WHY WHALES STRAND?
THE LOGICAL TRUTH!
The logical truth can not be considered untrue;
nor can any situation arise to cause us to deny it.
by Capt. David Williams
2013 science article about whale strandings (free PDF file)
seaquake solutions to previous whale mass strandings
Pressure-related sinus injury (barotrauma) caused by rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures is the most common injury in scuba divers. Might such an injury also be common in the massive cranial air sinuses of cetaceans, the most prolific divers the world has ever known?
Do whales suffer sinus barotrauma like human divers is a simple question. In fact, it is so simple that one would think that whale scientists had already answered it decades ago. Not so. Whale scientists are mute on sinus barotrauma in whales. Nor do they tell us how whales might avoid pressure-related sinus injury. And, there is no science article to tell us what might happen to whales with busted sinuses. Scientists just don’t talk about sinus barotrauma. All we have is a lot of unanswered questions and our own logic to guide us.
We do know that calling a pilot whale an airhead is proper because thirty percent of the volume of their cranium is made up of air held inside various sinuses and air sacs. Furthermore, because of the large acoustic impedance mismatch between air and the fluids, flesh, and bones inside their heads, the cranial air spaces of toothed whales serve underwater as acoustic mirrors, bouncing and channeling returning echo signals to make their biosonar system work.
This fact brings up one more important unanswered question. Since the air acts as acoustic mirrors, is it possible that barotrauma within the air chambers of a whale’s head might scramble it’s echonavigation system? What about an entire pod of whales exposed to a series of sudden and excessive changes in diving pressure? And, if such exposure did indeed disable their biosonar system, would a non-navigating pod seek out a beach on which to land?
The last question is easy so let’s answer it first. If a pod of whales were exposed to extreme changes in diving pressures that caused the sudden loss of their acoustic sense of direction, the only direction they could possibly swim would be downstream in path of least drag. No swimmer can swim upstream without a strong sense of direction. It’s like water always flows downhill. Everything lost at sea always travels downstream. Add to this the fact that the downstream current guiding a lost pod is the same energy that builds and maintains beaches, and you begin to understand why a pod of non-navigating whales usually end up swimming into a spot of sand.
To solve the mystery of why pods of whales have been swimming blindly into the sand for millions of years, all we need is some kind of natural seafloor upheaval that could generate rapid and excessive alteration in hydrostatic pressures and catch the whales by surprise. If such an incident happened, the volume of air inside their enclosed cranial air space would oscillate up and down in direct proportion to the changes in diving pressures (Boyle’s gas law). But what type of seafloor disturbances is most likely to occur below a pod of diving whales?
This part is easy too. The most severe changes in diving pressure are generated when the rocky seabed jerks up and down during undersea earthquakes. Often the P-waves from an extremely shallow (<5km) hypocenter can traverse the rock-water interface without distortion or loss of intensity and move directly into water. If either of the above happens without detectable precursors signals, the entire diving pod is caught off guard.
Seafloor earthquakes above 6.5 magnitude usually emit detectable precursors so these strong events rarely cause pod injuries. Earthquakes focused deeper than ~15 km usually do not cause strandings because the P-waves are weakened as the spread out in a circle from the foci. Earthquakes at or near 5.5 magnitude focused less than 5 km below the rock-water interface are the most dangerous because many of them do not give off precursors and these shallow events lose less of the energy due to spreading.
You can get a general idea of what it feels like to experience a seaquake by reading about the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 (Volume 5) edited by the National Research Council (link). Twenty pages therein discuss seaquake experiences. I recommend you start with the first page.
Or, you can read a revealing report published in 1966 by the US Navy—the absolute authority on seaquakes. Shortly after the National Research Council published so many seaquake-vessel encounters, the US Navy’s Marine Safety Division felt the need to issue a safety warning on the danger of seaquakes. They made it clear in their summary on the left side of page 59 that “MARINE LIFE CAN BE DESTROYED BY A SEAQUAKE.” The Marine Safety Division of the US Navy also confirmed that undersea earthquakes could bust open a ship and sink it like a sack of rocks. They stated 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 rip open a ship and sink it like a stone, what would happen to a pod of whales caught near the bottom when a million tons of rock suddenly split apart?
Since hydrostatic pressure changes above the epicenter of a seafloor earthquake can do a lot of damage to shipping, we can easily argue that these same disturbances can rupture the air sinuses of a pod of diving whales. As mentioned above, this is true because the volume of air in their inclosed cranial air spaces will bounce back and forth in tune with the changes in the surrounding water pressure.
And, because the air held inside these cranial air spaces serves underwater as acoustic mirrors, ruptured sinuses would destroy their acoustic sense of direction. It would be like an M-80 firecracker went off inside their head.
