18-foot-long sea creature found off Calif. coast

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This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute taken on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013 shows the crew of sailing school vessel Tole Mour and Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish that was found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif. A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish. (AP Photo/Catalina Island Marine Institute)

This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute taken on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013 shows the crew of sailing school vessel Tole Mour and Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish that was found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif. A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish. (AP Photo/Catalina Island Marine Institute)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted something out of a fantasy novel: the silvery carcass of an 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish.

Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute needed more than 15 helpers to drag the giant sea creature with eyes the size of half dollars to shore on Sunday.

Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime.

“We’ve never seen a fish this big,” said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI’s sail training ship. “The last oarfish we saw was three feet long.”

Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied, according to CIMI.

The obscure fish apparently died of natural causes. Tissue samples and video footage were sent to be studied by biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Santana spotted something shimmering about 30 feet deep while snorkeling during a staff trip in Toyon Bay at Santa Catalina Island, about two dozen miles from the mainland.

“She said, ‘I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me,'” Waddington said.

After she dragged the carcass by the tail for more than 75 feet, staffers waded in and helped her bring it to shore.

The carcass was on display Tuesday for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students studying at CIMI. It will be buried in the sand until it decomposes and then its skeleton will be reconstituted for display, Waddington said.

The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is a deep-water pelagic fish — the longest bony fish in the world, according to CIMI.

They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.

The Catalina Island Marine Institute, aka Guided Discoveries, strives to make a difference in the lives of children through unique opportunities of discovery. Founded in 1978 by Ross and Kristi Turner with help from long time board members Steve Garrett and Jerry Tambe, Guided Discoveries has grown into an organization that serves over 45,000 children annually.

Guided Discoveries has developed and operates a variety of outdoor education programs and summer camps. Guided Discoveries is a California not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization. Programs that have been developed and operated by Guided Discoveries include:

• Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) at Toyon Bay, Cherry Cove and Fox Landing
• Astrocamp, located at an elevation of 5,000′ in Idyllwild, California, in the mountains above Palm Springs.
• CIMI Tall Ship Expeditions aboard SSV TOLE MOUR, the largest sailing school vessel on the west coast.

All of Guided Discoveries’ programs emphasize hands-on programs that encourage the children to do the science. Through the use of “toys” and unique educational settings, the students or campers are connected to the experience. This connection leads to personal discoveries, which is the learning process. The programs also help California schools meet the state educational standards and provide students with programs that just cannot be duplicated in the traditional classroom.

Guided Discoveries’ entrepreneurial spirit has developed many unique programs that have taught over 500,000 students since 1978. The program’s focus on science education, critical thinking skills, environmental issues and personal development has had a lasting impact on many of these students. Some have even discovered their future from attendance at the programs.

One of the lasting legacies of Guided Discoveries is the faculty. Many young college graduates have developed hands-on teaching skills while at the programs. There are hundreds of Guided Discoveries faculty alumni teaching in schools throughout the west. Many of the former faculty can also be found in major aquariums, national sanctuaries, science centers and museums throughout the country. The growth and development of Guided Discoveries is a direct result of the energy, enthusiasm and contributions of the faculty over the years.

Guided Discoveries’ dedication to children and the learning process will not tolerate the status quo. The culture of the company is to constantly evolve through the development of new activities, classes and programs and to always strive to provide quality service in all aspects of the experience. Outside the box thinking has made Guided Discoveries a leader in outdoor education and summer camps in the country.

Learn more at http://www.cimi.org/home.html

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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