Around the world, all sorts of folklore surround the giant oarfish. According to various legends and rumors, oarfish are some sort of fish-based warning system of the natural world, at least based on the amount of dead oarfish reported to have washed up on shores shortly before earthquakes occurred. While there is little scientific evidence for the phenomenon, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence of oarfish warning us of earthquakes with their reeking corpses. This week, two mysterious creatures of the deep washed up and naturally prompted widespread fears of impending natural disasters. How have those fears panned out so far?
In the case of the oarfish that turned up in Peru, they turned out to be just a few thousand miles too far south. According to Peruvian Twitter users, a massive oarfish was found floating dead in the waters of Tacna, Peru near the Chilean border on February 15. In the days following, southern Mexico experienced a series of destructive earthquakes ranging from magnitude 4.2 to 5.9. Naturally, lots of people on the internet believe the two events are related. Do they have a point?
Who knows. Meanwhile, villagers in Negros Oriental, Philippines are fearing the worst after a rare megamouth shark washed up on their shores. The Daily Star reports that the shark’s reeking 15-foot-long (4.5m) carcass was found by fishermen this week, causing a minor panic in the village. Apparently, the villagers believe dead shark is an omen of an oncoming apocalypse or cataclysm. One scared Negros Oriental resident, Paulino Ocana, said the village is making preparations for an impending catastrophe in light of the discovery of the shark:
This is very bad luck. There is a sense that something very bad is coming. A big disaster could be coming and we're preparing for it.
While the belief in the mysterious earthquake-predicting oarfish phenomenon is widespread, scientists aren’t so convinced. Louisiana State University ichthyologist Prosanta Chakrabarty told National Geographic that when one looks at the sheer numbers of oarfish discoveries and earthquakes, it becomes clear there isn’t exactly a correlation between the two events. Still, other believe that oarfish could inhabit volcanic tunnels deep under the bottom of the sea which put them in harm’s way whenever seismic activity occurs and triggers chemical changes in volcanic sea water. Will science ever be able to prove or disprove a link between oarfish and seismic activity? Hopefully the continents don’t fall back into the seas in a catastrophic global seismic event before we find out.