I had never heard of such a fish before, but apparently, it too has never heard of me.
The oarfish is dubbed the king of herrings (Regalecus glesne), a long bony fish that apparently reaches a length of 56 feet (17 meters), and probably gave rise to numerous sea serpent tales of yore whenever it was sighted - which isn't often.
The oarfish, a native of temperate waters is a ribbon like fish with bony dorsal fins. It gets its name from the now discredited belief that the fish rowed itself through the water. That and it is elongated - like an oar, I suppose. The fish actually keeps its body straight and undulates its long dorsal fin.
These fish frequent depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), but when they are sick, or when dying, they come up to the surface. As well, they will beach themselves after storms.
So... what has this to do with Japan?
Apparently, some people consider their sighting an omen - and in the case of Japan, one week before the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated the north east coastal areas of Japan, an oarfish washed up on a beach.
Some people believe it to be a precursor of an upcoming large-scale seismic event - and in this case, it occurred. So... can it be used to predict upcoming earthquakes?
Here's the thing... if it could, we would have oarfish beaching themselves every single day in Japan as that damn country gets a rumbler that often.
But does it (the oarfish) only become 'disorientated' (my phrase) when something large in the seismic scale is about to happen?
So.. is it possible? Could it be reacting to the smaller tremblers that might signal a larger quake? Could it be reacting to poison gas releases from earthquakes under the sea? Could it be reacting from increased volcanic activity which scientists are now attempting to scientifically prove is linked - Volcanoes and Earthquakes?
Or does the water temperature become affected with shifting plate tectonics, causing it to seek out cooler waters up higher in the sea?
|A 'small' oarfish.|
There is another thing to consider.
Local Japanese lore indicates that when an oarfish is sighted, it also means a good catch is forthcoming fopr local fishermen.
Why is this important? Well, seismic activity often causes other fish to gather and swim closer to the surface - which is what often means a better haul for fisherman.
Is there any proof, other than an oarfish appearance in Japan?
Well, oarfish appeared back in March of 2010, when an 8.8 Magnitude quake smashed Chile.
I should also point out that back in March of 2010, scientists were already predicting - or were worried - that the next big quake to hit would be against Japan. One year later, they were correct... but it sure took its time.
Y'see, back in 2010, the predictions about Japan's impending doom via massive earthquake were predicted by the rash of oarfish sightings!
Ten oarfish were found washed ashore or in fishing nets off Ishikawa Prefecture, half-a-dozen have been caught in nets off Toyama Prefecture and others have been reported in Kyoto, Shimane and Nagasaki prefectures, all on the northern coast.
|A larger oarfish... but still about half the size of the largest ever found.|
So... oarfish as earthquake predictors - I'm not sure a one-year advance warning in the wrong sector of Japan can be considered a warning. I'm not even sure if a single oarfish in the proper area can be considered an omen. So for now... it's a nice Japanese legend that doesn't really seem to have the facts to back it up.
But Giant catfish? Well... that's another story. In fact... I wrote about it back on March 13, 2011. You can catch up on it HERE.
In the mean time... if you really need an earthquake APP... check out this story - also an oldie but goodie, from April of 2011: APP.