“Why does it rain fish in Honduras every year?”

Worker cleaning up after the latest rain of fish. (Photo via Iyeey)

Worker cleaning up after the latest rain of fish in Yoro, Hondurus. (Photo via Iyeey)

It’s May, which means any day now a massive thunderstorm will form in Yoro, Hondurus, pelting the region with heavy rain for hours. By the time the rain’s over, the ground will be covered in small, blind, silver fish.

It happens every year in May or June, at least once, and sometimes twice. It’s been going on for over a century now. Locals call it the Lluvia de Peces (rain of fish).

But why?

Theory #1: It’s God, providing food for the poor

Rain of Fish by Olaus Magnus (Via Historical Mysteries)

Rain of Fish by Olaus Magnus (Via Historical Mysteries)

Local legend has it the fish are a blessing from Spanish missionary Father Jose Manuel Subirana. Father Subirana was so heartbroken by the poverty and hunger he witnessed in Yoro in the 1860s that he asked God to provide them with food.

This theory is bolstered by the fact that the fish aren’t native to the region’s rivers and streams, so clearly come from somewhere else, like maybe the Atlantic Ocean.

Theory #2: It’s waterspouts, scooping up fish from the Atlantic and carrying them 125 miles to Yoro

When tornadoes and other powerful storms move over water, they can form waterspouts or powerful updrafts that suck up small fish and other aquatic life and dump them onshore elsewhere.

The problem is that once those waterspouts encounter land, they lose power very quickly. It doesn’t seem very likely that a waterspout would be capable of carrying fish 125 miles over land from the Atlantic Ocean to Yoro. If waterspouts were the explanation, it seems far more likely the fish would be appearing somewhere much closer to their home, like anywhere in Atlantida.

(Map of Honduras via the Discover Central America blog)

(Map of Honduras via the Discover Central America blog)

Also, what are the odds that a waterspout would form directly over a giant school of fish every spring for more than 100 years?

Even if you are willing to accept those odds, you’ll still have to explain away the fact that according to a crack team of National Geographic explorers who witnessed the event in the 1970s, the fish are freshwater, not saltwater fish.

So if the fish aren’t coming from the Atlantic Ocean, and they aren’t coming from the local rivers and streams, where are they coming from?

Theory #3: The fish live underground and are forced up by the rain

(Photo via Atlas Obscura)

The blind fish of Yoro. (Photo via Atlas Obscura)

Back in the 1970s, the National Geographic team noticed that the washed-up fish were completely blind. That led them to conclude that the fish lived in an underground river. Based on that, they decided that the most likely explanation for the annual fish-basting of Yoro was that the heavy rains forced the subterranean fish above ground.

This is the most likely explanation, but it has its own issues.

Let’s face it: Fish flushed out of their homes like earthworms after a heavy rain just aren’t as interesting as fish raining down from the sky.

Also, apparently no one has found an egress point for this proposed underground river teeming with fish. Still, the National Geographic’s theory remains the most likely explanation.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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One Response to “Why does it rain fish in Honduras every year?”

  1. Pingback: VIDEO - Lucruri ciudate găsite în locuri în care nu ar trebui să existe - Incredibilia.ro

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