by Capt. David Williams
Deafwhale Society, Inc.
download latest scientific article: www.deafwhale.com/2013-science-article.pdf
solutions to recent strandings: World's Rarest Whales 31 Dec 2010 King Island 4 Nov 2012 Andaman Islands 21 Oct. 2012 New Zealand 14 Oct. 2012 Scotland 02 Sept 2012 Florida 01 Sept 2012 Cape Verde 24 Aug 2012 Everglades, Florida 05 Dec 2013 Farewell Spit, 05 Jan 2014 Farewell Spit 14 Jan 2014 Naples Florida 20 Jan 2014 mass stranding predicted Cape Cod Feb 2014 nine killer whales strand in New Zealand 11 Feb 2014 blue whale strands in Kuwait 01 Mar 2014 Cape Cod stranding predicted 1 month in advance
UNDERSEA EARTHQUAKES (SEAQUAKES) AS THE CAUSE OF MASS STRANDINGS
Archaeologists tell us that whales have been mass stranding since long before the beginning of recorded history, more likely for millions of years. In fact, 300 years before the birth of Christ, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle was writing about mass stranded dolphins. “They fling themselves ashore for reasons unknown," he wrote. The mysterious beachings have not changed. Neither has the befuddlement of the world’s top whale scientists who have tried for over a hundred years to solve the mystery. When asked recently (link) why the pilot whales stranded in Florida in December 2013, Dr. Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, said "scientists may never find out because we just don't know enough about mass strandings."
Scientists have already completed necropsies on untold thousands of whale carcasses. They attend practically every mass stranding, take tissue and blood samples, and cut up more whales so they can supposedly learn what caused the beaching. They've already scientifically investigated starvation, being chased ashore by sharks or killer whales, macro-parasitic worms, micro-parasites, morbillivirus, bacteria, fungal infections, osteomyelitis, spondylosis deformans, ankylosing spondylitis, brevetoxins, saxitoxins, ciguatoxins, severe storms, sun spots and sun flares, phases of the moon, geomagnetic navigation failure, echolocation failure due to shallow sloping beach, following a sick pod leader, strong social bonds, following ancient migratory routes that have since been closed, a desire to seek land in time of distress, chemical pollution, heavy metals, immune failure, ingestion of plastic bags, movement of ice sheets, aggressive feeding too close to a sand trap, and movement of nutrient-rich waters closer to shore.
I've personally told more than a thousand marine mammal scientists since 1987 that seaquakes cause mass beachings. I published my findings, wrote blogs, published on the internet, and begged for their support but they ignored me, kicked me off their discussion groups, and tried to shot down my work at every chance they got.
In my opinion, scientists should have known that none of their stranding concepts could answer the mystery of mass beaching because none of them explain the consistent observations at the beach, especially the repeat finding that the stranded whales are dehydrated and have no fresh food in their stomachs.
The scientists explain explain no fresh food by saying that whales vomited before they beach. But this doesn't explain dehydration. Besides, no one has ever witnessed whales vomiting or found any whale puck.
NOAA's Dr. Erin Fougeres is right. Whale experts will never solve the mystery of why whales mass beach simply because they do not know how to interpret the valuable evidence presented at every mass stranding. They cannot solve the mystery if they ignore the obvious clues?
First, let's start with their mistake not to investigate seaquakes (a series of rapid changes in pressure above the epicenter of an undersea earthquakes). A thousand earthquakes every year release the energy of the atomic bomb that flattened Hiroshima in 1945. Ninety (90%) percent of these events go unnoticed because they erupt under the ocean's surface along mid-oceanic ridges,in the backyard of the whales and dolphins known to repeatedly mass strand themselves. Mid-ocean ridges, the major feeding grounds of herds of deep water toothed whales and dolphins, are by far the most seismically-active places on earth. The sheer numbers make it foolish to believe that undersea earthquakes are causing injury to whales.
