Maybe you’ve seen pictures of it, but if not, you need to see images of the gigantic school of anchovies that recently showed up along the coast of San Diego County in southern California.

It’s crazy. The massive swarm of little fish that appeared July 8 along the shoreline near the high-rent district of La Jolla looks at first glance like the results of a catastrophic oil spill or a monstrous “red tide” (a large concentration of aquatic microorganisms).

But the mysterious, long black cloud that residents of the area witnessed ebbing and flowing under the shallow water from viewpoints like Scripps Pier wasn’t the next big disaster caused by careless or negligent oil workers or a titanic “algal bloom,” it was really a bazillion members of the species famous for being a rather unpopular and much-maligned pizza topping. As each of the millions of individuals went this way and that with that peculiar oneness that can only be found in a school of fish, onlookers described the horde’s movement as resembling the innards of a lava lamp.

DOUG DAVISON

DOUG DAVISON

There’s a wonderfully bizarre YouTube video of a few Scripps Institution of Oceanography students enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime experience (actually, never in most peoples’ lives) of swimming next to and inside the school. There are some great shots of a girl going under water and swimming right into a virtual wall of fish.

They obviously aren’t all that perturbed at her presence, but also don’t appear ready to make friends, as they part in all directions to make way for the harmless intruder. In another segment, a guy goes straight down into the crowd and a hole basically forms in the fishy mass.

It’s amazing stuff, and believe me, it’s 3 minutes and 17 seconds of time well spent just to behold how incredibly unreal the reality of God’s naturally creative abilities are.

And you’ll definitely understand the lava lamp comparison.

One thing I find curious about the school’s out-of-nowhere cameo appearance is that Scripps oceanographers said nothing similar had been known to occur in about 30 years. OK, so a gigantic assembly of anchovies has gathered near a Southern California beach before? This isn’t the first time surfers have paddled their boards above a swirling cloud of oceanic minnows?

Weird; it’s just one of those things that make you go hmmm.

I guess we should all be glad it was a school of anchovies and not 10 million great white sharks all in one place at one time. Much better that a species of fish that can be salted and canned would hold a convention in San Diego than one whose appearance is often accompanied by phrases like “bite radius” and “apex predator.”

So now that the “million anchovy march” has come and gone, one wonders what comes next.

Will a massive multitude of ladybugs descend on Dallas?

Will a fantastic flock of finches land in Laramie?

Or will a colossal colony of sea lions settle in Seattle?

Only time will tell, but the odds are we’ll see soon enough.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Surfers paddle over a massive school of anchovies July 8 off of the coast of San Diego County, Calif.

Surfers paddle over a massive school of anchovies July 8 off of the coast of San Diego County, Calif.

A giant school of anchovies forms a long black stripe in the Pacific Ocean July 8 near the shore near LaJolla, Calif.

A giant school of anchovies forms a long black stripe in the Pacific Ocean July 8 near the shore near LaJolla, Calif.

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