The giant oarfish is the longest bony fish in the world – reaching, according to some reports, as much as 56 feet from tip to tail, although recorded lengths are somewhat more modest. Its size and its snake-like shape have led to suggestions that it may have been the source of at least some legends of sea serpents.
In Europe, it has been called the "king of herrings," perhaps because it would sometimes be sighted near herring shoals, which some fishermen believed it guided. In Japan, the coincident appearances of oarfish that have been washed ashore before earthquakes and tsunamis have led to the fish being regarded as a bad omen.
Sea Monsters Real and Imagined: Photos
Almost all human encounters with oarfish have been ones in which the fish are dead or drying – washed onto the beach or swimming in a disoriented manner near to shore. The reason for that, simply, is that giant oarfish tend to inhabit deeper waters where human beings rarely venture.
But scientists with the appropriately-named SERPENT project (Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology) – a collaboration between marine researchers and the oil-and-gas industry, in which the latter provides the former with resources such as remote operated vehicles (ROVs) – have now recorded not one, not two, but five videos of the giant oarfish in its natural environment.