In his book on acoustic aspects of detecting nuclear explosions in the ocean, German underwater acoustic's Professor Peter Willie, the former head of NATO's Undersea Research Center, displays three similar sonograms and compares the noise generated by earthquakes with that of submarine nuclear explosions of several thousand tons of TNT-equivalent. (ref # )
Google Book Search list 500 publications that discuss seaquakes (Link) that marine mammal scientist might read. Another mistake whale experts made was in not realizing that seaquakes are also called the T waves or T Phase waves. T waves are low frequency acoustic pressure waves that travel great distances from their source. There are millions of publications (Link) listed on Google Search that discussed the production of T-Phase Waves by submarine earthquakes..
Seaquakes are also reported by the crews of ships, submarines, and by human divers as shock waves and violent disturbances in water pressures (ref ?). The pressure jump behind the front of such seismoacoustic waves can attain 1.5 MPa, or 15 atmospheres above ambient. The average frequency of these pressure changes is ~3 hertz. The vertical component of the seafloor-displacement velocity is estimated at about 10-100 cm/s, the accelerations of floor motions can amount to about 10 m/s² and the area of dangerous oscillations at ~3 hertz might attain 100 square km (ref ?).
If what I given you is not enough to convince you that undersea earthquakes are the greatest hazard faced by diving whales, watch the SHOCKING VIDEO below. You will first hear the roar of an earthquake that has traveled 900 miles in the solid seafloor as seismic P-waves, and then entered the water below the hydrophone as acoustic pressure waves. In the shocking last part, you will hear the God-awesome irritating sound of seaquake waves that have traveled in the water for 900 miles before reaching the hydrophone. If watching this video does not convince that undersea earthquakes might indeed injury an entire pod of diving whales, then close this webpage because my evidence does not get stronger
MODELING SEAQUAKE INJURY:
Pretend you are a whale scientists and imagine this: an entire pod of diving pilot whales are busy feeding on squid 200 meters above the top of an undersea volcanic seamount when a vertical thrusting earthquake suddenly erupts at the base of the mountain, only 4 km below their position. As the seismic P waves race up inside of the mountain towards the whales, they channeled and concentrated by the inverted cone. The P-waves then pass through the basalt/water interface and enter the water with little energy loss. The entire pod is surrounded in a field of severe pressure alteration before they even know what happened. They all suffer a similar internal barotraumatic injury in their cranial air spaces and bolt towards the surface.
They arrive at the surface confused and in shock. A few are bleeding; some die quickly and sink. The oceanic sharks that hand around the herd know the whales are in trouble and they are about to catch a meal. The sharks move in closer than normal. The survivors form a tight pod and start swimming to move away from the sharks. They can't dive because their sinuses are leaking air and blood into the heads. They cannot navigate because their sinuses serve underwater to channel, reflect, and focus returning echoes.
The surface currents turn the streamlined bodies of the lost whales and point them downstream in the path of least drag. They huddle closer to each other and continue swimming downstream. The hungry pelagic sharks follow the pod by smelling their blood and body fluids. The take any stragglers that fall behind. The main concern of each whales is self-preservation. Because the greatest danger comes from the sharks that are trailing behind, the strongest senior pod members assume a position in the front of the pod, placing the junior pod members between them and the vicious sharks. This is nature's way; the formation also fits perfectly with Selfish Herd Behavior, also observed in other herding animals, including fish.
The pod follows the downstream current. They need nourishment to keep up their strength and immunity. They try to dive and feed but cannot due to intense sinus pain. Things were different several hundred before man removed most of the big schools of surface fish. All they had to do 200 years ago was look to the sky for birds diving and feeding. Once they found a packed school of surface fish, they could swim around inside the school with their mouths open and catch a whale's meal in a short time. Back then, being hit by an earthquake might have even been evolutionary advantages to the species because it would remove pods from particular feeding grounds to prevent over-grazing and destroying the squid breeding stock. The pods would loose acoustic contact with the seafloor so they would have no acoustic memory to allow to back tract to the old feedings grounds. They would feed off the occasional school of fish until they slowly recovered their diving abilities and their biosonar system. They would then find a new feeding grounds, which served to spread the species all around the world.
Things are indeed different now. Most pods strand rather than recover. Pod sizes are dropping fast. Earth may lose its pelagic whales to earthquakes alone unless the scientists wake up and start doing their jobs.
Our imagined pod travels downstream.
