Batticaloa's 'Singing Fish' still in business
By Prince Casinader
There was great concern whether the monstrous tsunami had spelt finis to Batticaloa's international showpiece - 'The singing fish' of the Batticaloa lagoon.

Many sceptics and ‘doubting Thomases' who feel this is a myth, and more fiction than fact, are not aware that no less a publication than the Encyclopedia Britannica speaks of Batticaloa's musical fish, (1967 Edition, Volume 3, Page 218) where, if one refers under alphabet 'B' it states - “Batticaloa - "Famous for its singing fish". Having waited long for everything connected with the tsunami to subside, on June 21, as the moon was at the full, two close friends and I with the boatman, essayed with beating heart and much trepidation to find out whether this glory of Batticaloa too had been destroyed by the tsunami.

We made a beeline towards what is called Elephant Rock, a big rock resembling an elephant lying on a side close to the Lady Manning Bridge. All was silent and our spirits were down. Seeing my anxiety, my friend Eddie remarked that we still had some distance to go to the Elephant Rock for the sounds of the piscatory underwater choir.

We knocked off the engine of the boat, and as we anxiously neared the Rock, we nearly jumped off the boat, for wafted softly, we heard the gentle sounds. As we went nearer and nearer, the sounds were clearer. We dipped one of the ends of the oar into the water and placed the other end to our ears, for then the sounds are amplified.

I can give a long list of distinguished people both foreign and local who would testify that they have heard the performance of the musical fish.
Batticaloa is and was privileged to be served in the field of education, religion and sports by several American Jesuit priests like the late Reverend Father Harold Weber, Revd. Fr J.W. Lange, Revd. Fr. G.I. Cook and others. I think it was Revd. Fr Lange who hearing of Batticaloa's phenomena taped from a boat the music of the deep and sent the tapes to the mother of a Jesuit priest in New York. She was a music teacher and listening to the tape, put it into musical notations. These musical notes were subsequently published in no less a journal that the Royal Asiatic Journal.

Many tourists take a boat ride in the lagoon and listen to the submarine choir in the orthodox way of placing one end of the oar in the lagoon waters and the other end to one’s ear.

In the forefront of distinguished men who testify, without any ambiguity to hearing the 'Singing Fish' are Sir Emerson Tennent who having served as an M.P. of the House of Commons, assumed duties as Colonial Secretary in 1845. In his book 'Ceylon' (this book was so successful that it ran to five editions) pages 380 to 386 speak of 'The Musical Fish of Batticaloa'. He states "I heard the sounds - it was not one sustained note but a multitude of tiny sounds. Each clear and distinct in itself, the sweetest treble mingling with the lowest bass."

The former Governor General of Sri Lanka, Lord Soulbury was another distinguished listener who testifies to having heard the singing fish. Lord Holden, on a visit to Batticaloa in his book titled 'Ceylon' wrote, "and sure enough the music of the singing fish could be distinctly heard below - it reminded me of the twanging in thirds of the G string on the violin."

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