Rare oarfish, considered a bad omen, seen in the wild for the first time

Seeing one of these is considered a very bad omenThe rare oarfish has only been spotted before as it lay dead or dying, washed up on a beach or floating near the surface of the ocean, but now scientists have captured one on video in its natural habitat for the very first time.

This fish is named after its resemblance to a long, thin oar, or possibly because it was thought that it propelled itself through the water using its long fins. They can grow up to 17 metres long, and its appearance has likely spawned quite a few legends of sea serpents over the years. In fact, coincidental appearances of these fish washed up on the beaches before earthquakes or tsunamis have led the Japanese people to consider seeing one as a very bad omen.

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This particular fish was spotted by an ROV (Remote-Operated Vehicle) operated by the SERPENT Project, which stands for Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology. It was one of five different encounters filmed in the Gulf of Mexico, between 2008 and 2011.

They spotted the fish at a depth of 60 metres below the surface and filmed it for about 10 minutes (if you skip to about 3:40 in the video, you get the best views).

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The five observations of these oarfish happened in January and July of 2008, February 2009 and August 2011, none of which happened before any major earthquakes. So it seems that the bad omen requires seeing one washed up on shore. Maybe seeing one alive works as a good omen instead.

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