Rains of Fishes

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

Next are the accounts, by the Rev. Colin Smith, of Appin, of falls in Argyllshire, Scotland, which read as follows:

“. . . the testimony of many has enabled me to ascertain that a shower of herring fell in Lorn, about the year 1796, yet I have not met anyone who could inform me of the particulars concerning it.

“In the same district, and near the same place, on a small eminence above Melford House, a shower of herring fell in 1821, in every respect so large and good, that the tenants by whom they were found were induced to send some of them to their landlord, then residing in Edinburgh. In regard to the state of the weather, I could learn no more than that it was exceedingly boisterous; while the hill on which they were found is exposed to the southwest wind, which blows along Loch Milford, an arm of the sea in which herrings are frequently found.

“In the month of March, 1817, strong gales of wind from the north were experienced in Appin. Upon the evening of the second day of their continuance, rain fell in abundance; and next day being very warm and sultry, some children observed a large quantity of herring-fry scattered over a moss a little to the northeast of the ferry of Shien. There might have been about three barrels or more of these, and measuring from 1½ to 3 inches in length. Now, the place in which they were found is only 300 yards north of Loch Creran, an arm of the sea running east and west, from which several supposed the fry must have been raised. The wind, however, being from the north, renders this a seeming impossibility; and it may, perhaps, be more safely concluded that they must have been ejected from the Linnhe Loch, another arm of the sea, extending southwest and northeast, about 3 miles north of the place in which they were found. A range of moorland, about 300 feet above the level of the sea, intervenes; but it is easier to suppose the cause which originally elevated these fry to be so powerful as to carry them this height and distance, than that they should obtain a course contrary to the general body of air. They exhibited no appearance of being bruised by the fall.”

The last account in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal for 1826 is from a man named Arnot, who told the editor, Robert Jameson, that in 1825 a shower of herring fell near Loch Leven in Kinross-shire, the wind at the time blowing strongly from the Firth of Forth. Hence it was concluded that they were blown out of the Firth, carried by the wind across Fifeshire, and let fall in the vicinity of Loch Leven.

There is also said to be an account of a rain of fishes in the Inverness Courier of April, 1828, but it has been impossible to verify this. In 1828, a short account was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine of a rain in Ross-shire, Scotland. The full account follows:

“As Major Forbes Mackenzie of Fodderty, in Strathpeffer, Co. Ross, was traversing a field on this farm, he was surprised to find a considerable portion of the ground covered with herring fry, of from three to four inches each in length. The fish were fresh and entire, and had no appearance of being dropped by birds, a medium by which they must have been bruised and mutilated. The only rational conjecture that can be formed of the circumstance is, that the fish were transported thither by a waterspout—a phenomenon that has before occurred in this county, and which is by no means uncommon in tropical climates. The Frith of Dingwell lies at a distance of three miles from the place in question, but no obstruction occurs between the field and the sea—the whole is a level stretch or plain—and waterspouts have been known to carry even farther than this. Major Mackenzie has forwarded a small quantity of the fish to the secretary of the Northern Institution.”

Chronologically the next account is from America, namely Cambridge, Maryland. J. E. Muse tells in 1829 of a ditch dug one mile from the river and in land ten feet above water. This had no connection with any body of water and for ten days after being finished remained dry. Then came a week or ten days of heavy rain which filled the ditch and in the ditch were found hundreds of small sun perch and jack perch from four to seven inches long. The author has no explanation, but it would seem that a “rain of fishes” is the most reasonable supposition and hence the account is included here.

The next account takes us to the South Sea Islands, and is recorded in the Polynesian Researches of that keenest-sighted of all the missionary observers of natural history in the South Seas, William Ellis. In the first edition of his invaluable work (1830), in Volume II, p. 285, is the following account of an observation made at some one of the Society Islands, probably Tahiti itself:

“Connected with the fresh-water fish, a phenomenon is often observed for which the natives are puzzled to account. In the hollows of the rocks and in other places, to which they suppose that the sea and the river never gain access, and where the water collected is entirely what falls from the clouds, small but regularly formed fish are sometimes found. The people have frequently express their surprise at finding them, and appeared to wonder how they ever came there. They call them topataua, literally, rain-drop, supposing that they must have fallen from the clouds with the rain.”

There are now to be recorded a number of accounts from India, where it would seem this phenomenon is not unusual. The first, published in 1833, is from the pen of James Prinsep, long the secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and a scientist of the utmost credibility.

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