Home > Blog > Resiliency & Preparedness

The Truth about Mysterious Sea Creatures and Earthquakes

They looked like beings from another world. Fish that’s almost ten times the average Filipino height.. An unidentified hairy carcass washed ashore.

Such sea creatures are not only mysterious-looking, but are said to hold the key to the mystery of predicting earthquakes. How? Since these animals live in the deep sea, some believe that they feel the shifting of the ground before we do, and that when they suddenly pop into shallow waters or the surface, it means that their habitat was disturbed—indicating an impending earthquake.

Here are some of the alleged instances:

Weeks before a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Surigao, sightings of oarfish were observed in Agusan del Norte. A 10-foot long oarfish was found in Carmen, Agusan del Norte, approximately 168 kilometers away from Surigao City.

The oarfish, considered as the world’s longest bony fish, usually stays in depths between 1,000 to 3,000 feet below the sea surface. This type of fish can grow up to 50 feet long. According to some scientists, these deep-dwelling species may crop up occasionally due to strong currents.

After the strong earthquake in Surigao, other sightings of oarfish also happened in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Occidental.

Courtesy: Proud Bisaya Facebook Page

On the 22nd of February this year, a sunfish was seen in the shore of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. The locals who have first witnessed the fish said it was still alive when they saw it but had later weakened and died.

In February 27, a sunfish measuring 147 centimeters long and 85 centimeters wide was spotted in the waters off Barangay Sangali, Zamboanga City.

Something unusual on the first of March welcomed the residents of Marinduque. A very large sunfish was found in the town of Boac. Local officials will have to investigate further due to the deep wound found on the sunfish, which might have been caused by parasitic worms.

According to the National Geographic, the sunfish is the heaviest bony fish and are generally found in the deep waters.

Speculations that the emergence of the sunfish is related to the ground shaking in Mindanao caused the residents to become a bit agitated.

Courtesy: RMN News Nationwide

A lifeless hairy blob or globster was found on the Dinagat Islands on February 22. A globster is an unidentified organic mass that washed up on the shoreline. The large sea creature could not be identified because it was already at its decomposition stage but some believed that the carcass is likely to be that of a sea cow.

Because of the proximity of Dinagat Islands to where the recent magnitude 6.7 earthquake transpired in Surigao,locals speculated this huge white beast went ashore because of the powerful tremor.

Courtesy: RMN IloIlo

Quake Country
Apart from an average number of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones each year, the Philippines is also prone to earthquakes because it’s within the Pacific Ring of Fire. The most recent massive tremor in the country is the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that jolted several parts of Mindanao at around 10:03 PM on February 10, 2017. At a shallow depth of 10 kilometers, the epicentre was located at 16 kilometers offshore northwest of Surigao City.

The ground shaking was felt in Surigao City and San Francisco, where Intensity 7 was recorded. The rest of the municipalities in Surigao del Norte experienced Intensities 4, 5 and 6. To date, more than 200 aftershocks have beenrecorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). The largest of these rocked the same location on March 5, 2017 at 8:08 AM. With a depth of 10 kilometers, the epicentre of the magnitude 5.9earthquake was plotted at 80 kilometers west of Surigao City.

As of March 8, the latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) showed a total of 38, 245 persons affected in 82 barangays of Surigao del Norte. Eight people died from the recent powerful earthquakes while more than 230 people were injured. More than 7 thousand houses and 47 school facilities were damaged.

Surigao Earthquake Explained
According to PHIVOLCS, Eastern Mindanao, including Surigao del Norte, is a seismically active area because of the Philippine Fault and Philippine Trench.

This is not the first time that Surigao experienced enormous earthquakes. A magnitude 7.4 tremor rocked the Surigao segment of the Philippine Fault on July 1, 1879. This was considered the largest historical earthquake in Surigao where ground shaking was felt in the entire province, causing huge damage to infrastructure, widespread liquefaction and landslides.

Can we predict earthquakes?
These strange deep-sea creatures that are recently surfacing in shallow waters have created quite a stir among the residents, sparking discussions on social media. Many people feared that the mysterious sea creatures were omens of horrendous events.
Is it true that the appearance of these sea creatures point to an impending disaster? Here are what the experts have to say:

“Kung pag-uusapan ang recent sea creatures na natagpuan sa bansa, walang basehan na kaya nitong magpredict ng lindol. Totoong minsan ay may kakaibang kilos ang mga hayop pero dapat pinapakita ito ng marami at dun mismo sa panggagalingan ng lindol. So, hindi lahat ng animal behaviour ay mairerelate sa earthquakes.”

Ang kailangan natin ngayon ay paghahanda. Makakaligtas ka sa lindol kung una, sisiguraduhin mong matibay ang iyong bahay. Pangalawa, alam mo kung ano ang gagawin kapag tumama ang lindol. ‘Yung duck, cover & hold. At ikatlo, alam mo at ng mga tao sa iyong komunidad kung paano ang mabilis at tamang pag-respunde gaya ng evacuation at first aid…mahalagang mapag-aralan ‘yan.”
(There is no scientific basis that animals, particularly sea creatures, can predict earthquakes. Animals may have unusual behaviour but not everything is related to the occurrence of earthquakes.

What we need to do now is to be fully prepared. To survive an earthquake, make sure that your house is strong enough to withstand huge earthquakes. Second, you must know what to do during an earthquake. Always remember the duck, cover & hold. Lastly, educate yourself with the proper response and rescue procedures.)
Dir. Renato Solidum
PHIVOLCS Director / DOST Undersecretary

“This is not a way to predict earthquakes,” Dukes said. “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, University of Virginia

“Animal behavior is not always predictable — for the earthquake forecasting side of things we would still need to have geophysical measurements in combination with animal measurements.”
Dr Rachel Grant,
Lecturer, Animal and Environmental Biology (Anglia Ruskin University)

“These are just old superstitions and there is no scientific relationship between these sightings and an earthquake.”
Hiroshi Tajihi
Kobe Earthquake Center

So the next time you hear about the appearance of such creatures, remember that panic is not the right response. What we must constantly do is preparation; even without the surfacing of these mysterious-looking sea animals, we must be always be ready for the possibility of disasters.

Live Science
Sunstar Cagayan De Oro