UPDATE: An earthquake hit Sabah this morning (7:17am) less than 12 hours after we published this article, so maybe there IS some truth to this? We’ve made some edits to the article in light of this development.
If you’ve already read this article, click HERE to head to the update. Otherwise, please read on. Kthxbai.*
A large sea creature was found floating near the shore of Redang Pelangi Resort in Redang last week, which made, um… waves online because it was…
a) Not a hoax; and
b) A weird occurrence.
Someone’s also uploaded a video of the creature floating in the water on Facebook:
So what is this bizzarre looking creature?
Anybody familiar with clickbait-y sites will easily identify it as an Oarfish – a deep sea fish capable of growing up to 11 meters (for reference, a Perodua Myvi is 3.69 meters) in length, making it the longest bony fish alive, and a close relative of Falcor and Puck. However, being a pelagic, deep sea fish, it rarely comes to shallow waters, much less to a crowded commercial beach like the ones on Redang.
But it’s not the first time this has happened, and it makes for pretty reliable clickbait, whenever it surfaces in places all over the world…. which is to say quite alot recently.
OMG. That’s like FIVE oarfish beaching in 3 weeks!
What makes it weirder is that the oarfish is known in Japanese as ryugu no tsukai, or “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace” and is used by the Sea God to warn the Japanese people of impending earthquakes. The most recent case where this happened in Japan was shortly before March 2011, where 20 (!!!) Oarfish were found stranded on Japanese beaches. March 2011 was also when the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami happened, you know, the one that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant that’s still leaking radiation to this day?
So do you see what we’re getting at here?
Time to move up to the mountains ugaiz.
Wait, can a fish even predict earthquakes?
Ah, thank you for asking. Animals have had a long history of predicting earthquakes, with one of the earliest examples being in Ancient Greece where mice, snakes, and even centipedes left the city of Helike. An earthquake followed by a tsunami (in this case a giant wave formed by an earthquake) happened later that night, and the city disappeared.
Even in more modern times, you might remember stories of animals in India freaking out before the 2004 Tsunami (which also affected us BTW) and how elephants in Phuket, Thailand sensed the coming danger and rescued children before the waves struck? Well, the elephant rescue thing was only sorta-kinda true but accounts still agree on one point – that animals were visibly agitated prior to the earthquake and/or tsunami.
The earthquake predicting capabilities of the Oarfish were noticed because, being deep-sea, they were rarely encountered by Japanese fishermen and when they were encountered either washed up on a beach or caught in fishing nets, an earthquake (presumably) happened soon after.
“I’ve lived on the island for over 20 years, and I’m on the water all the time and I’ve never seen one.” – Annie MacAulay, founder of a non-profit nature camp, as quoted by Inquisitr.
So rare, in fact, that one of the two found in California had scientists jumping in joy over it’s good condition so they can properly study it. So think about it… why would a deep sea creature that’s so rare and elusive suddenly strand itself in shallow waters? It must be trying to escape something!
But is all this actual fact, or just another grandfather story?
What does science think of this fishbait?
It’s a grandfather story.
Joking, joking… science is actually quite undecided about this but they HAVE come up with theories on why the Oarfish and/or animals in general may know when the ground is gonna crack or waves are gonna wave.
- A disturbance in the Force – The shifting of the earth’s surface (Tectonic plates) sends massive amounts of ions into the atmosphere. Some animals are sensitive to these changes in ionic charges, which can apparently be detected on the skin or as low-frequency sound. These ions also interact with water to become hydrogen peroxide which is toxic or irritating to some species.
- Electric rock – Small movements in the earth’s surface – which may lead up to big movements (aka earthquakes) – causes a buildup of pressure in the rocks leading to ions being generated and released into the water, becoming hydrogen peroxide.
- Batu berkentut™ – Another research found that rocks, when crushed under pressure, emitted high levels of ozone gas, which may be detectable by animals.
- Kaiju – Seismic activity caused by wormholes opening to release monsters from the earth’s core are scaring the fish away. Joking, joking…
And there are also the more kumbaya theories that animals somehow have a 6th sense because, nature.