The danger to marine life was not newly discovered by the Navy is 1966. Thousands of seamen have witnessed dead whales and massive schools of dead fish floating after a concussion from a seaquake but thought such seaquake carnage was normal as revealed by the 1945 example on the left. Fishermen and whalers just went out to sea, hooked up to the dead whales and towed them to the whaling station and collected some cash. No alarm at all and no one doubted that a seaquake could injure a pod of whales or kill a school of fish.
In fact, few people cared in 1945 why whales mass beached themselves. They cut them up, sold the meat to mink farmers, and the oil to watchmakers.
Search old newspaper archives and older books going back to the time when they first started printing the news and you will find reports from thousands of mariners who experienced a seaquake and lived to tell their stories. I have collected over 5,000 seaquake-vessels encounters and am slowly getting them all posted on the Internet to prove that seaquake shock waves are indeed dangerous to ships and pods of diving whales. Read these reports. This is not my opinion. These are the actual stories from those who experienced a natural undersea upheaval. Some are not so scary; others are hellish nightmares.
The 1966 article referenced above proves without doubt that the US Navy has known for at least 60 years that seaquakes could sink ships and kill and injure marine life. So why have they NEVER investigated or even discussed whether a seaquake might cause pods of whales or dolphins to mass strand? Why have they NEVER wondered if a seaquake might injure baleen whales like in the news clip above? Why are whale scientists still scratching their heads, taking thousands of tissue samples, and pretending they are clueless about why whales beach themselves?
Stop reading right here and think about the answers to the above questions! Are you being purposefully mislead by whale scientists as a favor to the US Navy and the oil industry?
Here are some more facts to ponder. Why does the US Navy and the oil industry sponsor 97% of all whale research worldwide? Are they just generous with government money? Or, are they trying to control whale scientists like big tobacco control medical research into lung cancer? Why do these two groups insist that the world’s whale scientists work for them, especially since they are the world’s worst underwater acoustical polluters? To me, this is the same as putting the fox in charge of all the chickens. The whale scientists must do exactly what the fox says if they expect to get any grant money.
And, since the US Navy already knew that seaquakes can kill marine life back in 1966, why is it that they NEVER gave the scientists they control a little money to investigate seaquakes as the possible answer to the centuries-old mystery of why whales mass strand themselves? The least the US Navy could have done was to finance a study of sinus barotrauma in diving whales. There must be a reason they NEVER funded a study to see if seaquakes cause whales to strand, especially since they already said in 1966 that seaquakes kill marine life!
According to whale scientists working for the US Navy and the oil industry, mass strandings of whales is one of the most confounded mysteries in nature. They’ve already cut up a half-million beached whales to find the answer and still profess to be ignorant.
Are they pulling our legs?
The answer to this question seems even more mysterious when you consider that the idea of whales beaching themselves due to a sinus injury has been around a long long time.
Professors Kenneth Norris and George Harvey first suggested that healthy cranial air spaces were necessary for echo-navigation in their 1972 paper entitled “A Theory for the Function of the Spermaceti Organ of the Sperm Whale.” (Link to this highly recommended article) Therein, these two famous cetologists state:
“The structure of the two vertically oriented air sacs that bound the ends of the spermaceti organ suggest that they are sound mirrors. The posterior sac (the frontal sac) possesses a knob-covered posterior wall that is probably an adaptation allowing maintenance of the sound mirror in any body orientation and during deep dives, Finally this complex anatomical system is suggested as a device for the production of long range echolocation sounds useful to the sperm whale in its deep sea habitat, in which food must be located at considerable distances in open water.”
Moreover, on page 20 (chapter 16) of a 1977 book, edited by Professor Norris entitled Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises the famous cetacean anatomists and curator at the British Museum of Natural History, Dr. Peter Purves, stated:
“It is very easy to imagine a condition in which the air-sac system has broken down, so that it is no longer reflecting, and, with the isolation of the essential organs of hearing disrupted, the animal may lose its sense of direction.” (link)
The words of Dr. Purves spun around in my head like a whirlwind. But rather than think of one lost whale, I kept thinking that an entire pod might lose their sense of direction at the same time if exposed to a powerful underwater disturbance in diving pressures.
It seemed to me that even prior to 1977, scientists were indeed trying to understand how pods of whales might lose their acoustic sense of direction. At a 1977 mass stranding in Florida, scientists said, “the directional sonar, which steers them away from danger, somehow went awry.” (link)
I read it and thought, “Damn, that’s the same thing that Dr. Purves is saying.” A sinus injury might indeed destroy the directional sonar that steers them.
