Oarfish drawing

The Sun is only one of several news outlets covering the sudden appearance of dead giant oarfish on beaches recently in Japan, arousing fear and frightening the coastal residents as harbingers of disaster.

Because the 10-foot-plus creatures normally live at great depths, giant oarfish aren’t normally seen. They are called “Messengers from the Sea God’s Palace,” because when they rise to the surface and beach themselves, it is believed to be a frantic effort to escape an impending submarine earthquake. Adding fuel to this superstition, 10 oarfish beached themselves in Northern Japan a few months before the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“I believe these fish tend to rise to the surface when their physical condition is poor, rising on water currents,” ichthyology professor Hiroyuki Motomura told The Sun, “which is why they are so often dead when they are found.”

“The link to reports of seismic activity goes back many, many years,” he added, “but there is no scientific evidence of a connection, so I don’t think people need to worry.” Easy for him to say; they’re still worrying. (bit.ly/scaryoar)

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Daily Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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