14-Foot Oarfish Found in California, Second in One Week

A 14-foot-long oarfish washed up on a beach in Oceanside, Calif., on Friday afternoon, a startling sight not just because of the size of the fish, but also because it was the second time in a week that one of these rarely seen fish washed ashore in Southern California, according to the Associated Press.

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The previous Sunday, dozens of people dragged the body of a dead, 18-foot-long oarfish from the shallow water to the shore on Catalina Island.

Humans rarely see oarfish because the creatures normally swim in the ocean at depths of up to 3,000 feet, rarely rising or surfacing where human eyes can spot them.

  • Mark Bussey/AP Photo

  • 14-Foot Oarfish Found in California, Second in One Week

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The oarfish is the largest bony fish known. Although the beached 14-foot and 18-foot oarfish found in California seem large, they are relatively small compared to full-grown oarfish, which can grow to be 50 feet long.

Some believe the large and snake-like oarfish is the source of old legends about sea serpents. Oarfish figure into Japanese legend, too, in a way that is making some people nervous following last week's incidents. Ancient Japanese folklore says that the appearance of oarfish is a sign of an impending earthquake. Not long before the devastating Japanese earthquake in 2011, some 20 oarfish had washed up on Japanese beaches.

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