Whale scientists stopped saying that whales might suffer echonavigation failure in the 1980’s. But I could never forget the words of Dr. Peter Purves. I believed what he said in 1977 and I still believe it today.
My Seaquake Hypothesis is in total agreement with the idea of the loss of echonavigation due to a sinus injury causes beachings in odontoceti. Seaquake induced barosinusitis would indeed cause the breakdown of the air sac system, which would result in the whales losing all sense of direction.
The acoustic purpose of the sinuses was recently confirmed by Drs. Alex Costidis and Sentinel A. Rommel (Link) who wrote:
“The cetacean accessory sinus system is unique; these un-pigmented mucosa-lined structures, which are located on the ventral aspect of the skull, are typically associated with hearing and acoustic isolation of the ears. The ventral sinus system is distinguished from the dorsal air sacs by appearance and function; the lining of the dorsal sacs is composed of pigmented epithelium and these sacs are associated with sound production.”
Even as late as 1983, scientists suggested that the biosonar system of 41 sperm whales stranded on the Oregon Coast might have been jammed by a seaquake (link). In fact, scientists suggested way back in 1946 that an undersea upheaval could stun whales and cause them to lose their sense of direction (link). The idea that a pod of whales swim blindly into a beach because their biosonar system has been disabled by severe changes in diving pressure during a natural undersea upheaval should have been rule out in the 1960s. This idea should have especially been ruled out in the late 1960s after the US Navy confirmed that seaquakes could kill marine life.
Obviously, both the US Navy and whale scientists they bribe are hiding the connection between seaquakes, sinus barotrauma, and a total loss of the acoustic sense of direction in mass stranded whales.
Is there a Specific Reason for a US Navy Cover-up?
In May 1968, two years after warning mariners that seaquakes could kill marine life and sink ships, the sleek nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously sank in the seismically-active Azores Islands along with her crew of 99 US sailors. There were no seaquakes in the official US government records, but purging these files would have been a simple matter of an admiral making a 2 minute phone call. And, there were no seismic stations in the Azores capable of detecting a dangerous quake near where the Scorpion was located when she sent her last message.
The rumor started by the US Navy and then denied was that the Soviets had sank the Scorpion. However, certain actions by the Office of Naval Research suggest that Soviet involvement was a cover-up story. On 15 December 1968, in a transaction withheld from the press and the public, the Office of Naval Research signed a $2.6 million contract with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego to complete a study entitled OVERPRESSURES DUE TO EARTHQUAKES PROJECT (link). Even though this research was not officially classified, it was buried deep in the basement of the Pentagon until 2015 when a digital copy was accidentally released by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS copy). I assure you, the US Navy did not want this release to take place.
The implications are clear. Regardless that the 1966 article proves otherwise, the admirals were pretending in 1968 to know nothing about how seaquakes sink ships. They wanted a new research document from Scripps informing them (after the fact) that overpressures from a seaquake could indeed sink the $40-million-dollar USS Scorpion. They were also asking the scientists at Scripps to draw up a SEAQUAKE HAZARDS CHART so they could keep the five other Skipjack-class submarines out of harm’s way until they could retire the entire flawed design without embarrassing themselves. This they ordered even though the 1966 report by the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division included a far better SEAQUAKE HAZARDS CHART then they got from Scripps. The 1966 report also proved that they knew seaquakes could sink ships and submarines.
This research effort was obviously instigated as a fallback story in case Congress discovered that Scorpion was indeed a victim of an undersea earthquake. Congress would have demanded to know how a quake at sea could sink a modern nuclear submarine and why the US Navy did not know about it. On top of this, Congress would have no doubt been given a copy of the 1966 report in which the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division declared that seaquakes could easily sinks.
The USS Scorpion would have survived the encounter had it not been for her horrible state of disrepair, the stress cracks in her stern, and the fact that her emergency blow system was not working was what doomed her crew to a horrible death. The fallback plan was for the admirals to pretend that they knew nothing about the real danger of seaquakes. The cover-up would have never been detected had the US Navy purged all the documents as originally planned. They missed the 1966 report and the 1968 study mentioned above. Now the truth will come out and they have some explaining to do to the families of the 99 crewmen who lost their lives.
It was also obvious in 1966 that the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Office wanted the public to know that seaquakes could sink ships. On the other hand, in 1968, after the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion disappeared, the US Navy changed its mind and decided that the public should know nothing about the dangers of seaquakes. This is the main reason why they would never investigate seaquakes as the cause of whale mass strandings.
