Why whales strand: Regardless of the increasing number of dead whales washing ashore, the US Navy and the oil industry have nothing to worry about. They’ve been bribing whale scientists and the media for over 40+ years!
The bribery is weird because the #1 danger faced by marine mammals comes from Mother Nature, not from the US Navy or the oil industry. For example, about 1,500 undersea earthquakes above magnitude >5 occur annually along the subduction zones and borders of the tectonic plates that circle the globe. Ninety percent of these borders course along the bottom of our oceans and seas. This means that 90% of all earthquakes (aka: seaquakes) occur in the backyard of whales and dolphins. Add several hundred more submarine volcanic explosions annually (link) and another 10 to 20 meteorites slamming into the water’s surface, and you begin to see that the backyard of whales and dolphins is not such a safe place to dive, especially when you realize that natural upheavals generate rapid and excessive changes in ambient water pressures that can easily traumatize the sinuses of an entire pod of diving whales. In other words, Mother Nature is the #1 reason why whales strand; it’s been that way for at least 30 million years.
The #2 reason why whales mass strand is the noise makers used by the US Navy and the oil industry. These two groups have known why whales strand for decades. They use powerful sonar, airgun arrays, and underwater explosives that emit practically identical low frequency pressure oscillations as do natural seafloor disturbances and meteorites slamming into the ocean’s surface. In fact, the whales would not know whether man or nature caused their injuries.
Exposure to rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures is every diver’s worst nightmare come true. As an example, the #1 injury is scuba divers in sinus barotrauma cause by rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures.
Natural seafloor upheavals, sonar, airguns, meteorites, and underwater explosions generate potent low frequency positive and negative pressure pulses that crisscross the bodies of diving whales, rupturing their cranial air spaces.
After suffering a busted sinus, whales lose their ability to echo-navigate and echo-locate their food. Nor can they dive much deeper than a few feet due to severe head pain. This is why whales strand. They always beach with no food in their stomachs and severely dehydrated (all their fresh water comes from the food they eat.)
The reason they lose their acoustic sense of direction is because the air held in the cranial air sinuses serves underwater not only to generate biosonar clicks but also to reflect, focus, and channel the returning echoes. Without the proper volume of air in each cranial air space, their acoustic navigation system quits working.
There is the additional danger that the rapidly changing air volumes inside their skull might do other damage such as force closed the eustachian tube or snap a bone that plays an important part in biosonar function. Much can go wrong when the volume of air in the sinuses and middle ear cavities bounces back and forth too excessively.
Those on the beach don’t appear injured because sinus barotrauma is the slightest, most deadliest internal injury any diving mammal can receive and still look outwardly healthy.
But the mysterious part is not why whales strand. The real enigma is why both the US Navy and the oil industry have refused to fund an investigation into how extreme changes in diving pressures generated by natural underwater disturbances kill marine mammals. You’d think they would be thrilled to prove that Mother Nature is the reason why whales strand just so they could get themselves off the hook. It is even more strange considering the fact that the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division warned us back in 1966 that UNDERWATER DISTURBANCES are extremely dangerous to marine life. They said “MARINE LIFE CAN BE DESTROYED BY A SEAQUAKE.” (see page 59 of this pdf)
This article even warned on the last page: “Damaging seaquake: The ship may be thrown about in the water with such force that mast, booms, superstructure and machinery as well as the hull may be damaged. It is possible for seams to be opened to such an extent that flooding cannot be contained and the vessel sinks.”
If a seaquake can sink a ship, it can darn sure injure a pod of diving whales in a fashion to destroy their acoustic sense of direction. Lost whales could easily swim into a beach, especially on an incoming tide, so why don’t the US Navy and the oil industry blame strandings on undersea seismic disturbances?
The US Navy pays for 50 percent of all whale research worldwide (link). The oil industry (by way of various taxes and fees) pays for 47 percent. The question is why are the two worst underwater noise polluters on the planet paying for 97% of the research to study the world’s most acoustically dependant animals? This is the same as letting a pack of wolves guard our sheep. Are we that stupid?
Do you remember how big tobacco controlled all the lung cancer research in the 1950s and 1960s? They were paying doctors to advertise cigarettes. They doled out all the money for cancer research because they wanted to control the best available scientific information on smoking and lung cancer. If the scientists didn’t come up with the results big tobacco wanted, they got blacklisted and never got another dime. Plenty of crooked, lying, lowdown, mudsucking scientists step forward, stuck out their greedy hands, and wrote all about how healthy it was to inhale cigarette tar and a hundred other deadly chemicals into your lungs. They didn’t give a rat’s ass if you died of lung cancer. All they cared about was MONEY!
