The Earth Just ‘Rang Like A Bell’ And Nobody Knows Why

by : Charlie Cocksedge on : 30 Nov 2018 17:44
mayotte mapGoogle

Did you feel it? Apparently some seismic shiz just went down and no one knows what it was.

Sensors picked up the ‘event’, which reportedly originated near an island between Madagascar and Africa, as far away as Chile, New Zealand and Canada.


Sensors in Hawaii, which is 11,000 miles away on the other side of the world to the island it came from, also picked up the ‘event’.

What’s strange is that no one knows what it was – not an earthquake or volcanic activity. Could it have been a meteorite or a nuclear test of some sort?


Göran Ekström, a seismologist from Columbia University, told National Geographic:


I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. [However] it doesn’t mean that, in the end, the cause of them is that exotic.

The occurrence rumbled around the world on November 11, beginning around 15 miles off the shores of Mayotte, which sits between the east coast of Africa and the northern tip of Madagascar.

What’s also strange is that the ‘event’ wasn’t just a quick blip which then disappeared. The sensors were ringing for 20 minutes. And while the sensors were going off, it seems no human felt it.

Researchers are still trying to track down what caused the buzz, which revealed itself as a ‘monotone, low-frequency ringing’.



When a ‘normal’ earthquake happens, tension is built up between the Earth’s plates and is released in a sudden jolt, usually lasting only a few seconds, and often with a number of aftershocks.

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton, describes these initial waves as a ‘wave train’. These fast-moving ‘primary waves’ move forward in bunches, and are then followed by ‘secondary waves’, which have more of a side-to-side motion.

Both groups of waves have a high pitched frequency, as Hicks says: ‘a sort of ping rather than a rumbling’. Thirdly, surface waves occur, which are similar to what was recorded recently, which can travel around the planet multiple times and ‘ring Earth like a bell’, as Hicks puts it.


However, there was no earthquake to trigger these recent waves coming from Mayotte.

Scientists are calling the event monochromatic, as it only had one type of wave and regularly repeated itself every 17 seconds.


Mayotte has seen more than its fair share of seismic activity lately. Since May, the small island has been hit by hundreds of quakes, mostly minor, that originate around 31 miles offshore – just east of the recent undefined ringing.


The French Geological Survey has been monitoring Mayotte and its seismic activity, and suggests that a ‘new centre of volcanic activity may be developing’ off the island’s coast.

The island hasn’t seen any major volcanic eruptions in over 4,000 years, but the French Geological Survey is suggesting that these new readings could point to the movement of magma offshore.

This is good news for residents of the island, however geologists are yet to study the offshore area in detail. For now, it is still unclear where the strange seismic activity came from.

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Charlie Cocksedge

Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist and sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.

Topics: Science


National Geographic
  1. National Geographic

    Strange waves rippled around the world, and nobody knows why