Charles Fort – wherever you are – this one is for you. The past week gave us a festival of classic Fortean phenomena: fish rained from the sky in Malta, green snow covered the ground in Siberia, and a biblical plague of locusts is heading to Egypt. What’s happening? Is the apocalypse now?
Let’s start in Malta, where one of the best pictures of the event was taken from inside a car and shows a plate-sized fish on the windshield. (See it and other pictures and video of the fish rain here.) Another has a man reaching up to catch another fish with his bare hand before it reaches the ground – a feat worthy of a tryout with the Yankees. Most of the media reports from Xemxija, a Maltese suburb on the western coast of St. Paul’s Bay on the Mediterranean island show the cause of the flying soon-to-be-frying fish – huge waves and gale-force winds blowing at a record-breaking 101 kph (63 mph or almost Force 11) that punished the area with falling trees and flooded streets and then asked for forgiveness with a gift of free fish dinners. Weather is typically the cause of fish rains but the sheer size of those falling on Xemxija made it a Fortean event.
There are many places around the world where locals will say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change”. But colors? Welcome to Siberia, where just last week a deadly black snow fell on three cities (coal generator accidents and pollution were blamed). This week, a prettier but equally mysterious and toxic green snow (pictures here) covered parts of the Russian city of Pervouralsk on the Chusovaya River in the Ural Mountains. When there’s non-white snow, a first inclination is to see if it tastes like fruit – lime in this case – but that’s usually a mistake as kids at a pre-school in Pervouralsk found out when instead of a mouthful of candy they ended up with “a cough and their skin turned red, with rashes on their faces" according to one eyewitness report. A better idea is to look for a nearby manufacturing facility and sure enough, the snow gets greener as you get closer to the JSC "Russian Chrome 1915" plant. Plant officials deny any responsibility, saying there’s been no recent accidents, but it was deemed responsible for a similar green stream event in 2016 which was caused by waste in a storage well that dated back at least 30 years to the Soviet era. It’s happened often enough that Pervouralsk kids don’t need a copy of Fort’s “The Book of the Damned” or a Zappa song to remind them not to eat the green snow.
Onward to Egypt, where any strange event is first checked against the biblical story of Moses before becoming Fortean. In Egypt, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning that massive swarms of desert locusts – “the world’s most dangerous migratory pest” – have finished their decimative dining in Sudan and Eritrea and are moving up the Red Sea to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Heavy fall rains in those areas have allowed the locusts to breed twice and two generations of them are looking to be fed before taking time off for summer breeding. Eat, sex, repeat. Sound like any other bothersome creatures you know? The desert locusts are worse.
“But following a large rainfall they can quickly multiply, eventually forming hopper bands or swarms of adults, composed of billions of individual locusts. A desert locust adult can consume its own weight (roughly 2 grams) in food in a day. The added difficulty is they’re normally in the desert, so they’re eating the vegetation there. Once they get into rain-fed crops on the edge of the desert, grown by poor farmers, they’re eating an entire livelihood, and then they move into the country and affect national food supplies.”
It’s effectively a total annihilation of crops, says the UN's locust expert, Keith Cressman. Would that constitute a biblical plague or a Fortean event? While there are many who would look at this as godly punishment for evil governments and religious oppression, even Charles Fort would agree that the real cause is the damned climate change. You can spend billions to kill the locusts and poison the environment, but that won’t stop the real plague.
Fish rain … green snow … locust plague. Tired of the Armageddon? Wait a minute … it’ll change.