What began as a simple snorkel off the coast of Southern California last weekend ended with the discovery of an 18-foot oarfish by a marine science instructor.
If you haven't heard of the oarfish, you're not alone. The giant deep-sea creature remains little known to the science world as well as people outside it.
So imagine the shock of Jasmine Santana, who found the 18-foot-long, silvery fish with reddish fins and eyes the size of a half-dollar staring at her ...
Realizing it was dead, she snatched the fish's tail from the ocean floor (in 15 feet of water), and using low tide and buoyancy to her advantage, powered up to shore.
After a 15-minute swim hauling its 400-pound carcass, she needed help from 14 people to get the fish out of the water at Toyon Bay, California.
"I was first a little scared," said Santana, who has been working for Catalina Island Marine Institute since January, in an interview after the fact.
"But when I realized it was an oarfish, I knew it was harmless."
"I was really amazed. It was like seeing something in a dream," said Mark Waddington, the senior captain of CIMI's sailing school vessel the Tole Mour.
"It's the first time I ever witnessed an oarfish this big."
"Oarfish are found in all temperate to tropical waters, but are rarely seen, dead or alive," CIMI, a non-profit marine education group, said in a release.
"It is believed that oarfish dive over 3,000 feet deep, which leaves them largely unstudied ... little is known about their behavior or population."
Waddington said it remains unclear why the oarfish was found in shallow water so close to shore this time, but it appeared to have died naturally.
The oarfish's carcass is still being preserved in ice, while CIMI has been sending some of its tissues and other samples to other marine scientists.