Science is for sale and it always has been!
But what motive does the oil industry and the US Navy have to want to control 97% of all the whale research worldwide? More important, why does Congress, the Secretary of Commerce, NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Marine Mammal Commission allow all this lopsided control over whale research?
And why do they want to keep you in the dark about barotrauma in the cranial air sinus of whales as a result of pressure waves generated by natural underwater disturbances? This ain’t rocket science. Besides, the US Navy already told us that seaquakes kill marine life. You’d think they would be telling us more specifically about how seaquakes do the killing, especially when it comes to marine mammals.
Their motive is simple. As mentioned above, military sonar, oil industry airguns, and explosives cause the identical injury in diving whales as does undersea seismic upheavals. The low frequency pressure waves generated by nature and by man are about the same and they cause the same barotraumatic injuries. This is true because the cranial air spaces are the most delicate part of a diving whale’s anatomy when exposed to rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures.
But they can’t let you know that natural undersea catastrophes cause sinus barotrauma in marine mammals because there is little difference between the injuries caused by their underwater noise makers and the injuries caused by Mother Nature. In other words, if they convict nature, they convict themselves.
Why Whales Strand
The US Navy knows that sinus barotrauma explains why whales strand. But they refuse to allow the scientists they support to talk about it. Doubt me? Search online for “sinus barotrauma and whales.” You find mostly my work.
Here is more specific evidence: The first scientific objective in one US Navy sponsored research paper (link) was: “To understand how the ears of deep-diving marine mammals are structured to prevent barotrauma.”
The paper was considered special because it would be presented at the 1998 NATO meeting to discuss the sonar impacts on beaked whales. Regardless of the stated purpose of this research, Dr. Darlene Ketten, the world’s leading whale hearing expert, who has received hundreds of
grants payoffs from the Navy, declared therein:
” . . .we (scientists) have no knowledge of what auditory structural adaptations these animals evolved to endure bathypelagic and rapidly changing pressures . . .”
There was no discussion whatsoever about the massive air sinuses and air sacs in the heads of these deep divers. How is it possible to discuss BAROTRAUMA in diving mammals and not mention the sinuses and air sacs, the part of their anatomy most vulnerable to excessive low frequency pressure changes? The ONLY purpose of this US Navy-sponsored scientific doublespeak was to have Dr. Darlene Ketten officially declare that there was “no available scientific information on barotrauma in whales.”
Here’s another scientific article in which Ketten says scientists have no knowledge about hearing in whales (link). Everywhere you turn, whale scientists are claiming to be just plain dumb about barotrauma and hearing injury in whales. They are still arguing about how sonar kills whales. Many whale scientists blame the injury on the whales because they get spooked and swim to the surface too fast.
Keep this in mind… as long as there is a scientific argument, all available scientific information is questionable until the argument is settled. The argument can go on as long as the US Navy and the oil industry keep the money flowing! The best available scientific information can never emerge until many decades of arguments are settled.
But why is denying knowledge in a research paper so important? The reason involves the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Click the link and look for the yellow highlights. The legislation that protects our whales and dolphins states over and over again (17 times) that the Secretary of Commerce must protect marine mammals to the “best available scientific information.” This law offers NO PROTECTION if there is NO AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION TO GUIDE THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE. Read it! The US Navy and the oil industry are doing the exact same thing big tobacco did in the 50s and 60s.
Bottom line is that the Marine Mammal Protection Act protects the world’s worst underwater noise polluters, not our whales.
Said differently, the scientific information to determine the level of protection from the noise generated by the US Navy and oil industry is under the direct control of the US Navy and the oil industry. Obviously, the easiest way for these two acoustic polluters to defeat that Marine Mammal Protection Act is to use taxpayer money and tax deductions to control whale scientists and the best available scientific information they develop.
The whale-loving public has been fooled!
Please allow me to repeat myself: This defective law states repeatedly that Secretary of Commerce must protect marine mammals to the “best available scientific information.” If there is “no available scientific information on barotrauma or barosinusitis in whales” as Dr. Darlene Ketten openly stated, then the Marine Mammal Protection Act is worthless scrap of paper.
Equally obvious, the US Navy and oil industry are not going to use taxpayer money to sponsor any research that will show how their operations cause rapid pressure changes that kill marine mammals. Nor do they want to see earthquake-induced barosinusitis accepted as the cause of mass beachings since it is only a small step over to barosinusitis induced by explosives, sonar, and/or airguns.
I repeat, the whale-loving public has been fooled!
Capt. David Williams
(the world’s oldest whale conservation group)