I was over at Michael Sword’s thoughtful and thought-generating blog
(Cosmic Chaos - Addendum
) a couple of weeks ago
and he was writing about Fortean Falls
– unexpected objects falling from
the skies. We’ve all heard about these reports and they seem to occur every year somewhere or other. In fact, they’ve been on the radar of human
awareness for centuries or more.
Throughout history these falls have ranged from unpleasant body parts (meat over
) to duck-and-cover snakes and then out-of-place stuff like fish and even apples last
. So yeah, we’ve all heard about strange falls and most of us have heard of the best explanation for these occurrences too. The outright
best must be the idea that vortices (tornado-style
) have been created by extreme weather conditions
and suctioned up the animals or objects from land and sea. Swirling around on high, the objects are launched up into the atmosphere and temporarily
suspended there before the wind vortex dissipates and they hurtle down on the wings of gravity with a...
As explanations go, I like it. It makes sense and can be tested scientifically. It makes more sense than ordinary animals and fruit appearing in
extraordinary ways out of thin air. One of the poorer explanations was logged by Charles Fort and involved a fly-by of buzzards disgorging their last
meal on the poor townsfolk below in the case of the Kentucky meat-fall.
Mike Swords is very good at teasing the edges of reality with tricky questions so he asks why are these falls limited to one group of objects or
one group of animals? For example, with falling apples, where are the falling twigs? With falling fish, where are the different fishes? What makes a
spontaneous wind vortex or waterspout appear selective in its’ choice of objects it transports?
Well, the obvious answers would be, like birds of a feather, fish swim together and perhaps folk were too busy seeing apples to notice the twigs? A
twig on a street isn’t remarkable and apples are.
Out of curiosity, I roamed around the webz and looked for examples of
where I could check as much data as possible. Old
cases would be out because they had no photos or they had no weather data. Foremost in my mind was the sheer likelihood that the vortex-explanation
would be supported by bad weather at the time.
A great incident occurred recently in Australia in February 2010 and involved not one, but two falls of fish on two back-to-back days.
It's raining fish....no really!
NEWSBREAKER Christine Balmer, who took these photos of the fish on the ground and in a bucket, had to pinch herself when she was told ``hundreds
and hundreds" of small white fish had fallen from the sky.
"It rained fish in Lajamanu on Thursday and Friday night," she said, "They
fell from the sky everywhere.
"Locals were picking them up off the footy oval and on the ground everywhere.
"These fish were alive when they hit the ground."
Mrs Balmer, the aged care co-ordinator at the Lajamanu Aged Care Centre, said her family interstate thought she had lost the plot when she told them
about the event.
"I haven't lost my marbles," she said, reassuring herself. "Thank god it didn't rain crocodiles."
Raining crocodiles! What a picture! Well it didn’t take long for a meteorologist to put the best explanation on the table. It was one of those
waterspouts at work once more.
Weather bureau senior forecaster Ashley Patterson said the geological conditions were perfect on Friday for a tornado in the Douglas Daly
He said it would have been an ideal weather situation to allow the phenomena to occur - but no tornados have been reported to the authority.
"It's a very unusual event," he said. "With an updraft, (fish and water picked up) could get up high - up to 60,000 or 70,000 feet.
"Or possibly from a tornado over a large water body - but we haven't had any reports," he said.
Same source as above.
These are the fish and were apparently ‘spangled perch’
A lot is made in the news about Lajamanu being hundreds of miles away from the nearest river and that leads us to find the account even more amazing.
‘It’s as if they appeared from nowhere!’ is what we’re supposed to think. This is actually tabloid BS because there are small bodies of water
closer than that as you can see in these photographs (scroll down).
We can check out the weather conditions for Lajamanu and the Northern Territories and see whether any extreme weather conditions were recorded at the
time. The first place I looked was the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology to see if any storms had occurred in the area at the time. As
you can see from this image below, the last storm was two days earlier than the first fall. Now, it’s hard to imagine these critters being in the
air for at least 48 hours. Even less when we notice how Alice Springs is 100s miles away. No way could fish be kept in the air for two days and
hundreds of miles!
Australian Meteorological Bureau (February 2010)
On the two days in question, we can see what the weather was like according to the local weather station. It poured down and here are the records for
the two days.
Climate data February 2010
T Mean temperature (°C)
TM Maximum temperature (°C)
Tm Minimum temperature (°C)
SLP Mean sea level pressure (hPa)
H Mean humidity (%)
PP Precipitation amount (mm)
VV Mean visibility (Km)
V Mean wind speed (Km/h)
VM Maximum sustained wind speed (Km/h)
VG Maximum wind gust (Km/h)
So we can see it rained heavily and that the wind speed maxed out at 24.1 km/h. According to the
this is a ‘moderate breeze' and worlds away from tornado
It seems like the waterspout or wind vortex is a good explanation that doesn’t quite fit the data in this case.