Fantasy or reality?

Even hundreds of years ago, the serpentine shape and bright red dorsal fin of the oarfish, which resembles a horse's mane, were the stuff of legends for seafarers, giving rise to tales of sea snakes and sea monsters. Oarfish live in temperate and tropical oceans at depths of up to 1,000 meters. But they are rarely observed in nature. Only a few have ever been sighted and there is consequently only very sparse visual evidence available. This made making a replica oarfish for the 1:1 Giants of the Seas exhibit in the OZEANEUM a particular challenge for the modelers.

No wonder chief taxidermist Uwe Beese even had to travel to Gothenburg to study in great detail a specimen that had died. The color and pattern of oarfish can vary from animal to animal so the photograph of this one specific animal found dead ultimately served as a template for the coloring of the large model fish. The anatomical preparators and modelers worked for eight months on the over 100-kilogram exhibit. The artists painted the bluish-silvery spots and every single one of the 550,000 tubercules by hand at precisely the right locations on the artificial fish skin. To more closely approximate the interesting color of the animal, the artists chose different shades for most of the skin spots. This resulted in a deceptively lifelike surface structure on which the five characteristic longitudinal muscle strands can be detected under the skin of the 7.5-meter fish.

The model was mounted on the ceiling of the museum’s glass foyer using rope and six-millimeter thick stainless steel cables. It show visitors the way to the Giants of the Seas exhibit, which was designed together with Greenpeace, and is easily visible from other locations as well, including the 34-meter long escalator in the foyer.


  • Title: Oarfish reach a length of more than seven meters.
  • Location: Ozeaneum Stralsund, Stiftung Deutsches Meeresmuseum
  • Rights: photo: Johannes-Maria Schlorke

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