Can the appearance of strange fish warn humans of an impending earthquake? It seems that, in this case at least, superstition can be based on fact.
Here is a sad account of how the Japanese ‘Fish from the Sea God’s Palace’ provided a warning that was unheeded. The article was written on March 4th and the earthquake struck on March 11th. Please note the final sentence.
From the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph:
Oarfish omen spells earthquake disaster for Japan
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo 7:00AM GMT 04 Mar 2010
The appearance of the fish follows Saturday’s destructive 8.8 magnitude
earthquake in Chile and the January 12 tremors in Haiti, which claimed an
estimated 200,000 lives.
A quake with a magnitude of 6.4 has also struck southern Taiwan.
This rash of tectonic movements around the Pacific “Rim of Fire” is
heightening concern that Japan – the most earthquake-prone country in the
world – is next in line for a major earthquake.
Those concerns have been stoked by the unexplained appearance of a fish that
is known traditionally as the Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace.
The giant oarfish can grow up to five metres in length and is usually to be
found at depths of 1,000 metres and very rarely above 200 metres from the
surface. Long and slender with a dorsal fin the length of its body, the
oarfish resembles a snake.
In recent weeks, 10 specimens have been found either washed ashore or in
fishing nets off Ishikawa Prefecture, half-a-dozen have been caught in nets
off Toyama Prefecture and others have been reported in Kyoto, Shimane and
Nagasaki prefectures, all on the northern coast.
According to traditional Japanese lore, the fish rise to the surface and
beach themselves to warn of an impending earthquake – and there are
scientific theories that bottom-dwelling fish may very well be susceptible
to movements in seismic fault lines and act in uncharacteristic ways in
advance of an earthquake – but experts here are placing more faith in their
constant high-tech monitoring of the tectonic plates beneath the surface.
“In ancient times Japanese people believed that fish warned of coming
earthquakes,” Hiroshi Tajihi, deputy director of the Kobe Earthquake Centre,
told the Daily Telegraph.
“But these are just old superstitions and there is no scientific
relationship between these sightings and an earthquake,” he said.