Raining Fish Reported Near the Australian Desert
It may sound like a biblical tale, but it just happened. A secluded community in the Northern Territory of Australia had the heavens rain down fishy manna on it. Even more astonishingly, Lajamanu, a community 560 kilometers south-west of Katherine on the northern edge of the Tanami Desert, has experienced the highly unusual weather phenomenon of raining fish at least three times before.
“We've seen a big storm heading up to my community and we thought it was just rain. But when the rain started falling, we've seen fish falling down as well.”
However, it isn’t the first time for the old timers there. In fact, similar events have been reported in 2010, 2004 and even as far back as 1974.
And it’s not just in Lajamanu. Such occurrences have been reported from elsewhere in Australia as well. In 2020, Yowah in Queensland, located 950 kilometers (590 miles) west of Brisbane, for example, according to a 2020 ABC News story; and in 2016 in Winton in Queensland.
The small community of Lajamanu that has just experienced ‘raining fish’. (CC BY 2.0)
Not Just Rain, Hail and Snow - It Sometimes Rains Fish, Frogs, Stones and Even Coins!
Other places around the world too have reported such strange weather events. In 2017, for instance, it rained fish in the coastal city of Tampico in Mexico, according to an article in Ancient Origins.
Historical records of such bizarre events go back to the first century AD when the Roman historian and author Pliny the Elder documented storms of fish and frogs in Rome. In the third century AD Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus reported that heavy rains of frogs in Paeonia and Dardania caused so great a nuisance that the residents were forced to flee their homes.
Several such incidents were reported in the 19th century: a storm in Italy in 1840 that rained down seeds of Judas trees indigenous to Central Africa; sugar crystals falling from the skies in Lake County, California, in 1857; hazelnuts raining over Dublin in Ireland in 1867; mussel rain in Paderborn, Germany, in 1892; and a jellyfish shower in Bath in England in 1894.
Most incredibly, residents of the Russian village of Meschera experienced a rainfall of 16th-century coins in 1940. Archaeologists explained that the soil erosion had possibly exposed a buried treasure that was sucked up and subsequently dropped by a strong wind.
In fact, whenever any such strange phenomenon occurs, strong winds that sweep up things and deposit them far away have generally been held responsible. But this cannot explain showers of stones and even small rocks that have been known to occur throughout history. While scientific explanations such as volcanoes and meteorites have sometimes been put forward for such occurrences, more often they are attributed to supernatural forces like poltergeists, evil beings and divine retribution, according to a 2015 article in Ancient Origins.
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Some of the fish that were rained down. (Cyril Tasman)
Live Fish Fell in Lajamanu
As per the ABC News report, Japanangka said that some of the fish that were at least “the size of two fingers” were alive when they fell. “Some are still hanging around in the community in a puddle of water. Children are picking them up and keeping them in a bottle or a jar,” he added.
While this is not the first time he has experienced a fish shower, Japanangka says he still finds it pretty staggering. “We saw some free-falling down to the ground. And some falling onto the roof. It was the most amazing thing we've ever seen. I think it's a blessing from the Lord.”
It Happened 40 Years Ago Too
Penny McDonald now lives in Alice Springs. Forty years ago, she was teaching at the school in Lajamanu and recalls a similar event in the 1980s. “I got up in the morning, I was working in the school at the time, and the dirt streets outside my home were covered in fish. They were small fish and there were a lot of them around. It was just amazing.”
Because it happened a long time ago, she checked her memory of the event with a friend who corroborated that it really did occur.
So Why Does It Happen?
According to Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory curator of fishes, Michael Hammer, “Most of the time people arrive after the rain and see the fish scattered everywhere. And in that instance they've mostly just burst through with the flood that's happened locally, from a little waterhole or something. But it certainly can't rule out fish being caught up in little storms and then dropped in other places.”
Besides, he said, it was possible for the fish to be alive when they rained down, provided they were not lifted too high and frozen. “It just depends what the local weather patterns are," he said, “What forces would be needed to lift them out of the waterhole specifically, and then up into the air, would be pretty interesting.”
Queensland Museum ichthyologist Jeff Johnson expressed surprise that such relatively large fish as spangled perch, which are the most common freshwater fish in Australia, had rained down in Lajamanu, although acknowledging that the event was a “real thing”.
Hammer said that Australia was increasingly experiencing such unusual weather events and called for citizens to be prepared to properly document them when they next occurred in their vicinity. At this rate, Australians might soon be very tired of eating fish.
By Sahir Pandey
Allison, C. et al. 2023. Fish 'rained from the sky', outback community says, in freak weather event. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-21/outback-community-fish-rain-sky-weather-event/102002588.
Holloway, A. 2017. Raining Cats and Dogs? No, Just Fish. Available at: https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-general/raining-cats-and-dogs-no-just-fish-008923.
Holloway, A. 2015. The Strange and Unexplained Phenomenon of Raining Stones. Available at: https://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/strange-and-unexplained-phenomenon-raining-stones-003811.
Larkins, D. 2020. Queensland town of Yowah wakes to spangled perch flopping about in puddles after downpour. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-05/raining-fish-in-outback-queensland-weather-phenomenon/12028868.
Moore, A. et al. 2016. Winton's mysterious fishy tale amid Queensland drought. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-11/wintons-mysterious-fishy-tale-amidst-soaking-rain-in-queensland/7239714.