Japanese Fear Oarfish Sightings Are Quake Omen

Superstitious worry as deep-sea dweller begins surfacing

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 4, 2010 6:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Dozens of sightings of a very rarely seen fish have raised Japanese fears that their country may be the next one rocked by a major quake. The appearance of oarfish—which can grow to up to 16 feet long and frequent depths of up to 3,300 feet—is considered an omen of an impending earthquake, according to Japanese lore. They have been washing up on beaches and appearing in fishing nets in numerous locations around the country in recent weeks.

Some theories hold that movement around seismic fault lines could cause unusual behavior in sea creatures that live at great depths, although Japan's scientists are relying on their advanced monitoring equipment instead of the fish. "In ancient times Japanese people believed that fish warned of coming earthquakes," the director of the Kobe Earthquake Center tells the Daily Telegraph. "But these are just old superstitions and there is no scientific relationship between these sightings and an earthquake."

Bermudans believed they had found a sea serpent when a 16-foot oarfish washed ashore in 1860.
Bermudans believed they had found a sea serpent when a 16-foot oarfish washed ashore in 1860.   (Wikimedia Commons)
The oarfish is rarely seen at depths of less than 600 feet.
The oarfish is rarely seen at depths of less than 600 feet.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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