Sunday, February 16, 2014

Of ancient Malawi’s Napolo wrath...tsunamis, bubbles and froth

Internet beer foam photo not related to this article
A young Malawian healer at the top of a certain mountain notices huge bubbles and froth at a nearby water body as if someone had not properly poured beer into a glass.
It’s as if nature is providing a warning signal.
Sensing something wrong and on close investigation the man sees the bubbles now appearing like boiling water and froth all over the place.
Rushing down the mountain he warns the villagers that Napolo is about to erupt and re-locate to the nearest river or lake so goes a tale told by one Blantyre based healer from Mulanje.
He said in ancient times, healers would rush to the spot where they saw bubbles and offer a sacrifice (nsembe) including mapira (sorghum) to avoid the mythical Napolo serpent spirit from coming out.
Sorghum bicolor photo from
Infonet-biovision website
The man claims in ancient times people were forewarned and able to avoid its deadly path since it moves in a straight line with water and destroys and removes everything in its path.
He also claims the same thing would happen when Napolo moved from the lake back to the mountain after a period of time.  According to this healer that is why in ancient times nsembe offerings were also done at lakes.
Times have changed now and when healers notice such things, many don’t listen to them because such beliefs are ‘primitive’ and ‘old-fashioned’ to them.
However for young Namilanzi also from Mulanje, she claims Napolo also affects the Ruo River at her village near the border Mozambique.  When they see bubbles and whirlpools they scream run!!!! in the vernacular assuming Napolo is passing by in a straight path.
Napolo is a mythical serpent spirit said to sometimes appear as an elderly man with white hair but a spirit in ancient times but as a sea monster when in water bodies.
Ironically some online sources from around the world also suggest bubbles and froth indicating tsunamis but from a scientific point of view.
Tsunamis in lakes can be generated by fault displacement beneath or around lake systems. Faulting shifts the ground in a vertical motion through reverse, normal or oblique strike slip faulting processes, this displaces the water above causing a tsunami read various online sources.

On December 26 some years ago, British schoolgirl Tilly Smith, 10, sensed something was wrong while on the beach with her family. Her mind kept going back to the geography lesson Mr. Kearney gave just two weeks before she flew out to a Thai resort with her family.
Internet ocean waves photo
“The water was swelling and kept coming in,” recalled Penny Smith, Tilly’s mother. “There was froth on it like you get on the top of a beer. The sea was like a millpond before [the swelling began].”
The Smiths, from southeast England, were celebrating Christmas at Maikhao Beach in Phuket, southern Thailand. Deadly tsunami waves were already on their way—triggered by a massive earthquake off northern Sumatra earlier that morning.

“The beach was getting smaller and smaller,” said Penny Smith, 43. “I felt compelled to look, but I didn’t know what was happening. Then Tilly said she’d just studied this at school—she talked about tectonic plates and an earthquake under the sea. She got more and more hysterical. In the end she was screaming at us to get off the beach.”
Tilly’s father, Colin Smith, 46, said other tourists on the beach were alerted by his daughter’s concerns as he took Tilly and her seven-year-old sister back to the hotel swimming pool.
Internet ocean bubbles
Penny Smith added, “I didn’t know what a tsunami was, but seeing your daughter so frightened made you think something serious must be going on.”
She remembers seeing a yacht being tipped vertically in the bay. “Then it was as if the entire sea came out of the water. I was screaming, ‘Run!’, partly reads the National Geographic news on

Psychologists have observed that human beings often manifest a normalcy bias. Simply put, people tend to underestimate the odds of a disaster and the effects of a disaster.
“Often when danger is coming, there are warnings; but we don’t recognize them or we misinterpret them,” further reads the same website.
Elsewhere in Native American culture stories, the people saw “water bubble and froth when the Thunderbird was angry.”  Thunderbird online is described as being a mythical “giant and magical bird.”
“The local people were afraid of Spirit Lake because of the Thunderbird and the other spirit beings that inhabited the area, and kept a healthy distance away.
“When Mount St. Helens erupted in the 1840s, artist Paul Kane traveled to the mountain to sketch and paint it. Upon his return a few days later, the locals ran away from him. 

Their belief in the powers of the spirits there was so strong, they thought Kane was a ghost”, reads

Elsewhere in Europe, an Italian geologist, Dr Luigi Piccardi claimed that sightings of “Nessie” in the dark waters of Loch Ness in Scotland are the simply result of bubbles caused by geological forces.

Popular opinion is divided about whether a surviving plesiosaur lives in Loch Ness or whether the modern myth of the monster is the result of a string of elaborate hoaxes.
“The geologist, from the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Florence, said that historical descriptions of the monster often include details of the earth shaking.
Loch Ness photo from
“He claims that sightings of the monster are linked to bubbles rising from the bottom of the Loch caused by seismic activity along the Great Glen fault system, which runs beneath.
Although people may not associate Scotland with earthquakes, Luigi said that the fault line is ‘very large and very active’.”
The geologist told Italian newspaper, La Repubblica: ’There are various effects on the surface of the water that can be related to the activity of the fault.’

Dr Piccardi in the same article points to an old biography about Saint Columba, written by Adamnan, that says the monster appeared and disappeared when the earth shook.
“Written in 690AD, the text describes a story about the saint crossing the River Ness when his disciple is attacked by a monster and is saved when he asks for the protection of god.
“Many people have noted that the description is very vague and mentions an ‘unknown beast’ with a loud roar. It does not support any scientific explanation as there are no bubbles or mention of an ancient monster dwelling in the loch itself,” partly reads the Daily Mail article.

The Wrath of Napolo book cover from
not connected to this article

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star. this space.