On the other hand, if you think hydro-acoustic noise from a seaquake might cause mass strandings, then continue our exercise in logic by considering the following consistent observations:
(1) Since most stranded whales usually show no external injuries, scientists should be on the lookout for internal injuries. Furthermore, since mass stranders dive in the deep ocean practically every day of their lives in search of food, scientists should first suspect an internal injuries due to exposure to rapid and/or excessive changes in diving pressures. Such injuries would be similar to the bends or barotrauma in air spaces of the head, the most common injuries in scuba divers and very common in fish. And, since the entire pod seems to be in the same condition, scientists should rule out a pressure-related diving injury (barotrauma) in the entire pod. The suspicion of barotrauma raises the possibility that mass stranded whales might have been exposed to natural catastrophe (earthquake in the seabed, explosive volcanic eruptions, or a violent impact with the ocean surface by a heavily body). Such natural events could generated a series of excessive changes in water pressure. The only thing standing in the way of such suspicion is the ~5,000+ necropsies that have failed to undercover any clear indication of physical injury. If scientists can not find an internal or external injury, the only possible answer is suicide. But scientists say a suicide gene would never survive in a wild animal. The only other way over this hurdle is to assume that the injury is too difficult to find unless one is looking in the right direction. This might be the case with sinus barotrauma because the air leaves the sinuses when the whale dies. In order to discover evidence of a small tear in the sinuses, those preforming the necropsy would need to over-inflate the sinus membranes and examine them closely. As far as I know, a necropsy looking specifically for blown sinus or air sac has never been done. If they don't expect to find barotrauma, they will surely not.
(2) Necropsies usually reveal dehydration and no fresh food in their stomachs. Since their fresh water comes from the food they eat, and there is nothing fresh in their stomachs, we can assume that they have not been diving and feeding in several weeks. This condition should also raise our suspicious of a diving-related pressure injury such as sinus barotrauma.
(3) Sharks are often spotted near the beach. This leads to the conclusion that something is indeed wrong with the whales and the sharks know it. This also raises strong suspicion that the presents of vicious sharks might weigh heavily on the behavior of the pod near shore. If the whales are injured internally, they must feel a terrible fear of being eaten alive by a pack of starving sharks. What type of behavior could we expect from whales dealing with the idea that they may soon be tore to pieces?
(4) Whales never strand when both the tide and wind are flowing out to sea and the sea, near the shore, is flat calm. This seems to indicate that the pod prefers to swim with the flow of the surface currents. Various other observations suggest that the whales have all lost their sense of direction. If they have lost their sense of direction, they would indeed swim with the flow because their is far less drag when swimming with the current than there is swimming against the flow. And, if they are indeed lost, this points to either barotrauma or a blown cochlea/middle ear. Since the pressure change required to induce barotrauma is much less that the pressure required to destroy hearing, the most likely injury to know out the sense of direction is sinus barotrauma. Whales and dolphins suffering from pressure-related injuries become lost and unable to echo-navigate because the air in the cranial air spaces serves as acoustic mirrors, reflecting and channeling returning echoes in a fashion to make biosonar function properly. An injury somewhere in the cranial air spaces would disable navigation along with the ability to dive and feed.
(5) When rescuers pushes the whales back into the water, they often turn around and come back to the beach.
(6) When whales are free to swim away, they often linger around the beach waiting on their pod mates to be freed.
(7) Rescues are successful only with the tides flow back out to sea and when the wind is calm or blowing away from shore.
(8) Strandings are usually discovered in the early morning by the first visitors to the beach indicating that the whales usually go ashore at night.
(9) Stranded whales are usually laying in the sand at the high-water mark.
(10) When stranding do occur during the day, witnesses say the tide was rising and there was a strong shoreward breeze.
(11) When the tidal current is flowing inward through a channel or inlet, pods appear to get caught by the inflow and are washed into backwater lagoons or bays and become trapped in the mud when the tidal waters flow back out to sea.
Either the whales are trying to commit suicide, or they are lost (no acoustic sense of direction). A suicide gene would die off after a few generation so some type of injury must have destroyed their acoustic sense of direction. The fact that most strandings are discovered by the first person on the beach in the early morning indicates that they are likely using sight to stay off the beach during the day. This concept is supported by video evidence showing pods in trouble during the day, spyhopping...trying to find their way to open water (video one) (video two) (video three).
