Spotting a live oarfish is always newsworthy,since these elusive fish rarely leave deep waters unless they are in distress or dying,and even then the number of confirmed sightings have been few and far between. But this spring,in the warm and shallow waters of the Sea of Cortez,not far from the coast of Cabo San Lucas,Mexico,onlookers captured two of these impressive creatures on camera while kayaking.
“The extremely rare footage was captured by a group from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium while on an ecotourism trip in southern Baja California,” writes the Huffington Post. “While the Smithsonian estimates that the two oarfish in the video are around 15 feet long,other oarfish have been known to reach 55 feet in length and weigh up to 600 pounds.”
The trip was co-sponsored by Un-Cruise Adventures and video of the exceptional encounter was later posted on YouTube. Unfortunately,research biologist Milton Love from the Marine Science Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara revealed that the sighting is almost a certain indicator that the fish are dying,since they rarely if ever come so close to the surface or the shoreline unless distressed.
“As far as is known,all of the ones that somehow get close to shore wind up dying,” Love told NBC News via an email interview. “Why they wind up near shore is unknown,but likely at least sometimes the fish get carried into these turbulent waters by unexpected currents.”
Their elusive nature means that scientists know relatively little about their habits,causing any sighting to bring a sense of excitement to researchers and marine enthusiasts alike. Oarfish have a prehistoric and bony appearance and regularly reach an average of at least 36 feet in length. Characterized by a shiny,silver colored body and bright red crest atop their heads,oarfish are found throughout the world’s tropical and temperate ocean waters and live most of their lives at depths of up to 3,000 feet.
“It was one of the most stunningly beautiful fish I’ve ever seen,” shared Tim Binder,a vice president at Shedd Aquarium,in an interview with National Geographic. “They had an undulating way of swimming; it was very graceful.”
Scientists were first able to capture an oarfish on film in its natural environment in 2008,and the deepest natural sighting to date occurred in the Gulf of Mexico at around 1,500 feet. Interestingly,historians and researchers alike believe that ancient sightings of oarfish are likely responsible for many stories of sea serpents and other such mythical creatures,thanks in part to their graceful movements and iridescent bluish-silver skin.
Of course,the region’s plentiful wildlife – both offshore and on land – is but one of Cabo’s many attractions,which also include unbeatable luxury,world-class golf,water sports,fine dining and shopping,traditional cultural events and much more.
Have you ever seen a rare or exceptionally large ocean dwelling creature up close? If so,share your experiences in the comments section below!