Malaysian Sea Monster

In an email with the subject "Giant Fish - Caught in Malaysia? Apparently...," Joshua Penley asks: "What the HELL is this?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

This sounds like a question for Big Gary, the museum's Deputy Curator in Charge of Fish. I would simply note that the guys in the photos don't look particularly Malaysian, making it a case of "real picture, fake caption."

The bottom picture reminds me of a picture of a (fake looking) sea monster, taken in 1906 on the beach at Ballard, Washington and now part of the Library of Congress's collection:

Animals Photos

Posted on Thu May 15, 2008


This is an oar fish, google it.
Posted by Sam E.  on  Thu May 15, 2008  at  04:35 PM
Yeah if you do an image search for it you'll find lots of similar pictures. Odd looking critter, though.

Posted by Charybdis  on  Thu May 15, 2008  at  05:05 PM
Are they "good" in aquariums???
Posted by Christopher  on  Thu May 15, 2008  at  06:24 PM
Who cares about aquariums? We need recipes!
(my favorite fish are: Baked, broiled, fried, in a stew, poached...) 😊
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Thu May 15, 2008  at  06:56 PM
Yeah that's an oar fish. One of the pics is actually in the Wiki article
Posted by Lauren  on  Thu May 15, 2008  at  07:14 PM
The 1906 one is just a tree isn't it?
Posted by mr royale  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  01:43 AM
There's a similar picture on I want one.
Posted by Alex  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  05:45 AM
I agree, it's an oarfish, probably Regalecus glesne. This creature is native to tropical oceans around the world, but is not seen too often because it lives rather deep in the water. It is a rather amazing fish. It has about 400 dorsal fin rays, which is probably the most of any fish I've heard of. It apparently likes to swim in a vertical position (perfectly perpendicular to the ocean surface and bottom), keeping its body still except for the undulating dorsal fin. As large as it is, it is said to live mainly on plankton.

I've never seen one in an aquarium, but I suppose you could keep one in a marine setup if you had a very, very, very large tank. Recipes are not my department, but most fish are edible, so why not?
Posted by Big Gary, MoHDCiCoF  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  10:01 AM
I'm not so sure about the 1906 picture from Ballard, Washington, but I'm inclined to agree with mr royale that it's a slightly modified tree trunk.
Posted by Big Gary, MoHDCiCoF  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  10:03 AM
Those men look very tiny. If you ask me, they are probably just garden gnomes...and that fish is not very big at all. 😉
Posted by Maegan  on  Fri May 16, 2008  at  06:39 PM
So what's with the blurry arms on the two blue-helmeted guys towards the right? Are we seeing through the fish? Or is that just markings on the fish that happen to line up with where their arms could be?

The 1906 photo--what Big Gary said--it looks like they're holding a log with a head and tail added.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  on  Sun May 18, 2008  at  12:12 AM
Joe, I think it's just a coincidence that variations in the shininess of the fish's side occur in front of where those two men's arms might be. One of my sources says that the oarfish is scaleless but has its skin covered with guanine (a shiny metallic-looking pigment), which is easily rubbed off when the fish is handled. So probably someone did carry the fish with arms around that part of the body, but they don't have their arms there in the moment of the photo.
Posted by Big Gary, MoHDCiCoF  on  Sun May 18, 2008  at  11:21 AM
I live near a creek, which runs well after rains, but will slow to a depth of a foot or less during dryer spells... we get these carp showing up in little eddy pools, and you see their dorsal spines, or spikes or whatever the hell they are, popping up out of the water first... they get to be about three feet long at most, and will get trapped in eddy pools if the water drops too much... how the hell they get in there in the first place is beyond me... they look like a cross between a catfish and a goldfish, all orange and white and red... weird... I know if I saw that oarfish flappin around in the creek, I'd play dead and hope for the best
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon May 19, 2008  at  10:56 AM
That makes sense, B.G.

It must not be a very heavy fish for its size because only three of those guys seem to be holding it up.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  on  Tue May 20, 2008  at  12:03 AM
Well, at least now we know what the Loch Ness Monster is.
Posted by Dana  on  Sun May 25, 2008  at  04:01 PM
dana that's not funny nessie isn't an oarfish
Posted by keegman  on  Sun Jan 11, 2009  at  04:53 PM
Oarfish, definitely.

Malaysia?? I've seen other SE Asian sites stealing these pix, saying these are nagas, serpent-gods.

I'm convinced the real source of the very real pictures is this site:
Posted by fishbait  on  Wed Aug 26, 2009  at  12:08 AM
I'm a four years too late, but the black and white sea monster is a hoax, here's a better look:
Posted by Kat Landreth  on  Mon Oct 01, 2012  at  03:58 PM
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