Watch Monster 20ft Oarfish Dubbed a Bad Omen Get Reeled in by Fishermen

A gargantuan oarfish has been fished out of the ocean off the coast of Chile, with crowds of onlookers gathering to catch a glimpse of the nearly 20-foot-long beast.

A video of the fishermen hoisting the giant fish out of their boat in the harbor of Arica using a crane went viral on TikTok, amassing 10 million views.

Oarfish are the longest bony fish in the world, only beaten in size when it comes to fish by larger cartilaginous sharks such as basking sharks and whale sharks. They can grow up to a staggering 26 feet long, but unconfirmed catches have reported the fish measuring over 50, meaning that the monster being displayed on the crane could potentially be only half the size of the biggest specimens out in the oceans.

Rarely seen at the surface, it is thought that ancient myths of sea serpents originated from sporadic sightings by sailors of old. Unlike their sea serpent alter egos, oarfish are nearly totally harmless to humans: they have small jaws, no teeth, and mostly feed by swimming around with their mouths open, collecting plankton.

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A screenshot from the video showing the oarfish being lifted out of the boat. Ruben Luis Gonzalez Sanchez via Storyful

Due to their scarcity, not much is known about oarfish behavior, reproduction or feeding habits. They are thought to usually inhabit the ocean range between 660 feet and 3300 feet deep, and will often die if they come up to the surface. The few times that oarfish have been observed in the wild, divers have witnessed it swimming in amiiform fashion, meaning that its dorsal fin ripples like a wave to propel it forwards, while its long body stays rigid. They have also been spotted swimming vertically, with their head facing the surface and tails towards the ocean floor. The reason for this behavior is unknown.

The gathering of a crowd to witness this mysterious creature being lifted from the boat, while driven by its surprising size, may also be associated with the fact that oarfish are superstitiously associated with oncoming disasters.

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Stock image of an oarfish. A 20-foot oarfish was reeled in off the coast of Chile. iStock / Getty Images Plus

This myth supposedly began in Japan, with an oarfish sighting being an omen of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a tsunami occurring soon. Theories have suggested that this is because movements of tectonic plates somehow cause the oarfish to ascend to the surface. However, there is no evidence indicating that the presence of an oarfish is associated with some kind of seismic event, with one study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America going so far as to compare newspaper reports, aquarium records and academic documents dating back to 1928 with historic sightings of oarfish.

"This Japanese folklore is deemed to be a superstition attributed to the illusory correlation between the two events." said the authors in the 2019 paper.