Mar 13, 2020 I Paul Seaburn

Rare Oarfish Washes Ashore in Philippines — Sign of Earthquake, Tsunami or Worse?

One of the mythical harbingers of underwater earthquakes that may actually have some scientific merit is the appearance and ultimate demise of rare giant oarfish, usually dead or dying, on beaches or near shorelines that are prone to earthquakes or tsunamis. The world’s largest bonefish generally stays deep and is sensitive to subtle underwater changes and possibly methane or carbon monoxide leaks, which could precede earthquakes. However, these mythical messengers of Ryūō, the dragon god of the sea, have been seen before other natural disasters and residents of Surigao del Norte, Philippines, are wondering if the one washed up earlier this month is warning of an earthquake, nuclear pollution from the Fukushima disaster or perhaps even the coronavirus.

“The 14ft long creature was seen be (sic) concerned locals on the sand in Surigao del Norte, the Philippines, on March 3. Locals took the oarfish from the Punta Beach in the town of Tinago, Malimono, to be treated but it later died due to weakness.”

The Philippines is a country of islands, making it both dependent on and controlled by the Pacific waters surrounding them. Underwater earthquakes and their accompanying tsunamis are common occurrences but science has not yet figured out a way to predict them so those close to the waters (which is nearly everyone in the country) can prepare for them. As such, mythical harbingers are still held in high regard by many. The giant oarfish is one of them, as evidenced by the efforts made to save the one on Punta Beach. (See the video here.)

Giant Oarfish
The giant oarfish can reach 56 feet in length

Measuring up to 56 feet in length, the world’s largest bonefish is thought to be the real creature behind many ancient sea monster tales by Pacific sailors, both indigenous and invasive. Ryūjin is an ancient religious practice associated with dragons which originated in Chia and moved to Japan and other Far East countries. The oarfish is a long, snakelike creature, giving it a dragon look that evolved into making it a messenger for Ryūō ( the dragon king) living in the underwater ryūgū (dragon palace). Sending a dead oarfish to the surface people was a bad sign, and there were enough earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and the like that the appearances of the rarely seen fish could easily be linked to just about any event.

That may be the case with the small oarfish that washed up in Tinago. However, climate change could be making these fatal beachings happen more frequently and the nuclear discharge from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 continues to plague islands of the Pacific. Especially those close to Japan. Could that be what this oarfish is warning about? While there’s no evidence of fish being affected by the coronavirus, it has been linked to the strange ant-eating, scale-covered pangolin and to bats – both creatures of mythology, special powers and fear.

stuffed pangolin
A taxidermied pangolin

Researchers know that fish TB (mycobacterium marinum), also called fish tuberculosis, can be transmitted to humans from fish. Like COVID19, tuberculosis affects the lungs. Could the mythological oarfish be warning the Philippines to be ready for a different lung disease?

Those are remote dots to connect, but the ancient ways have often been proven to be reliable, even in modern times. If artificial intelligence isn’t helping, maybe it’s time to turn to oarfish intelligence. We’ll keep an eye out for more oarfish … just in case.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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