Miss Rowe and her colleagues immediately began work on solving the mystery. For the apocalyptically inclined, the answer was obvious. Some Christian fundamentalists claimed the end was nigh, finding biblical justification in Hosea 4:1-3, which reads: “Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.”
That the birds fell from the sky in the southern Bible Belt, where Old Testament plagues of frogs and locusts are often viewed as part of a creationist account of history, only fuelled such interpretations. Others cited the so-called “2012 phenomenon”, which holds that December 21 next year is the end of an ancient Mayan calendar count that will bring catastrophe to the world — a view that is, significantly, not shared by the modern Mayan.
Even for those who did not construe these deaths as an end-of-the-world harbinger, there were out-of-the-world explanations aplenty — be it microwaves from Mars, solar flares, secret military tests, or gas seeping from fault lines.