A simple but effective way of predicting storms, many Bermudians swear by the accuracy of their shark oil barometers.
Tried and tested: As Hurricane Fabian passed over the island a shark-oil barometer shows a white cone extending upwards. *Photo by Ronnie Chameau
St. David’s Islander Ronnie Chameau says it has been her family’s tried and tested method for generations.
“It is nature’s barometer,” Mrs. Chameau told us. “I was brought up with it.”
The 67-year-old artist will be eagerly watching her jar of shark oil this weekend, but is already certain Igor’s arrival is imminent.
Although her barometer showed no change yesterday, Mrs. Chameau said the telltale signs would only reveal themselves as a hurricane came within 200 miles.
Her three inches of shark liver oil are normally clear but when a storm approaches the oil turns milky white.
“As the pressure starts to drop, this stirs it up,” she said. “As a hurricane passes it will settle down, but then a white peak forms in the centre. The cone then moves in the same direction the hurricane is going. It’s amazing, really.”
Mrs. Chameau’s photograph of her shark oil, taken as Hurricane Fabian passed over the island in 2003, reveals the barometer in action with the white cone extending upwards.
“With Fabian, it started to stir up as the storm was 150 miles off,” she said. “This hurricane [Igor] is still too far off, but it will hit us.”
Mrs. Chameau believes it was Jacques Cousteau’s son Philippe who theorized that during stormy weather sharks “get sick to their stomach” and so descend quietly to the seabed.
“It goes with the liver being the ‘chairman of the board’ of your body I guess,” she said.
Mrs. Chameau said nature’s other signs that a hurricane is on the way are leaves shaking in the trees, sand on the surface of the water and a roaring sound from our boiler reefs.
“If the South Shore goes white and the spray is misty and smells like fish, this also means a hurricane is 200 miles away,” she said.