On the other hand, if the entire pod encountered a series of extreme changes in water pressure during a feeding dive, they might suffer a barotraumatic injury (barosinusitis) in their cranial air spaces. What is deadly about barosinusitis (aerosinusitis) in whales is that the air contained in their cranial air spaces serves to enhance, focus, reflect, insulate, and channel returning echonaviation clicks to make their biosonar work. Barosinusitis would not only disables their ability to determine acoustic direction, but also prevent them from diving and feeding themselves. Since they live far offshore, swimming along at ~5 mile per hour, it might take weeks for them to reach land. Humans would first notice these whales when they accidentally swam into a beach. Naturally, after being lost at sea for a few weeks, unable to dive and feed themselves, and since their fresh water comes from the food they eat, necropsies would reveal that they were suffering from dehydration with no fresh food in their stomachs.
As mentioned above, the most likely source of intense pressure changes in the offshore environment of pelagic whales is undersea earthquakes.
In 1972, three noted physicists working at Goddard Space Flight Center wrote about a possible shock effect associated with undersea EQs (ref 2). They calculated the shock front above the epicenter of two 7+ mag. undersea EQs at 6 kilobars (6,000 atmospheres or about 88,000 pounds per square inch).A shock front of this intensity would crush a nuclear submarine. (read 4 sample chapters of a non-fiction novel entitled Underwater Earthquakes, Stranded Whales, and Lost Submarines.)
Ear-busting noise produced by an undersea earthquakes (called seaquakes) travels in the water as a series of intense hydro-acoustic pressure changes with an average frequency of 7 hertz. Magnitude 5 events commonly produce sound pressures exceeding 245 dB re: 1 microPA. Magnitude 7 events have been estimated by US Navy scientists at ~270 dB re:1 microPA. Seaquakes are the loudest sounds ever recorded underwater.
A low frequency seismic pressure wave propagating underwater consists of alternating compressions and decompressions (changes in local pressure). These increases and decreases are felt by the whales as alterations in diving pressure both above and below the surrounding water pressure. The frequency of the average earthquake pressure wave (seaquake) is 7 Hz (7 cycles per second). This means that a pod of whales exposed to dangerous seaquake waves are, in fact, exposed to seven sudden increases in diving pressures and seven equal but opposite decreases every second for up to two minutes. Earthquakes between 4 and 6 magnitude often produce noise exceeding 240 db re: 1 mPa.
Here's how it happens: The seafloor jumps up and down in piston-like fashion during certain underwater earthquakes. This jerking motion pushes and pulls against the water column, generating an extended series of violent changes in water pressure capable of inducing a barotraumatic injury in the sinuses and air sacs of any whales diving nearby. The intensity of the alterations in diving pressures are determined by the speed at which the seabed shifts, not the magnitude of the earthquake. The video below has small clip it in that illustrates what happens.
A thousand quakes every year release the energy of the atomic bomb that flattened Hiroshima in 1945. Ninety (90%) percent of these events go unnoticed by man because they erupt under the ocean's surface along mid-ocean ridges shown in dark blue in the drawing above. This volcanic mountain range is where massive schools of squid breed and lay their eggs. Mid-ocean ridges are also called seafloor spreading centers; they are by far the most earthquake-prone places on earth. Guess what? Mid-Ocean Ridges also happen to be the major feeding grounds of deep-diving toothed whales and dolphins (odontocete) that mass strand themselves.
Coupling the awesome power of seaquake waves with the sheer numbers of undersea earthquakes that occur in the backyards of whales and dolphins (odontocete) that are known to repeatedly mass strand themselves makes it foolish to believe that barotraumatic injuries induced by these events are not causing entire pods of our sea-dwelling cousins to mass beach themselves.
The video above shows rescuers trying to get a LOST whale to swim away from the beach at high tide. They should have waiting until the tide started flowing away from shore but they didn't. Since it is high slack tide, there is no offshore tidal flow to guide the whales away from the rocks. This poor fella had no idea that he was about to slam into the rocks; he was as LOST as LOST could possibly be.
