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Divers Encounter Rare "Doomsday" Oarfish Near Taiwan

"Doomsday" oarfish could be an omen... but probably not.

By Cassidy Ward

People have been predicting disaster for as long as there have been people, and most of the time they're wrong. Which might be why we tend to shrug people off when they say the worst is to come. Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow (streaming now on Peacock) is a case study in this sort of behavior, resulting in the near extinction of our species.

Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a paleoclimatologist studying ice core samples for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovers evidence of a coming superstorm, which will plunge the Earth into a world-ending ice age. Unfortunately, world decision makers don't heed his warning, and Jake Gyllenhaal almost dies as a result. Maybe they just didn't get the right kind of warning.

Oarfish: Harbinger of Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Scientists are constantly working on new early warning systems for every natural disaster imaginable, but there's one method they may not have considered: looking for oarfish.

RELATED: Call the Jaegers, A Giant Sea Monster Just Emerged from the Pacific

Oarfish are rare sights because they typically hang out between 200 meters (650 feet) and 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) below the surface. They're also pretty weird looking, with long, slender bodies and large, protruding eyes. They float almost motionless, perched vertically like a cobra readying to strike, in the water column. That bizarre set of qualities is probably why sightings in the past have been tied to disastrous events.

Bank's Oarfish, circa 1850.

The myth received a boost of support by a number of sightings which preceded the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Fukushima, Japan. After more than 20,000 people died, many of the survivors looked back to the oarfish sightings as a warning, unheeded.

Recently, a team of scuba divers encountered a floating oarfish in the waters off the coast of the Ruifang District in Taipei, Taiwain. In the photos, posted by @chengruwang on Instagram, the animal is seen floating serenely, with two circular injuries, possibly from a fight with a predator.

Estimates of its length put it at about two meters (6.5 feet), which is actually quite small for the species. Individual animals have been observed between 7 and 11 meters (24 and 36 feet) in length, and it's estimated they could reach a top length of 15 meters (50 feet).

While the oarfish may be looked upon as a warning of disaster to come, the divers seemed delighted to see so rare a sight. Fingers crossed there's really nothing to worry about.

Catch The Day After Tomorrowstreaming now on Peacock!