A low rumble off the coast of Africa was felt right around the Earth, and no one knows what it means

That’s how they git you. Picture: Stampede Entertainment

  • The tiny island of Mayotte was struck by six months of earthquakes from May to November.
  • Then, on November 11, a long, monotone “ring” was measured across the Earth.
  • Scientists say they’ve “never seen anything like it”.

On November 11, a low rumble started off the northeast coast of the tiny island of Mayotte, sandwiched between the northern tip of Madagascar and Malawi to the west on the African mainland.

It didn’t make the news at the time because no one felt it.

It’s making the news right now, however, because it looks like it rumbled just about the entire planet.

“The waves buzzed across Africa, ringing sensors in Zambia, Kenya, and Ethiopia,” Maya Wei-Haas reported for National Geographic. “They traversed vast oceans, humming across Chile, New Zealand, Canada, and even Hawaii nearly 11,000 miles away.”

What makes the noise so interesting is the two things about it that everyone – scientists and backyard enthusiasts alike – can agree on. Namely:

  • They’ve never seen this recorded before, and;
  • They have no idea what’s going on.

There were plenty of people wondering and theorising:

But the chat is still continuing more than two weeks later.

Despite the fact the seismic waves rang across the globe for 20 minutes, it appears we were lucky at all to know it happened. Lucky enough, that is, to have an earthquake enthusiast in New Zealand who goes by the handle @matarikipax, who noticed an unusual signal in the US Geological Survey’s real-time recordings.

In fact, @matarikipax noted:

And curiosity began to build immediately.

University of Plymouth Geology Graduate and founder of UK Earthquake Bulletin Jamie Gurney said he had “no idea if a similar global signal of this nature has ever been observed”.

Volcanologist Dr Robin George Andrews followed up by noting Mayotte had a “strange double-shield volcano” – but it’s last known eruption was “2,050 BCE”.

Picture: Google Earth

Over at NatGeo, Wei Haas went to work, spending the next two weeks interviewing experts and amateurs, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Most agreed the waves, from their “surprisingly monotone, low-frequency ‘ring’ to their global spread”, were unique.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it,” Columbia University seismologist Göran Ekström said. And he specialises in unusual earthquakes.

It’s a great piece of fascinating investigative science that delves into why Mayotte’s waves are so alien-like.

Bizarrely, the waves came after a prolonged series of “traditional” earthquakes ended. They’d been shaking the island since May.

Maybe an eruption is coming. Maybe a whole new island, even.

We might have to pass it off as just another tremor, because all we know is something shifted.

But it was something big enough to shake the world.

You can read more about it at National Geographic.

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