The Australian outback is known for being wild. From scorching temperatures to an array of animals that are deadly in one way or another, there’s never a dull day. Residents of a small remote outback community have reported something crazier, Fish raining from the sky. The phenomenon is surprising but not unheard of.
Locals from Lajamanu, located 348 miles southwest of Katherine based on the northern edge of the red-sanded Tanami Desert, were somewhat stunned at the rare weather phenomenon that caused the anomaly. The fish hurtled to the ground during very heavy rainfall. “We’ve seen a big storm heading up to my community and we thought it was just rain,” Lajamanu local and Central Desert councilor Andrew Johnson Japanangka said.
“But when the rain started falling we’ve seen fish falling down as well.” What a spectacularly rare weather phenomenon!
Not being the first event of its kind, Lajamanu was gifted an assortment of fish from the sky in 2010, and 2004 with reports dating back to 1974. Experts believe the rare weather phenomenon is caused by strong updrafts such as tornados. They are known to suck up water, taking fish along with them from the ocean or rivers nearby. They then expel their collection miles away, causing fish to ‘rain from the sky.’
The fish were at least the size of two fingers according to Mr. Japanangka. They were still very much alive when they landed, and “Some are still hanging around in the community in a puddle of water,” he said. “Children are picking them up and keeping them in a bottle or a jar.” He continued.
Blown away by the rare weather phenomenon, Mr. Japanangka was amazed!
Not being the first time this event has occurred, one would expect Mr. Japanangka to be less phased by the event, but he was totally blown away. “We saw some free-falling down to the ground. And some falling onto the roof,” he said. “It was the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen. I think it’s a blessing from the Lord.”
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Something similar happened in Alice Springs 40 years ago
Local from Alice Springs, Penny McDonald was in Lajamanu in the mid-1980s when she witnessed the rare weather phenomenon herself. “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,” she said. “They were small fish and there were a lot of them around. It was just amazing.”
Just days earlier, Ms. McDonald relived the event while reminiscing with her friend about the encounter. “I said ‘did that really happen?’ And she said ‘yeah it did’, she remembered it as well.” And Lajamanu is not alone when it comes to rare weather phenomena. Yowah, a Queensland town which is situated 590 miles west of Brisbane had fish falling from the sky in 2020.
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Michael Hammer, curator of fishes for the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory has investigated similar cases in the past
“Most of the time people arrive after the rain and see the fish scattered everywhere,” he said. “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.”
He did however mention that the event wasn’t ‘that unusual’ in general and that fish do fall occasionally due to weather-related causes, but that they’re usually frozen as they’re lifted so high up. So live fish falling could be considered rare. “It just depends on 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.”
“Get some citizen science going and start to build a picture.“
Jeff Johnson, Queensland Museum ichthyologist identified the fish as spangled perch or spangled grunters. They’re one of the more common freshwater species in Australia. What sets this event apart is the size of the fish. He considers them a little larger than previous findings.
“They are a relatively large fish and they’re not able to be drawn up out of the water and held up in the sky for very long,” he said. “But clearly that’s what has happened.” He also explained that this sort of rare weather phenomenon is increasing across Australia. “I think next time it rains you just need to be out there with a net, catching the fish as they fall, and properly document it,” he said.”Get some citizen science going and start to build a picture.” Have you ever witnessed such an event before?
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- “Fish ‘rained from the sky’, outback community says, in freak weather event.” ABC Australia. Charmayne Allison. February 21, 2023.
- “Fish won’t stop raining from the sky in rare weather phenomenon” Indy100. February 22, 2023.