As I pen these letters, May 11, 2011, I am pleased to report no massive earthquake in Rome. One has been predicted, as you may know. The prediction comes from Raffaele Bendandi, now dead some 30 years, who acquired a substantial reputation and following for predicting earthquakes. A self-styled seismologist, astronomer, and cosmologist, knighted by none other than fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, in 1927, primarily for his 1923 prediction—off by only two days—of a major quake in the Adriatic region, Bendandi has been hailed by many (non-scientists) as an earthquake predictor.
Internet techies and followers of Bendandi claim he predicted, by studying the interplay of the sun, moon, and stars, that a massive “big one” would occur under Rome, Italy, on May 11, 2011. Indeed, we are currently witnessing extraordinary celestial events. A report from the University of Texas reveals a unique alignment in the sky: beginning May 10, the planets Venus and Jupiter will be side by side, near the horizon. Mercury will be visible to the lower right of Venus (the brighter light, on the right), with the red planet, Mars, lower left of Jupiter. One source says while this lineup also happened just last year, it will “never happen again!”
Bendandi the Predictor may be less enthusiastic about the prediction for Rome, today, than are his followers and disciples; scholars say Bendandi left no record of any prediction for May of 2011. He has, though, said we will see some major seismographic activity on April 6, 2521.
The Romans aren’t waiting for 2521; they are calling in sick in droves, and many are leaving the city. Thousands of Romans are taking the day off, to spend time in parks and open areas. City employees have made the day-off call at the rate of about 18 percent.
The City of Rome has a large and perhaps superstitious Chinese population, and reports remark, “The Chinese are all gone!” The Chinese are particularly interested, we are told, in earthquakes and their prediction. In the winter of 1975, the city of Haicheng, in China, was evacuated based on reports of “unusual animal behavior” and changes in levels of groundwater. The next day, a 7.3 magnitude quake left 2,000 Chinese dead. The following year a quake that was preceded by changes in water levels killed 240,000, in Tangshan, in northeastern China.
The Chinese may have something. Prior to one of China’s worst quakes in recorded history the water level in a prominent pond fell drastically. Toads by the thousands appeared in the streets and zoo animals began strange, unusual behavior. Troublesome reports came of zebras banging their heads, elephants swinging their trunks, peacocks screeching, and lions and tigers, usually asleep at that time of day, pacing their habitats.
Geophysicist Tom Parsons, with the U.S. Geological Survey, says these signals aren’t reliable. For centuries people have tried to predict quakes, some by studying odd gaseous releases, or a variety of electrical signals. He mentions that animal behavior has been linked to quake prediction. He goes on to say none of these are reliable; earthquakes and tectonic plates interact with each other in a very chaotic system.
We are all aware of the predictions of an end to our world, coming soon. We have seen birds fall from the sky; we have seen fish and crabs dying inexplicably in large numbers. We are aware of predictions dating back to the dawn of history. As yet there is no rumbling beneath the streets of Rome; we hope that continues to be the case.