I write about things I find interesting, and although I am not an expert, I have fun learning as I research. I hope you like the results!
Raining Fish – Really?
I remember hearing about this phenomenon when I was a kid and found it amusing, but thought little more about it until I came across a post on Facebook recently, mentioning the same thing.
Now I still find it an amusing thought for people to be running for cover as fish slap them around the head, but I also want to address this nonsense theory about it being a miracle and that God is raining his bounty down on the needy. First of all, it doesn’t always happen in places where the people are in need of food and secondly, there is a perfectly rational explanation for what is happening.
So, let’s first look at a few examples.
As far back as the first century AD, Roman author and naturalist philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about ‘Storms of frogs and fish’ in his book ‘Natural History’. Some believe this may have been where the story about the plague of frogs mentioned in Exodus originated from.
I have always believed there are grains of truth in biblical stories even though I think of it as the greatest novel ever written. I see the bible more as a record of Chinese whispers and it is our job to try and work out from historical references what source they may actually be referring to… but I digress.
Festival de Lluvia de Peces
In the Yoro region of Honduras, raining fish supposedly takes place annually and a festival is held to celebrate it. It is called the ‘Festival de Lluvia de Peces’, and is held on the first day of heavy rain – usually in May or June. It is associated with a Spanish missionary that local’s credit with praying to God for a miracle to feed the poor people of the region.
Father Jose Manuel de Jesus Subirana arrived in Honduras in 1855 and stayed until his death nine years later. He is said to have prayed for 3 days and nights and the legend states “After these three days and nights God took note on this and there came a dark cloud. Lots of tasty fish rained from the sky, feeding all the people. Since then this wonder is repeated every year”.
Thus, God’s mysterious forces are credited with feeding the locals and being the reason behind this strange anomaly.
More recently there are many examples of raining fish we can look at. This increase is probably due to the rise of the internet, social media and the increasingly easy way’s for the media to publish stories to the whole world as they happen.
Some Example Cases
If we look at a case in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015 we can see one explanation for animals raining from the sky. Lampreys, which are very similar to eels and grow to about one foot long, were falling from the sky. It was deduced from the small holes found on either side of the creature that local gulls were actually dropping them in mid-flight.
- You can read more about this particular case here.
However, this only explains the cases where a small number of isolated creatures are found.
Let’s look at an example where there are larger numbers falling.
Sri Lanka and India are no strangers to raining fish. Most recently in the village of Chilaw on the West side of the island of Sri Lanka. A collection totalling around 110lb of small edible fish was collected by the delighted but bemused villagers.
In 2012 on the South side of the island, prawn fell from the skies. So what is actually happening?
Scientists believe that raining fish, or any other creature, is simply a meteorological phenomenon causing this anomaly – tornadoes, or when touching down in the water - waterspouts.
The video below shows a waterspout forming in South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach, filmed by a startled tourist.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Waterspout
Observe the huge power it generates and how it sucks up the water and anything else in the water.
These cyclonic winds have tremendous lifting power capable of raising small animals and objects up into the air and transporting them to places some kilometres away. Even when the actual spout or tornado has waned, the clouds can carry their bio-cargo over quite long distances. This explains how sometimes it can be raining fish on occasions where the locals say there were no tornadoes or even strong winds, such as happened in Ishikawa in Japan when tadpoles fell from the sky.
I have my doubts about meteorologists being ‘bewildered’ by it, but I guess newspapers have to be sold.
The raining of fish in Yoro is a trickier one to explain, simply due to its regular occurrence. If most of these incidents occur due to water-spouts and weather formations, then how is it that it’s happening on such a regular basis here?
Without knowing the details of the type of fish involved, or the nature of the area (other than what I can see on Google Earth), I will put forward this suggestion.
Because it always happens at the same time of year, I can’t believe that it’s a water spout involved. That would be almost as incredible as God being involved. I believe these are fish that live in an underground network of streams.
Why do I believe that?
In the 1970’s, a National Geographic team witnessed the fish event.
They couldn’t confirm they fell from the sky, but what they did discover was that the fish were completely blind.
This suggests to me a species of fish that lives underground and has no use for vision. With the onset of the heavy seasonal rains, the fish are probably flooded out of their habitat and left stranded on the ground. Just a theory maybe, but it makes more sense to me than the Spanish missionary praying to God.
A couple of other examples of weird and wonderful things falling from the sky can be found in the following links. They sound amazing, yet have similar logical explanations.
- Worms in Norway.
- Spider rain in Brazil, Australia and elsewhere, which is actually a migration process where the spiders use the wind – also sometimes known as Angel Hair.
One urban myth that grew up about a scuba diver being found in a tree has probably sprung up from this phenomenon. (Dissected in more detail here at Snopes.com) It is even referred to in the 1999 Paul Anderson movie, Magnolia with a diver being plucked from the ocean by a fire bucket on a helicopter and dumped in a tree in the middle of a forest fire. These, however, are fictitious events and there are no genuine reports (that I am aware of) of a person ever being plucked from the sea and dumped on land.
The UK – Home of Tornadoes?
There have been a lot of cases of 'frog rain' and other small animals falling from the sky in the UK and it surprised me to find out that the UK has more tornadoes per unit area than anywhere else in the world.
Generally, they are small and often go unnoticed, but this has to be taken into consideration with the ‘raining frog’s’ situation.
- Here is an article that explains the surprising prevalence of tornadoes in the UK.
- And here is a link to TORRO – the TORnado and storm Research Organisation, based in the UK.
Sometimes the animals rain down and are still alive if a little… confused. Sometimes they are frozen. This suggests to me a difference in height to which the weather formation takes them. The higher the tornado’s cloud system, the colder the temperature it will reach at the top of it.
Whilst on the subject of tornadoes, here are some fascinating facts about them.
The following video is taken from the 1999 BBC program called Supernatural, about various freaky anomalies, and shows a dramatisation of a waterspout forming and lifting animals up into the air to fall down in an urban area.
BBC Supernatural - Raining Fish!
Another interesting fact I came across during my research of this article was the origin of the phrase ‘Raining cats and dogs’. Apparently, it comes from medieval times when…
“Peasants used to live in tiny hovels with thatched straw roofs.
Their cats and dogs would live outside and often climbed onto the roof to bed down for the night, presumably warmed by the heat from the fires inside the hovels. When there was very heavy rain falling, the straw would become very slippery and the animals often fell to the ground!”
I always enjoy finding out useless information like that!
The full article I took this quote from can be read here.
© 2019 Ian
Ian (author) from Durham on September 17, 2019:
Thank you for your feedback, it's much appreciated!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 16, 2019:
Thanks for sharing an informative and enjoyable article. Raining fish and frogs is a very interesting topic.