Deep-sea Tremors

From buried cracks

And open wounds

Shrouded scales

Begin to seep.

Cutting across murky waters

Into buried memories

And forgotten half-truths,

Inky fingerprints

Preserve their presence

Alongside court proceedings

And local weather reports.

Over time these sightings

Are recalled as prophecies;

Portents of the restless Earth

That slyly secrete themselves

As cherished traditions.


Curious custodians

Challenge accepted lore,

Their digital excavations

Laying bare the absence of fact.

The fallacy of this folklore

Cast beneath the waves;

An empty carcass on which

The ribbonfish can feast.

The unicorn crestfish or unicornfish (Photo Credit: Sandra Raredon/Smithsonian Institution via Wikimedia Commons).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that despite local folklore the appearance of deep-sea fish in shallow waters is not a precursor for earthquakes in Japan.

In Japan, many people believe that sightings of deep-sea fish in shallow waters are a sign that an earthquake is imminent. If these stories are true, then deep-sea fish appearances could potentially be used in disaster mitigation efforts. For many years, Japanese domestic newspapers have reported appearances of rare deep sea-fish such as oarfish, ribbonfish, dealfish, and unicorn crestfish, thereby providing a dataset to test this hypothesis.

By studying over 80 years of deep-sea fish sightings and earthquakes in the seas surrounding Japan, researchers found only one potentially correlated event. As such they debunked this folklore as being fundamentally incorrect, and of no use to future disaster mitigation efforts.

An audio version of this poem can be heard here:


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