Eco tourists from Shedd Adventures and Un-Cruise Adventures were in Baja, Mexico, to snorkel, kayak, and view whales, dolphins, sea lions, manta rays, and other marine life. Viewing bizarre-looking sea creatures on the beach was not part of the itinerary.
Boy, were they in for a big surprise.
As the tourists prepared to go kayaking off Isla San Francisco, located north of La Paz, two rare oarfish measuring about 15 feet were spotted swimming along the shoreline, seemingly trying to beach themselves.
Usually when we hear about oarfish sightings, the long, slender, odd-looking fish are dead, such as the 18-foot monster discovered off Catalina Island, California, last fall and the 15-footer that washed ashore in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, two years ago.
But these two oarfish were very much alive. Un-Cruise Adventures captured the rare video, which was then posted by Shedd Aquarium. The underwater footage is especially compelling:
Seeing one oarfish swimming alive is rare enough, but seeing two?
"It was absolutely fascinating," Tim Binder, a marine biologist who led the Shedd Adventures trip, told GrindTV Outdoor. "First, to be able to see one alive was just amazing, but the fact that two of them were there and we were able to observe them for several minutes was really quite a spectacular opportunity.
"To be in that moment of time in an inhabited place and have that happen, the odds have got to be pretty spectacular."
The first-ever footage of a living oarfish in the wild was reportedly taken in deep waters in 2011 by scientists using a remotely operated vehicle, though there was a report of another deep-sea oarfish video from 2008.
While not an overall first, this video of two oarfish might be the first footage of living oarfish in near-shore waters.
"It's very rare," Binder said. "I don't know of any records of people seeing two come ashore, although they've been reported in pairs. But I don't know if anybody has seen them live like this."
Oarfish are said to be able to reach 50-plus feet in length and inhabit depths of 1,500 to 3,000 feet. When the deep-water creatures venture into shallow water, as they did in this case, it usually means they are injured or dying.
Sure enough, these two oarfish wound up beaching themselves and dying, but not before giving a group of tourists a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that lasted 20 to 30 minutes, even though most were unaware of what they were looking at.
The naturalists, on the other hand, were definitely aware, and were very much blown away by the sighting.
"The thing's such a beautiful animal, but such a strange creature at the same time," Binder said.
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