Photos of Oarfish Coming Ashore in the Sea of Cortez

Photos of the Oarfish we were lucky enough to see alive before it swam aggressively ashore. But first, here is the story of our sighting. The Oarfish is said to live deep in the ocean of tropical waters coming to the surface only when sick or dying. Very few humans have seen them alive. Regalecus glesne, might be mistaken for a sea monster. This creature is a strange eel-like animal that has been measured at up to twenty-five feet in length but some report them near fifty feet long. The oarfish is bright silver in color and has a high, bright red crest of spikes running down the back of it's snake-like body.

On May 7, 1996 we anchored in the beautiful cove on the West side of Isla San Francisco in the southern Sea of Cortez. We spent six days in this lovely spot. On one day while there we took a stroll ashore with Ingo & Espie Jeve and Gordon & Miriam Zittel. We walked east, over the salt pans to the eastern cove. While we stood at the shore we observed an odd creature swimming in circles in shallow water about 100' off-shore. It's red tassles and long red fin led to the question in all of our minds, "What is it?" Could it be a sea serpent? We watched as it made two or three large circles (approx 30feet in diameter) while swimming on the surface. Ingo, Gordon and I (Len Cole) waded in to about ankle level in the water. Suddenly and with great vigor, the creature ceased it’s circling and swam rapidly toward us. It was quite a startling movement. One of us had picked up a smooth rock and the rock was used to crush the its head as it approached. It died instantly without any further movement. Curious, we dragged it ashore and eventually opened its body with a knife. Its mouth was a straining arrangement, its organs were all packed into a cavity less that a foot in length on the underside of its body. The contents of its stomach appeared to be krill. The tissue of its body appeared to be similar to cartilage. It was white, almost translucent. The skin was smooth, bluish silver.

The Oarfish charged us with amazing speed as we waded into the water. Note the bow waves created by its energy. We were virtually alone on a semi-tropical island and this creature charged at our feet. This photo was taken a fraction of a second before it was killed. Of course we all felt very badly that it was killed. Its charge had been unexpected and caused concern for our safety.





Here we see the damaged head while still in the water.





The bright red projections gave rise to the idea of a "sea serpent" or sea dragon in my mind as it circled just offshore. I knew that sea serpents don't exist, but . . . what else could it be?










This photo is not properly oriented but it shows the entire length of the fish, which measured ten and one half feet.

Click Here Link to amazing video clip of another sighting. At the bottom of that page click on the video clip. It is amazing. The fish swims upright in a vertical orientation. The story of the divers that took the video is fascinating.

Return to our Mexican Album Page

Return to top of this page