A weekend of snorkeling off the coast of California turned into the discovery of a giant eel-like carcass of an oarfish.

Jamie Santana, an instructor with Catalina Island Marina Institute, found the 18-foot oarfish  while she was snorkeling around the island. As soon as she saw it she knew she had to get it out of the water, since it was already dead.

Image: Al Jazeera America

“She said, ‘I have to drag this thing out of here or nobody will believe me,'” said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI’s sail training ship.

Santana dragged the creature through the water for roughly 75 feet before other staff members got to her to help. More than 15 people ended up being needed to get it to shore.

Oarfish are rarely seen because they typically dive to depths of 3,000 feet and live in temperate and tropical waters. They remain mostly unstudied, so finding one – especially one this massive – is incredibly rare.

Because of this and their eel-like appearance, they are believed to be the source of the sea serpent legends.

“We’ve never seen a fish this big,” said Waddington. “The last oarfish we saw was 3 feet long.”

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