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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/21/2013 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Legend says oarfish predict major quakes, were seen in Japan a year before 2011 quake.

A rash of recent oarfish sightings in California could portend a disaster for the Pacific Rim state as traditional folklore and anecdotal evidence suggests.

Do oarfish at the surface portend disaster? Their presence isn't normal.

Do oarfish at the surface portend disaster? Their presence isn't normal.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/21/2013 (5 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Oarfish, earthquake, prediction, Japan, folklore, California


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Oarfish are denizens of the deep and are rarely seen at the surface, or on the beach. However, within the past few weeks, two oarfish have washed up on California shores.

In Japan, there is a traditional correlation between oarfish and earthquakes that dates back for centuries. Traditional Japanese folklore says that oarfish beach themselves as a warning to the people before an earthquake. The normally elusive fish, which can be up to five meters in length, are said to be messengers from the palace of the Sea God.

Although scientists have not properly studied the matter, there does appear to be an anecdotal correlation between oarfish sightings and major earthquakes. Most recently, in the year before the massive March 11, 2011 earthquake in Fukushima Prefecture that took some 18,000 lives, Japanese fishermen reported a rash of oarfish sightings. These reports were made as early as March, 2010, following a major 8.8 quake in Chile.

A possible scientific explanation may be that deep-sea fish, such as oarfish, are more sensitive to seismic shifts and stress, and somehow respond to the tectonic pressure that builds before an earthquake by coming to the surface.

Does this mean the clock is ticking for Californians? It is still too early to tell. Two sightings, no matter how close together or rare, do not make for a verifiable trend that can serve as a reliable warning. Even if the beachings do correlate with a quake, it is still impossible to predict just when and where the quake will strike. That a major quake will someday occur in California is a foregone conclusion.

This 18 foot long oarfish washed ashore on Oct. 13.

This 18 foot long oarfish washed ashore on Oct. 13.


To be clear, the only evidence then is traditional Japanese folklore, which in a scientific sense isn't evidence at all. However, not all folklore is nonsense either.

Last week, it was revealed that the many Yeti sightings in the Himalayas could be based on the sightings of an uncatalogued bear species wandering the area. The DNA evidence, if it is to be believed, suggests  that people in the region are not necessarily hallucinating or hoaxing when they report they are seeing something.

The sensitivity of certain animals to seismic shifts has also been reported since ancient times, however scientists are still yet to verify a link between bizarre animal behavior and earthquakes. Much of the evidence is thought to be the result of confirmation bias and not actual evidence of a pending quake.

Still, it will be interesting to watch the beaches of the California coast and wait to see if any more messengers of the deep arrive on our shores. If they do, and a major earthquake follows within the next year, then scientists will have some deep diving of their own to do.

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