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SYFY WIRE Sea Monsters

Call the Jaegers, a giant sea monster just emerged from the Pacific

Monsters like the beach, too.

By Cassidy Ward
Exclusive Preview: Pacific Rim Uprising - Cadets to Save the World

These days, we mostly think of the oceans as vacation destinations, but for most of human history they were a source of mystery and awe. They are so large that they might as well be infinite to any creature without the ability to build seafaring vessels. And once fledgling human explorers built their first long-range boats, they found that while the oceans might be passable, they are filled with monsters. The human legacy of inventing sea monsters continues in Pacific Rim: Uprising, the second installment in the Pacific Rim series. It stars John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost (Idiris Elba), taking his father’s place in the war against kaiju rising from an interdimensional portal in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea monsters are bad enough when you’re expecting them and have the time to build a fleet of combat robots, but they are extra icky when they seemingly come out of nowhere. Just ask marine science professor Jasmine Santana. She was out for a spring snorkel in the waters off Southern California when she came face to face with a creature out of legend.

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After the initial blast of adrenaline wore off, Santana realized that it wasn’t a monster at all, and it wasn’t trying to harm her. The creature in question was a dead oarfish. Later analysis suggested the animal died of natural causes and its corpse floated up to the surface to frighten unsuspecting beachgoers.

Bank's Oarfish, circa 1850.

What is an oarfish?

Oarfish are a migratory species, following their preferred food source. They inhabit every oceanic ecosystem on the planet, with the exception of polar regions. They have one of the weirdest body plans on Earth. It is the longest bony fish on the planet, growing their silver blue bodies up to 26 feet (8 meters) in length. A single crimson dorsal fin runs the length of the body, providing the primary means of underwater locomotion. Oarfish also have almost laughable pectoral fins which appear to be mostly ornamental. Finally, two long pelvic fins trail beneath the body like the oars of a canoe, which is where the animal gets its name.

While giant oarfish are found in almost every ocean on Earth, they’re not exactly easy to find. They’re not fans of the spotlight and prefer to hang out in the mesopelagic zone a kilometer beneath the ocean surface where only dim sunlight ever reaches. Considering their unusual body shape, talent for staying hidden in the depths, and bizarre undulating swimming technique, some historians have suggested oarfish may be responsible for historical sightings of sea serpents. It is quite literally a sea monster, in every sense of the word.

Fortunately, Santana wasn’t in any danger and rather than swim for her life, she set to work pulling the animal out of the water. Ultimately, 15 other beachgoers helped Santana pull 18 feet of pure decaying terror from the water. Tissue samples were collected and sent along with video footage to biologists at UC Santa Barbara. The monster might be dead, but its story will continue a little longer in the laboratory, and we’ll think about it every time we close our eyes.

If sea monsters are real, then we think giant battle robots should be too! Check out Pacific Rim: Uprising, available from Universal Pictures.