Rains of Fishes

A compilation of the evidence that fishes occasionally fall from the sky

In a later number of the same journal for the same year, Eglini discusses the accounts of this same Fischregen supplied by other correspondents. One of these had collected some of the fish at Luckau, a near-by point, which he sent to Eglini. These Eglini found to be specimens of a trout found in the Mark and in Schleisen (but by inference not very near Cotbus); whereupon he at once pronounced the matter as incredible, especially as he had a letter from another gentleman who was out in that very storm and saw no fishes fall with the rain.

John Harriott in 1809 recounts, presumably from his own observation, the following phenomenon:

“In a heavy shower of rain, while our army was on the march, a short distance from Pondicherry, a quantity of small fish fell with the rain, to the astonishment of all. Many of them lodged on the men’s hats; when General Smith, who commanded, desired them to be collected, and afterwards, when we came to our [camping] ground, they were dressed, making a small dish that was served up and eaten at the general’s table. These were not flying fish, they were dead, and falling from the common well-known effect of gravity; but how they ascended, or where they existed, I do not pretend to account. I merely relate the simple fact.”

In the Annals of Philosophy for 1816 is found the following account, in a section presumably from the pen of the editor, Thomas Thompson:

“I have been told that the same thing happens in Bengal. These fishes must come down with the rain. It is a matter of some curiosity to be able to explain the source from which these animals are derived.”

“In Prince of Wales Island, in the East Indies, the inhabitants usually catch the rain-water in tanks placed on the tops of their houses. Frequently these tanks are completely dry for weeks together. When the rainy season comes, they are speedily filled with water. Some fishes are found swimming about in this water, which gradually increase, and acquire the length of several inches. I have been told that the same thing happens in Bengal. These fishes must come down with the rain. It is a matter of some curiosity to be able to explain the source from which these animals are derived. . . . My information was obtained from an East India Captain, who assured me that he had seen the fishes frequently, though he was ignorant of their name, and could not describe their appearance with sufficient precision to enable us to make out the species.”

In Rees’s Cyclopœdia, Volume XXX, 1819, under the heading, “Rains—Preternatural,” it is stated that after a very heavy storm, which blew down trees, houses, etc., the streets of a town near Paris were found covered with fish of various sizes up to five or six inches long. Everyone agreed that they had fallen from the clouds brought in by heavy winds. It was noted later that fish ponds in the neighborhood were empty of all but large fish, the small ones having presumably been carried out over the city.

We next come to the classical account given in 1823 by Alexander von Humboldt of the eruption of Mt. Carguairazo, north of Chimborazo, which in 1698 covered the surrounding country to the extent of about forty-three square miles with mud and fishes. Furthermore, he tells us that seven years before the event referred to, the volcano Imbaburu had thrown out so many fishes that these on decomposing caused a fever which devastated the town of Ibarra. The fish in question was a singular catfish to which was given the name Pimelodus cyclopum. The causes active here were, however, entirely different from those producing the other rains of fishes referred to in this article, the agencies being earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, which hurled the waters of lakes with their fishes high into the air.

In the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal for 1826 are found several accounts of falls of fishes in Scotland. The first is a reference to Andrew Symson’s “Large Description of Galloway,” which was written in 1684 but not published until 1823. Symson says that a shower of herring was seen to fall in Galloway some sixteen miles from the sea but not far from the water of Munnach. He did not see this himself, but says that it was reported by credible witnesses and that some of the fish were said to have been carried to the residence of the Earl of Galloway and exhibited to him.

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