LOS ANGELES (TheBlaze/AP) — A marine scientist snorkeling off the coast of Southern California made a rare find over the weekend, discovering a dead -- but intact -- 18-foot-long oarfish. Several times already this year similar odd, serpent-like creatures have been spotted at sea or decomposing on the shore, amazing spectators.
Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute needed more than 15 helpers to drag the giant sea creature with eyes the size of half dollars to shore on Sunday.
This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute taken on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013 shows the crew of sailing school vessel Tole Mour and Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish that was found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif. (AP/Catalina Island Marine Institute )
Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime.
"We've never seen a fish this big," said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI's sail training ship. "The last oarfish we saw was three feet long."
Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied, according to CIMI.
For scientists, the oarfish discovery is a prime opportunity to study the rare animal. (Image source: Associated Press video screenshot)
The obscure fish apparently died of natural causes. Tissue samples and video footage were sent to be studied by biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Watch this footage of the fish courtesy of the Associated Press:
Santana spotted something shimmering about 30 feet deep while snorkeling during a staff trip in Toyon Bay at Santa Catalina Island, about two dozen miles from the mainland.
"She said, 'I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me,'" Waddington said.
After she dragged the carcass by the tail for more than 75 feet, staffers waded in and helped her bring it to shore.
The carcass was on display Tuesday for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students studying at CIMI. It will be buried in the sand until it decomposes and then its skeleton will be reconstituted for display, Waddington said.
The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is a deep-water pelagic fish — the longest bony fish in the world, according to CIMI.
They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.
Here's KTLA-TV's report about the rare discovery and what researchers hope to do with the carcass: