkeler off the California coast is being called “the discovery of a lifetime” by staffers from the Catalina Island Marine Institute. “Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute needed more than 15 helpers to drag the giant sea creature to shore on Sunday. Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times on Oct. 15, 2013.
When Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute was snorkeling in about 20 feet of water during a staff trip in Toyon Bay at Santa Catalina Island on Sunday, she couldn’t believe her eyes when she first saw the silvery carcass of an 18-foot serpent-like oarfish.
After dragging the carcass of the giant oarfish for more than 70 feet, other staffers waded into the water to help bring the giant oarfish on shore.
"She said, 'I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me',” said Captain Waddington who is the senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI's sail training ship.
"We've never seen a fish this big. The last oarfish we saw was three feet long. They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.”
Giant oarfish are large, greatly elongated fish -- the largest bony fish in the world --with highly compressed bodies which “row” themselves through the water with their pelvic fins. Giant oarfish can reach a maximum length of 56 feet and are found in all temperate to tropical oceans, but they are hardly ever seen. In fact, the Latin name of the giant oarfish, Regalecidae, means “royal.”
Even though oarfish are game fish, they are rarely fished commercially because their gelatinous-like flesh is not desirable for consumption.
As such, being considered as one of the “royals” of the ocean, giant oarfish have become more a part of legends and myths than a reality. A few rare encounters with divers and accidental catches have supplied very little information about the giant oarfish who live in solitary at ocean depths of about 3,300 feet.
Understandably, the discovery of the 18-foot giant oarfish by Jasmine Santana is regarded to be a “once-in-a-lifetime discovery” by scientists.
Jeff Chace, the program director of the Catalina Island Marine Institute, said it took about 15 people on Sunday to drag the serpent-like "leviathan" onto shore after it was discovered dead in about 20 feet of water. "It just amazed me.”
The giant oarfish apparently died of natural causes and tissue samples and video footage of the “sea serpent” have been sent to biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In the meantime, members of the Catalina Island Marine Institute are facing the challenge of what to do with the “once-in-a-lifetime discovery.”
On Tuesday, the giant oarfish was on display for students studying at CIMI. One option scientists are considering is burying the giant oarfish in about three feet of sand in order for it to decompose over a couple of months, and then to display the preserved skeleton of the giant oarfish to share it with the world.