There is overwhelming video evidence that beached whales have no sense of direction. They coming ashore with a rising tide when the wind is blowing inland. Rescuers never publish wind and tidal conditions, otherwise you would know the whales are moving with the flow. The reason most humans don't notice it is because they are concentrating on the overall stranding scene, and not looking for specific evidence that the whales are LOST and swimming with the current.
Watch the above video and pay close attention to the man with the floppy hat. He tells you that the whale he's pushing wants to go back to the beach. In other words, the tide is still flowing towards shore. The rescues effort is a bit ahead of the out flowing tide. They are moving the whales off to deeper water and will release them all at once when the tidal flow will cause them to swim offshore. They know the flow of the current must be away from the beach or the rescue effort is a failure. Humm... is the public being fooled?
If all the above is true, how can we be sure lost whales will swim into a sandy beach, or swim into a backwater bay on the incoming tide? The answer is very simple. Imagine you are blind and swimming in a current that flows north along. You have no idea where you are or where you are going. Under such a circumstance, your swim path will be north with the flow of the surface current because, we no sense of direction, you will always swim downstream in the path of least drag. If you try to swim in any other direction, the resistance to the water will turn you and point you downstream. Remember, water is 800 times more dense than air; there is no way you can swim into a wall of water flowing from head to toe if you are blind. Acoustically blind whales and dolphins, with no sense of direction, will always swim downstream and never swim upstream for more than few meters. They are easily guided into backwater areas if they get near the mouth of an inlet during an incoming tide. Watch videos of whales about to strand or being released. If you look close, you will see that they always swim downstream. This is a dead giveaway, telling you that they have no sense of direction.
Since the flow of the current carries each grain of sand to build beaches in the first place, long slowly receding beaches extended many kilometers out to sea are all located where a strong current usually washes toward the shoreline. And, since herds of whales about to strand are lost, the odds are greatly increased that they will be washed into a sandy beach by flowing current. They simply have no control over where they are going since don't don't know where they are. It's similar to blindfolding a child in a quiet room. Spin them around 5-6 times... they simply have no idea which way to walk.
You can also see evidence that this is indeed the situation with pods of whales. Notice in these videos of near stranded whales.
In short, the theory we modeled above suggest that pressure waves generated by undersea earthquakes causes an injury that disables the herd's ability to sense direction and dive and feed themselves. With no sense of direction, these herds swim downstream and onto a sandy beach where they get stuck in the sand. Very simple. Mother Nature causes whale beachings.
Einstein's Principle states that a good theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. Diving whales, caught off guard by a sudden earthquakes, suffer barotrauma that knocks out their biosonar and they swim blindly into a sandy beach. It don't get any simpler. Occam's razor guides that simple explanations are generally better than more complex ones.
SINUS BAROTRAUMA IN WHALES
The acoustic impedance of water is ~3,400 times higher than air. Since a whale's flesh is mostly water, intense low frequency hydro-acoustical pressure waves will pass through their internal organs, reacting only where the acoustic energy encounters an enclosed air chamber. Since hydro-acoustic waves travel as a series of rapid pressure changes that only affect the air spaces, exposure to intense LF noise is identically to exposure to rapid changes in diving pressures. Furthermore, since exposure to rapidly changing diving pressures is the same as rapid changes in diving depth, a whale exposed to LF noise would experience the same changes as it would if it bounced quickly from one depth to another. Thus, it can be correctly stated that sinus barotrauma in whales is a diving-related injury resulting from the direct effects of rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures brought on by exposure to excessively loud LF noise.
Boyle's gas law guides that the volume of air in the air-filled spaces of a diving whale varies in direct proportion to the surrounding water pressure. This means that if diving whales encounter LF pressure waves that are 10 times greater than the surrounding water pressure, the air in their sinuses will suddenly decrease to 1/10th normal volume on the positive pressure phase and then a split second later, when the negative pressure phase arrives, explode to 10 times normal volume (a 2000% change in volume). Dangerous pressure waves of this nature are generated by sonar, airguns, explosions, and undersea earthquakes (EQs).
