Divers discover giant oarfish off coast of Taiwan, seen as symbol of impending disaster

ByABC7.com staff KABC logo
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Divers discover giant oarfish off northern coast of Taiwan
The creature, over six feet long, is known as a "messenger from the sea god's palace."

Divers made an amazing discovery in the waters off the northeast coast of Taiwan: an enormous deep sea oarfish.

Video taken in late June shows the creature, over six feet long, dotted with what appeared to be giant bite marks.

Oarfish are deep-dwelling species, making their homes in the mesopelagic zone 200 to 1,000 meters below the ocean's surface, so sightings are rare.

In Japanese folklore, the oarfish is known as a "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace" and has gained a reputation as a doomsday harbinger of sorts, according to National Geographic.

Local legend claims the oarfish appears just before natural disasters like tsunamis or earthquakes. In fact, six oarfish were spotted days before a deadly 2017 earthquake in southern Philippines, NatGeo reported.

But science says this legend doesn't hold water, experts say.

"It's hard to imagine what sort of phenomenon would occur before an earthquake that would cause these oarfish to leave the [mesopelagic zone] to move towards shore and strand," Mark Benfield, an oceanographer and ecologist at Louisiana State University, told NatGeo.

Oarfish don't live near the ocean floor where deep-sea seismic activity takes place, and if such a theory were true, the oarfish wouldn't be the only species sighted before an earthquake.

According to the Catalina Island Marine Institute, oarfish can grow to more than 50 feet, making them the longest bony fish in the world.

They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.