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Giant oarfish found off Catalina Island

A group of snorkelers ran into an 18-foot-long oarfish while swimming in the waters of Toyon Bay.
By Veronica Linares Contact the Author   |   Updated Oct. 16, 2013 at 9:42 AM

(UPI) -- A snorkeling instructor discovered a dead 18-foot oarfish off the coast of Catalina Island on Sunday.

"It just amazed me," said Jeff Chace, director of the Catalina Island Marine Institute, adding that it took about 15 people to carry the leviathan onto shore.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime discovery," he said.

The instructor was snorkeling in 15 to 20 feet of water in Tony Bay when she stumbled upon the carcass after seeing a "half-dollar sized eye starring at her from the sandy bottom," Chace said.

Chace said it is unclear how the oarfish died because there were no marks in it. Samples have been sent out to researchers at UC Santa Barbara and other places in an effort to learn more about the fish and how it ended up in Toyon Bay. Oarfish are rarely found dead or alive.

Because he has nowhere to store it, Chace said he'll bury the animal in about 3 feet of sand. Once it decomposes in a couple of months he plans to dig up the remains and mount the skeleton.

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