During pressure disturbances extended in time, as happens with sonar and earthquakes (EQs), the volume of air in the cranial air spaces will quickly vacillate back and forth from 1/10th to 10 times normal depending on the frequency of the disturbance. On the other hand, the nearby non-compressible blood, bones, internal organs, muscles, and fat will retain their normal dimensions. Rapid fluctuations in the membranous tissues at the interface between the flexible air spaces and the stationary anatomical parts establishes shearing forces that induce barosinusitis, barotitis media, labyrinthine fistula, and other pressure-related diving injuries similar to sinus barotrauma.
Furthermore, due to the great acoustic mismatch between air in the sinuses and the surrounding water, sinus air serves the whale underwater as acoustic mirrors. Returning navigational echoes are reflected, channeled, and focused by cranial air in a fashion to make their biosonar work. The air sinuses also serve to insulate and isolate the two cochleas so that whales can hear in each ear independently. Echo-localization and echo-navigation adaptations include a combination of pronounced asymmetry of the skull, cranial air spaces and air sacs, and specialized lipid structures in the forehead and jaws, as well as middle and inner ears that are acoustically insulated and isolated by enclosed air spaces.
In other words, the air inside the head of a toothed whale or dolphin is just as important to the function of biosonar as is the cochlea. A pod of odontocete suffering sinus barotrauma would be as lost at sea as a blind man set adrift in a row boat. The swim path of a pod without a sense of direction will ALWAYS be downstream in the path of least drag. Said differently, the surface currents determine the stranding site, not the whales. Since surface currents carry sand to build beaches, a pod of lost whales are far more likely to make landfall in areas where the shore is covered with sand. On occasion, lost whales are drawn into backwater inlets by the inrush of a rising tide and are left stuck in the mud when the tide washes out.
Evidence of sinus barotrauma is made obvious by the fact that stranded whales and dolphins are dangerously dehydrated and have no fresh food in their stomachs. Since their fresh water comes from the food they eat, it is equally obvious that they have not fed in weeks. The explanation is simple: Whales and dolphins suffering from barotrauma can not dive and feed themselves because they can not equalize diving pressures when their cranial air spaces are damaged. Since they can't feed, they naturally strand dehydrated and with an empty stomach.
Marine mammal scientists have either failed to properly interpret the obvious, or they are they are purposefully deceiving the public. They have published hundreds of theories covering every stranding possibility except barotrauma. Nor have they ever investigated undersea earthquakes. Said differently, thousands of scientific articles have been written attesting to barotrauma in scuba divers and fish, but there is no scientific information about how cetaceans might deal with rapid changing pressures during a feeding dive. Worse yet, there is no research into whether barotrauma causes a complete lose of navigation. This total lack of research is confirmed by Dr Darlene Ketten, the US Navy's leading marine mammal auditory expert. She admitted in a research paper dated Sept. 2000, and financed by the Office of Naval Research that, Consequently, we (scientists) have no knowledge of what auditory structural adaptations these animals evolved to endure bathypelagic (deep water) and rapidly changing pressures..."
Today's marine mammal scientists deny knowledge about how the most prolific divers on Earth protect themselves from rapid changing diving pressures induced by navy sonar, oil industry airguns, and explosions... the same acoustical pollution being blasted underwater by those supplying the money to the whale scientists. Does this sound like the three monkeys, Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil?
The reason there is no research on how diving whales deal with changing pressures generated by undersea EQs is because the two major funding sources (US Navy and Oil Industry) have not made money available to study barotrauma. Why should the worst acoustic offenders pay to investigate whether or not their own tools (high-powered sonar, explosives, and seismic airguns) cause sinus barotrauma? And... why is the US Navy and oil industry furnishing 98% of all the money spent worldwide on whale research?
And, why should scientists conduct a barotrauma investigation on their own if their major source of money does not want to fund such research? Scientists know better than to work on projects upsetting to their primary supply of cash. This is exactly what happened back when the tobacco industry paid for all the research showing smoking was not a health risk. Ignore history and history will repeat itself.
