A beachgoer in New Zealand was baffled upon discovering an exotic sea creature languishing in the surf, saying it felt like a shark but looked like “a dolphin thing.”
Isaac Williams shot video of the serpent-like fish and marine science lecturer and researcher Dr. Bridie Allan of the University of Otago posted it on Twitter.
A video of the live oarfish found today at Aramoana beach, Dunedin. 🎥 Isaac Williams pic.twitter.com/7t22e7I2O0
— Bridie Allan (@_seachange) April 25, 2022
“What?” Williams can be heard saying in the video. “Whoa…It feels like a shark…What?…Look at this, it looks like a dolphin thing. Look how long it is. Wonder how it tastes…And it’s alive. I don’t know what the [heck] it is.”
The encounter occurred last week on a beach in Aramoana, a small coastal settlement north of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand.
Allan noticed Williams investigating something in the surf and went to check it out.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was an oarfish,” Allan told Stuff.
“It was alive but very clearly distressed…It was very weakly alive.”
The beachgoers attempted to get the oarfish swimming again, but it was futile, as it kept floating to the surface.
“It wouldn’t have survived, there is no way,” Allan told Stuff. “I’ve seen enough dead fish to know it was on its last legs.”
Oarfish inhabit waters 660 to 3,300 feet so they are rarely seen.
This oarfish was nearly 12-feet long, or roughly the same size as previous oarfish that have washed ashore in the area.
One of the first specimens of oarfish was collected from another Otago beach in 1883 and sent to London’s Natural History Museum; it was 12½ feet. An 11-foot specimen (a skeleton) washed ashore in 1887 and is preserved at Otago Museum. In 1960, a 12-foot oarfish was found at Allan Beach in Dunedin, and in 2015 a 9½-foot oarfish was discovered in Aramoana.
These are small compared to oarfish spotted elsewhere. The largest is said to have measured 26-feet long. In 1996, U.S. Navy SEALS held up a 23-foot long oarfish.
So, what happened to the oarfish that washed ashore in New Zealand last week? Allan stated on Twitter that Williams eventually took it home to smoke it.