However, pertaining specifically to the Oarfish, scientists who think that this whole predicting earthquake thing is a whole lotta bunk note that in tectonic-fault places like California and Japan, small-to-moderate earthquakes happen pretty constantly each month so it’s really not a case of “Oh no, earthquake! Let’s beach ourselvz!”
What they instead suggest is a completely natural phenomenon where strong winds, along with the earth’s rotation, forces the water on the surface to “exchange places” with the deep water. This movement “tricks” the Oarfish into swimming towards the surface rather than away from the surface, where they eventually get stuck. Read the more complicated explanation here.
Okay let’s take a break from all this science stuff for a mo’ and address something else some of you guys might be thinking…
“AMMAGAHD HOW CAN THEY BE SO CRUEL TO THE POOR FISH AND TAKE PICTURES WHILE IT’S DYING??????” – Lydia
Whoa there. Chill out yo! First thing’s first, there has never been a recorded instance of Oarfish found in these circumstances that weren’t dying or already dead.
The oarfish are really deep fish … usually they come up only if they are sick or if they are dying. Because they’re such deep water fish they’re so rare for us to have a sighting of them, and there’s hardly been any sighting historically of them alive.” -Annie MacAulay, founder of a non-profit nature camp, as quoted by Inquisitr.
In fact, attempts have been made to save the one found in Vietnam, where they tried to take it back to the sea but it died before they could do so. And as an additional fact, Oarfish are sacred in Vietnam and fishermen there address them as “Mr.” It was also given a burial “according to local custom”.
We also got in touch with Redang Pelangi Resort, where Malaysian oarfish was found, and the owner told us the people who found the fish mentioned it was “alive but too late to be saved” and that it was just “floating towards the shore.” The resort personnel sent the fish to the marine park in Redang for analysis. Which, by the way, was the right thing to do; compared to one found in the UK which got eaten (YES. BY THOSE UNCULTURED ANGMOHS! See, it’s not only the Chinese that’ll eat everything).
Redang Pelangi also mentioned that this was actually the second time an Oarfish was washed up on shore, the first being in 2006. While we don’t know when this happened, we do know that the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake happened in May followed by another in Taiwan in December. Eep. 😯
[UPDATE] REALLY GOT EARTHQUAKE IN SABAH! THIS OARFISH THING IS TRUE!!!
Okay, before you start asking Tripadvisor about refunds, think about this for a bit:
If animals can predict earthquakes so well, why don’t we have an animal-based warning system?
While researchers can’t agree on whether or not animals are able to “sense” earthquakes, what they DO agree on is that there is no reliable way to develop an animal-based detection system:
“I don’t know of any credible evidence that fishes are able to [predict earthquakes] and in fact I’ll put my money on the Geologist’s prediction instead of the fish’s prediction.” – Dr. Phil Hastings, Oceanographer, as quoted in ABC News video (4:00)
In fact, even the researchers who are more accepting of the possibility of animals detecting quakes placed some doubt on the accuracy of animal-based predictions:
“This is not a way to predict earthquakes … It’s just a way to warn that the Earth is moving and something — an earthquake, or a landslide or something else — might follow.” – Catherine Dukes, researcher, as quoted in Discovery News.
And that’s what it is… The oarfish recently found here was at Redang, Terengganu, while the earthquake happened 16km from Ranau, Sabah, 1,510km away according to Google Maps. Here’s how far 1,510km looks:
So that’s pretty darn far away! This is also considering that the oarfish was found over a week ago.
So even if this oarfish-predicting-earthquake thing were true, we would only know that something would happen, but we won’t know WHEN or WHERE it would happen.
True blue skeptics would still insist this is a “false correlation” – coming from a human tendency to find patterns (or meaning) in what might just be random events. Otherwise summarised into the proverb – “One swallow does not make the spring“. It stems from an instinct hard-coded into our brains that scientists believe came from the early humans who had to be constantly on the lookout for danger. Rustling in the bushes might mean there’s a tiger hiding inside, so rustling bushes = danger.
So even with this recent development, we still stand by our initial recommendation of checking with the Malaysian Metrological Department before making or canceling any beach trips. If you’re planning on booking one though, we recommend Redang Pelangi Resort since they were so nice to help us out with this article (And the owner is the editor’s ex-classmate and the food is awesome and we weren’t paid to say this)
But what we would like to know now is, would you still still be going to Redang anytime soon?