Every couple of years, a mysterious rare fish that resembles a serpent washes up on some beach, generating buzz about the bony sea creature and worries about earthquakes until it fades from memory again. In what National Geographic pegs as a "poorly understood phenomenon," it's happened again, this time in the Philippines. People on the shore of Carmen in Agusan del Norte plucked a dead oarfish—aka Regalecus glesne, or the "king of herrings"—from the waters Wednesday, just days after a fisherman had found another one not far from that spot. And the SunStar notes four others have been retrieved in the Philippines since January, including one that was initially found alive in Cagayan de Oro on Saturday, though it later died.
A Facebook post from Wednesday shows images of the oarfish pulled onto the Carmen beach, with smiling beachgoers holding the outstretched fish for photo ops. The oarfish—which can grow to over 30 feet in length—is seldom spotted because it usually lives up to 3,300 feet deep in the ocean. While scientists are puzzled as to why they occasionally pop up on the surface near land, and subsequently perish, they think it may have something to do with the wind and powerful currents. Longheld anecdotal evidence links the surfacing of the oarfish to subsequent earthquakes—the Mirror notes it is sometimes called "the messenger of the sea god"—but whether there's any scientific grounding to that remains unclear because of a lack of research. "The intrigue remains," observes the Geographic. (The earthquake theory goes back a long way in Japan.)