In a mesmerizing episode, scuba divers found themselves in the presence of an exceptionally rare spectacle – a colossal oarfish, believed to foretell seismic events, off the shores of Taiwan. This magnanimous marine creature, adorned with glistening silver scales, was eerily suspended in an upright posture near Ruifang District, Taipei. Intriguingly, it bore several conspicuous punctures on its body, suspected to be the aftermath of an evasive maneuver against a shark’s attack.
The audacious divers couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the oarfish, colloquially known as the ‘earthquake fish,’ which responded with a subtle flinch upon contact. Awe-stricken, they beheld an entity measuring no less than 8 feet, endowed with bulging, round eyes that seemed to hold enigmatic secrets.
Wang Cheng-Ru, the proficient diving instructor who seized this extraordinary encounter on camera, exclaimed, “It was a unique experience, for I had never beheld such a wonder in the flesh. The telltale signs of the earthquake fish were unmistakable. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if the punctures foreshadowed a foreboding event.” An air of caution surrounded the sighting, as the oarfish’s proximity to the water’s surface suggested a weakening state, perhaps the aftermath of its harrowing skirmish.
Oarfish, known to attain lengths of up to 26 feet, have even been rumored to stretch up to an astonishing 50 feet, although such reports remain unconfirmed. Folklore weaves a compelling narrative, attributing oarfish sightings to premonitions of impending natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes.
However, the scientific validity of this correlation remains elusive. In their natural habitat, these elusive beings thrive at depths ranging from 650 to 3,300 feet. Nevertheless, on rare occasions, they venture closer to the surface, granting a fortunate few a glimpse of their mystique.
The waters in which they flourish are characterized by immense depths, making the transition to shallow, turbulent currents perilous for the oarfish. In July 2022, a colossal 20-foot oarfish was salvaged off the Chilean coast, raising anxiety about a potential quake, which, fortunately, didn’t come to pass. These ethereal creatures traverse the non-Arctic waters worldwide, featuring a scaleless physique shimmering with silvery guanine. The Guinness World Records lauds them as the longest bony fish, with accounts from the past speaking of a gargantuan oarfish estimated at 50 feet in New Jersey during 1963 and a colossal 600-pound specimen captured in Maine in 1885.
Their taxonomic classification identifies them as Regalecus glesne, a name earned by their elongated and highly compressed form, as documented by the Florida Museum of Natural History. Now, the question lingers – are oarfish dangerous? Though encountering live oarfish is rare, those who do encounter them face little peril.
What Mythology Says?
Steeped in Japanese folklore, oarfish sightings assume the role of omens portending impending catastrophes. Known as “ryugu no tsukai,” signifying the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace,” they were believed to be emissaries of the sea god Ryūjin. Legend narrates their emergence from the sea god’s domain to warn humanity of forthcoming earthquakes. While the oarfish’s appearances were indeed linked to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, scientific minds remain skeptical of this purported connection.
Intriguingly enigmatic, the oarfish remains an envoi of both awe and trepidation, captivating our imagination as we delve into the secrets held by the fathomless depths of our planet’s oceans.