Scientists with the SERPENT project were privy to an incredible sight: a living giant oarfish swimming in its native habitat. According to a recently published study, the researchers managed to observe the near-legendary fish five times between 2008 and 2011, the most recent encounter being recorded on video.

Oarfish are true mysteries of the deep, living thousands of feet below the surface of the water and reportedly growing up to 56 feet long. Until recently, there has not been an occasion where a healthy giant oarfish was seen alive at that depth. The only contact humans had with these extraordinary animals were dead or dying specimens that had washed ashore after storms.

The oarfish has a thin, ribbon-like body that makes it seem larger than it really is. Still, the fish can weigh upwards of several hundred pounds and is the largest of all existing bony fish. While its smaller cousins are sometimes considered sport fish and even fished commercially, the giant oarfish lives too deep to be caught. Some speculate that the giant oarfish is the origin of “sea-serpent” legends. Not much is known about giant oarfish but scientists believe the creature has a diet of krill, small fish and squids. The species was once considered rare due to its few surface sightings, but is now believed to be relatively common.

A video taken in August of 2011 by a remote-controlled submersible finally managed to catch one on tape. The video can be seen below:

The SERPENT Project is a global, multilateral effort to explore the Earth’s deep seas and underwater environments.

Image screenshot of video by Craig McClain on YouTube

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