IF you awoke one morning to discover 50 small fish deposited outside your front window, your curiosity would doubtless be aroused. Something fishy was going on, you might fear.
Hilly and John Bouteloup, who live at Corbière, were inclined first to blame a typically thoughtless seagull when their daughter Avena asked why somebody had dumped fish all over their patio.
In an effort to get to the bottom of it, Mr Bouteloup posted a video of the strange sight on his Facebook page. One of those who saw it was Jersey’s principal meteorological officer John Searson who enlisted the assistance of Paul Chambers of Jersey’s Marine Resources to identify the fish, two or three inches in length, as sprats.
The investigative skills of the scientific duo now fully engaged, they consulted footage taken off the Island’s coast by Dave Double and Tony Marshall. It showed waterspouts – the marine equivalent of a tornado – rapidly spinning columns of air, made visible by a mixture of condensed water vapour and the spray drawn into it.
More importantly, the date of the waterspout sightings correlated with the date of Mr Bouteloup’s video. The culprit had been unmasked – it was the weather.
Senior met forecaster Rob Plummer took up the story, published this week on the government’s blog, to complete the explanation: ‘In the case of the Bouteloups’ garden, there was no wind damage to be seen and, funnily enough, no fish were found in the neighbouring property, so it really would have been very easy to dismiss the event as nothing but a prank. However, these extra details all tie together nicely when you observe and consider the photos of 2 November’s waterspouts.
‘The waterspouts can be seen to lean at quite an angle, something close to 45 degrees. This means that if a shoal of fish were sucked up to a great height then we would actually expect them to fall many hundreds of metres away from their source. Therefore it’s entirely reasonable to receive a localised splattering of sprats, without feeling any of the extreme winds that would have been at the waterspout’s base,’ Mr Plummer wrote.