What I am trying to point out is that whale scientists have a good reason not to support barotrauma induced by EQs as the cause of mass strandings. Obviously, if they support undersea EQs as the cause of barotrauma in whales and dolphins, they would also be supporting sonar, airguns, and explosives as the cause of barotrauma. And, from there, it's only a tiny step to barotrauma in endangered sea turtles. In other words, any scientific support for sinus barotrauma in marine mammals will open a huge can of worms that the US Navy and oil industry want to keep buried.
The rumor I hear from scientists is that my EQ theory is flawed because, after 50 millions years of living in a seismically-prone ocean, whales have surely evolved a means to deal with EQs. This is true. Many seafloor earthquakes give off high frequency seismic-acoustic signals a few hours prior to the main shock (ref 1). Whales would have learned a long time ago that these were danger signal coming from an earthquake preparation zone. But not all EQs give off advanced warnings.
As far as remodeling the sinuses to deal with a sudden increases in diving pressures above an EQ epicenter, evolution was limited in this direction because toughening the cranial air spaces would have reduced the efficiency of their biosonar system. Furthermore, hardening the sinuses membranes would have make them less flexible and caused greater injury during rapid fluctuations in pressure.
Detecting earthquake precursors and equipping the whales to survive earthquake barotrauma were the best methods evolution had to protect whales.
Those that detail the anatomy of whales do describe special pressure-regulating mechanisms that have obvious evolved after many millions of years of diving. But just because natural selection can produce amazing adaptations, there's no reason to believe it is an all-powerful force, urging organisms on, constantly pushing them in the direction of progress. Natural selection is not all-powerful; it does not produce perfection. This is apparent in the human populations around us: people may not have genes for genetic diseases, plants may not have the genes to survive a drought, or a predator may not be quite fast enough to catch her prey every time she is hungry. No population or organism is perfectly adapted. Thus, it is likely that diving whales encounter natural catastrophic disturbances on the seafloor that generate sudden changes in the surrounding water pressures that easily overcome their evolved protection.
As it looks through my eyes, barotrauma is the one subject no one wants to know anything about other than whale conservationists. Even the non-profit rescue groups do not want to know why whales beach themselves because they are afraid the public will not want to donate money if they learn that the whales pushed back to sea, more likely than not, died a horrible painful death a few days later during a brutal shark attack.
If you doubt that rescue groups are in it for the money, check out their webpages and see how many "DONATE NOW" buttons you encounter. Save the whales groups even have programs were a lonely grandmother can create a will to leave all her money to a save the whale group. Many of these groups even have special advisers available to help old people create special trusts to save the poor stranded whales. And, in the USA, approved rescue groups get $100,000.00 per year as an extra bonus.
However, the above human/political drama does not change anything for the whales. The concept still remains: Pods of diving whales and dolphins are sometimes exposed to EQ-induced pressure changes (called seaquakes by ancient mariners) that override their compensatory abilities and induce barotraumatic injuries that not only disables their biosonar system, but also prevents them from diving and feeding themselves.
SUMMARY OF THE EARTHQUAKE THEORYMy theory to explain why entire herds of diving whales beach is that they are injured when the rocky bottom jerks about rapidly during a shallow undersea earthquakes. This sudden motion pushes and pulls at the water above, spawning a series of very intense low frequency (LF) pressure oscillations (compressions/decompressions) called seaquakes by ancient mariners and T-Phase Waves by modern seismologists.
Caught by surprise in a field of rapid and excessive alterations in the surrounding water pressure, diving whales and dolphins experience corresponding changes in the volume of the air enclosed in their sinuses and air sacs in accordance with Boyle’s gas law. During exposure to a whale-dangerous seaquake, the overall dimensions (size) of the flexible air cavities increase and decrease in tune with the ongoing changes in water pressure. On the other hand, the nearby non-compressible blood, bones, internal organs, muscles, and fat retain their normal dimensions. Rapid fluctuations in the membranous tissues at the interface between the flexible air spaces and the stationary anatomical parts establishes shearing forces that can induce aerosinusitis, barotitis media, labyrinthine fistula, and other pressure-related diving injuries similar to sinus barotrauma, the most common injury in scuba divers.
