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Anomalous Precipitation: A Closer Look at Cases of Odd Fortean Falls, Part Two

In recent days, residents around the department of Yoro in Honduras were treated to the recurrence of a most peculiar spectacle, which locals along the Caribbean coast have experienced now for more than a century.

Known locally as the “Lluvia de Peces,” or “Fish Rain” in English, native Hondurans routinely head out into open fields carrying buckets after particularly strong rainstorms to collect small fish resembling sardines that they find scattered across the countryside.

One local tradition tells how in 1858, the Catholic missionary Manuel de Jesús Subirana prayed to God on behalf of the people of Honduras, begging for their relief from poverty. In response to his prayers, fish began to rain from the sky to provide sustenance to the poor, which began the tradition of the Lluvia de Peces.

fish-falls

Thus, many view the curious appearances of the fish as a miraculous event, and some therefore see it as bad luck to attempt to profit from their sale. Hence, the fish are harvested, but never sold once the storms subside, and Hondurans rejoice at the feast that nature appears to deliver them at intervals coinciding with stormy seasons that mostly occur between May and October.

Questions remain as to where the fish actually come from. The most widely accepted theory about their appearance supposes that particularly violent storms lift the fish out of nearby waters, although there appear to be problems with this idea… problems which could point to a novel solution to the ongoing mystery.

As described in Part One of this series of posts, “Fish falls” are one example of the broader range of types of anomalous precipitation events said to have occurred in various parts of the world for centuries. These mysterious incidents became a mainstay of the writing of Charles Fort in the early 20th century, and since the 1930s have remained a focus of researchers who emulate the style of the original “Fortean” in chronicling odd happenings and unexplained phenomena in nature.

In the case of the Honduran fish falls, studies into their possible causes go back several decades. Beginning in 1970, a National Geographic sponsored investigation dispatched a group of scientists to the department of Yoro who identified the creatures as boat fish, a variety of freshwater sardine-like species. Being a freshwater variety, they couldn’t have been brought from nearby coastal waters by heavy storms; however, the scientists were surprised to learn that none of this particular variety of fish could be found in any nearby inland water sources, either. If both ocean and freshwater sources could be ruled out, where else might these fish have come from?

sardines

During their studies, the scientists noted something peculiar: these fish, averaging roughly six inches in length, were also mostly blind. This provided a significant clue, as it appeared to suggest that the source of the “falling” fish might not actually be the sky at all, but instead from someplace belowground.

The scientists theorized that when strong storms produce heavy rains and flooding, fish that thrive in underground streams might be flushed out of their homes and onto the surface, where they are found after the heavy rains. Since few locals venture out during these heavy storms to watch where the fish actually might come from, it had been assumed that their appearance scattered across the landscape indicated that they fell from above, when in fact it might have been just the opposite.

Notably, most of the fish when they appear after such heavy storms are still alive, which would seem unlikely if they had fallen to the ground after being carried considerable distances through the air.

Interestingly, in many of the instances where creatures have reportedly “fallen” from the sky in various places around the world, they tend to also be animals that are known dwell below ground. These range from varieties of worms, to cave spiders, frogs, and snakes, reported as far and wide as parts of the Americas, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia.

fish

Could it be that the source of many of these strange instances of “anomalous precipitation” actually have their origins below ground, rather than above? While this might not always be the case, in cases like those recorded around Yoro in Honduras where the fish in question are both blind, and absent from local waterways, it seems more likely than the notion of their falling from the sky in this instance.

Like many other purported “Fortean” phenomena, anomalous precipitation events may have a variety of underlying causes, and as the case of the Honduran Lluvia de Peces seems to show, some of these actually may have nothing to do with precipitation at all. Instead, they may point to other natural mechanisms that help to facilitate the sudden and seemingly unexplained appearances of small animals during heavy storms, the likes of which have been reported around the world for centuries.

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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