On November 11, a mysterious tremor shook the planet. Earthquake sensors around the world picked it up, and scientists were baffled.
"I don't think I've seen anything like it," said Göran Ekström, a Columbia University scientist who is not expecting anything supernatural to emerge from the deep.
Scientists think the quake came from the water by Mayotte, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. Poachers massacred hundreds of sea turtles on the archipelago in 2016, but it's unlikely the turtles' ghosts have returned for revenge.
Unlike other quakes in the area, this most recent tremor had a long, flat vibration that repeated every 17 seconds and carried on 20 minutes total, like a colossal beast breathing underwater.
"There are a lot things we don't know," said Nicolas Taillefer, a research engineer monitoring the vibration. "It's something quite new in the signals on our stations."
Almost exactly a year before this tremor, scientists noticed abnormal activity in the same area. Hundreds of small earthquakes swarmed off the east coast of the archipelago, roughly one for every turtle killed that year. It's probably a coincidence.
© A lagoon on Mayotte (Photo: Cortomaton/Shutterstock)
Strangely, researchers analyzing the tremors say tectonic movement doesn't account for the quakes. So the researchers are guessing volcanos may be involved, although Mayotte's volcanos haven't erupted in 4,000 years. Instead, the scientists are going with uncharted volanos thousands of feet underwater in an area that geologists have never actually studied. So far, no one thinks turtle ghosts are joining together into a massive turtle monster intent on destroying humanity.
“It's like you have colored glasses and [are] just seeing red or something,” said Anthony Lomax, another seismology scientist who has not announced he'll be burning incense or sacrificing goats to the turtle gods anytime soon.
Tiny pinging sounds have been rumbling in the area at least since scientists started measuring them this summer. And there's something off about these sounds.
“They're too nice; they're too perfect to be nature,” said Helen Robinson, an applied volcanology grad student at the University of Glasgow. But she pointed out they can't be caused by industry either, since there's no drilling or wind farming off that coast.
© A turtle swimming near Mayotte (Photo: Coralie Mathieu/Shutterstock)
“It is very difficult, really, to say what the cause is and whether anyone's theories are correct—whether even what I'm saying has any relevance to the outcome of what's going on,” Robinson added.
Currently, the scientists are trying their best to keep a stiff upper lip; nobody seems to be panicking, flying to California, getting on Elon Musk's good side and boarding a ship to Mars.
“Depending on what field and what time in history, 99.9 percent of the time, it's ordinary, or noise, or a mistake, and 0.1 percent, it's something” Lomax said. “But that's just the way it goes. That's the way it should go. That's scientific advance.”
So at the moment, nobody know what's causing this strange activity shaking the planet from underwater. You might say it's turtles all the way down.