In fact, the worse nightmare of any diver is to encounter sudden and excessive changes in water pressure during a dive. YouTube offers 274 videos on barotrauma. Ear barotrauma is the most common diving injury in man. Barotrauma is also a common injury in fish, and a common injury in birds flying near wind turbines. You can even hire a lawyer that specializes in filing barotrauma injury claims..
Intact and functional air sinuses, air sacs, middle-ear air chambers, and round and oval windows of the cochlea are essential for both diving and the proper function of biosonar (echonavigation and echolocation). This means that pods injured by rapid and excessive alterations in diving pressures, either induced by a natural catastrophe (seaquakes, volcanic eruptions, violent impact of a heavenly body with the ocean's surface) or induced by man-made devices (US Navy sonar, oil industry and scientific airgun arrays, or explosives), will NOT be able to dive and feed themselves. Echonavigation of the open sea will be impossible. Such injured pods will be as lost at sea and a blind man set adrift in a row boat.
Since salt water is more than 800 times denser and 55 times more viscous than air, resistance (drag) to swimming will be greatly increased in all directions except downstream. This means whales and dolphins without a sense of direction will always swim with the flow of the current and in the path of least drag. The odds are greatly increase that the lost pod will swim blindly onto a sandy beach (not a rocky or muddy shore) because the current controlling their swim path is the same energy that creates sustainable beaches. Such pods might also be guided into a backwater lagoons or bays by the rush of the incoming tide. If they can not find their way back to the channel when the tide washes back out to sea, lost pods in backwater areas will be left stuck in the mud when the tide recedes.
REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL READING:
(1) E. V. Sasorova, B. W. Levin, and V. E. Morozov, 2008, Hydro-seismic-acoustical monitoring of submarine earthquakes preparation: observations and analysis. Advances in Geoscience, Adv. Geosci., 14, 99–104, 2008 http://www.adv-geosci.net/14/99/2008/adgeo-14-99-2008.pdf
Williams, Capt. D., (2014) Surface Currents Determine the Travel Path of Non-Navigating Whales and Dolphins Suffering from Biosonar Failure Due to Barotrauma in the Sinuses and/or Middle-Ear Cavities. (Link accessed 14 Feb. 2014)
(3) Rudolph, E. Ueber submarine Erdbeben und Eruptionen. In Beitrage zur Geophysik; Prof. Dr. Georg Gerland, Ed. E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagshandlung (E. Koch): Stuttgart 1887; Vol. I, pp. 133-373. (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
(4) Rudolph, E. Ueber submarine Erdbeben und Eruptionen. In Beitrage zur Geophysik; Prof. Dr. Georg Gerland, Ed. E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagshandlung (E. Koch): Stuttgart 1895; Vol. II, pp. 537-666.
(5) Rudolph, E. Ueber submarine Erdbeben und Eruptionen. In Beitrage zur Geophysik; Prof. Dr. Georg Gerland, Ed. Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann: Leipzig, 1898; Vol. III, pp. 273-336
(6) Williams, Capt. D. (2013) Theories about why whales and dolphins mass beach themselves. (Link accessed 14 Feb 2014)
(7) Willie, P., Sound Images of the Ocean: in Research and Monitoring, published by Springer, Dec 6, 2005, 512 pages (see Chap. 3 page 36
(8) Williams Capt. D., 2011, Seaquakes Dangerous to Whales, Ships, and Scuba Divers. (Link accessed 29 January 2014)
(9) Mironov, M. A. (1998) Cavitational Mechanism of Acoustic Signal Generation by an Underwater Earthquake, Acoustical Physics, Vol 44, No. 4, pp 445-451
(10) Richter magnitude scale from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richter_magnitude_scale (accessed on 31 Januray 2014
(11) Deafwhale Society Blog http://deafwhale.blogspot.com/ (accessed on 31 January 2014)
(12) Williams, Capt. D. 2012, Seaquake/Vessel Encounters 1900 to 2009 (accessed on 2 April 2013) http://deafwhale.com/seaquakes_1900s.htm
(13) Williams, Capt. D. 2012, Seaquake/Vessel Encounters 1750 to 1899. (accessed on 2 April 2013) http://deafwhale.com/seaquakes_1800s.htm
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