June 19, 2013 – The very rare oarfish has been captured alive on high-quality video in its natural habitat for the first time in history!
The oarfish's body and fins, which can grow up to 17 metres (55 feet), are very long and thin. It has inspired several sea monster stories since it was first described in 1772.
Until now oarfish had only ever been seen washed up on beaches dead or dying, which made it very hard for scientists to learn a lot about them. "Oarfish are very much a mid-water to deep-water species," said Karla Heidelberg, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California's Wrigley Marine Science Center. "They're almost never seen in [shallow] waters."
The video was captured by scientists at the GulfSERPENT Project with a remotely operated video (ROV) when they came across an oarfish accidentally in August 2011. "We weren't looking for oarfish," explained Mark Benfield, a professor at Louisiana State University who is also the leader of GulfSERPENT. "This was just sheer luck. We happened to be in the right place at the right time and we were able to spend some time with this oarfish."
It is one of five videos that were taken in the Gulf of Mexico between 2008 and 2011. The version below is simply the most popular version because it is the highest-quality video taken over those three years.
By following the fish for 10 minutes Benfield and his team members learned a lot about the strange creature: it swims with a linear propeller, and it can usually be found 500 metres (1,640 feet) below the ocean's surface.
Benfield hopes that his team will be able to learn more about the deep sea with help from the ROVs. "The deep sea is home to so many organisms we seldom see, and the more chances we get to get out there with the ROVs, the more we will learn."