While snorkeling off the coast of Southern California, Jasmine Santana spotted something shimmering about 30 feet under the water. Santana, a marine science instructor from the Catalina Island Marine Institute, dove down to find the carcass of an 18-foot (5-meter) long oarfish lying beneath the water. She managed to drag it by the tail for more than 75 feet before 15 colleagues helped her finally bring the massive fish to shore.
Staffers at the Institute say it’s the discovery of a lifetime — the last oarfish they discovered was only three feet long. Oarfish normally dive about 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, so these deep sea creatures are rarely sighted and largely unstudied by marine scientists. Because oarfish can grow up to 56 feet, scientists believe they are likely responsible for legends of sea serpents throughout human history.
Santana’s oarfish was displayed on ice Tuesday at CIMI for students to study, but will now be buried in the sand until it decomposes. Eventually, its skeleton will be reconstituted for display at the Institute.