Another reason why they did not want the public thinking about seaquakes is because the USS Scorpion might still be leaking dangerous radiation near Azorean fishing grounds. They are afraid someone like me might expose their dirty secrets. I would kept my mouth shut if the US Navy would have promised to admit the truth about why whales beach themselves. The US Navy needs to stop lying about the whales because there is far more important things to consider than the reputation of a few dead admirals. (Read more of the Scorpion Cover-up)
Now Back to Why Whales Strand
According to the law of parsimony, when selecting between hypotheses that predict equally well, we should pick the one with the fewest assumptions.
Since the US Navy has already confirmed that seaquakes kill marine life, and likely sunk the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion, the simplest hypothesis to explain why whales strand is that a seaquake has injured an entire pod in a way that causes them to lose their acoustic sense of direction and they swim blindly downstream until the current carries them to a beach, usually at night when the waves are kicked up and their eyesight is not so keen.
The more we think about a pod of whales not being able to acoustically sense the beach directly in front of them, the more the idea makes sense, especially for the most common nighttime beachings.
Scientists say the sloping beach does not return a good echo. They also say that sand and bubbles in the rough surf also blocks whale sonar. But why would healthy whales with functional biosonar continue to swim up the sloping beach when the obvious solution to the dilemma of failed navigation is to turn around and swim back out to deep water. Healthy whales would never swim into an area where they could not see what’s in front them. Furthermore, if it was a condition at the beach, why are stranded whales always severely dehydrated and have no food in their stomachs?
Allow me to re-enforce an important point: It’s surprisingly easy to figure out the direction that a pod of non-navigating whales will swim because the only direction they can swim is downstream with the flow of the surface currents. Everything lost at sea either floats or swims downstream in the path of least drag. It’s like water always flows downhill. Everything on the surface of the ocean without a good sense of direction will be directed by the current into the downstream path of least resistance (drag). If lost whales tried to swim upstream, drag forces would turn them around in a matter of seconds and point them head first in the path of the flowing water. It would be impossible for a lost pod to swim in any other direction for more than 15 seconds.
On the other hand, if their acoustic sense of direction was already disabled, they would have no idea that they were swimming into a sand trap.
That the swim path of stranded whales is being controlled by the surface currents was noticed by Dr. Daniel Odell in 1980s. He said, “The movement of the water could even explain mass strandings.” (link) (link) He also notice that when strandings occur along Florida’s East Coast, there was an unusual deep intrusion of clear blue Gulf Stream water in close to the shoreline. This was and still is easy to spot by observing the color change near shore; deep blue waters are always close to shore when whales strand.
The fact that whales are swimming with the downstream current when they go ashore is a dead give-away that they have no sense of direction on their own. Dr. Odell was right. He published a science paper in 2005 confirming the role that currents play in guiding whales ashore (link). If he had added a seaquake-damaged biosonar system to his hypothesis he would have solved the mystery of why whales strand before I did. We released a similar article about the Gray whales that died off Point Barrow Alaska in 1988 (link). We explained how lost gray whales followed the northern flow of the surface currents and got trapped in the ice.
Maybe jealous whales scientists refuse to admit I’m right because I embarrass them? But why can’t they admit that Dr. Odell was right? It’s strange that NOAA stranding coordinators and the rescue teams NEVER mention the flow of current during a stranding. Are whale scientists and rescue teams both participating with the US Navy to hide the real reason why whales strand? If you want to know the answer, read this link.
It is also commonly known that the flow of the current washes sand to the shore to build beaches. This means that since the downstream flow is guiding the lost pod, the odds are overwhelming that the surface current will direct the lost whales to a beach. The evidence is clear all around the world. Those beaches with hooked shapes that oppose the flow of the usual current trap the most sand and the most whales. Farewell Spit in New Zealand, Cape Sorell in Tasmania, and Cape Cod in the USA are the three best examples.
Here’s another little hint that we are on the right track. If we pushed the stranded whales and/or dolphins back into the water while the wind-driven current and the tidal flow are still washing ashore, the inflow will simply turn them around and point them right back to the beach. This has happened thousands of times in the past and the scientists and rescue teams ignored the obvious reason for it.
The whale stranding coordinators working for NOAA don’t want the truth out because it would cost them their jobs. The stranding teams don’t want the truth out because they would be super embarrassed if they public ever found out that they rescuing acoustically blind whales that were already doomed to die. The prefect theory for NOAA and the rescue teams they support is that the entire pod is following one or two sick individuals because they love each other too much. This is a total fabrication is every way. Survival of the fittest is the first law of nature—healthy whales would never swim into the sand and die because a pod mate was sick.
And, if you ever wonder why a pod of whales or dolphins end up stuck in the mud of a backwater lagoon, just check the times that the incoming tide was washing rapidly through the inlet and you will see that the strong inbound flow of water created a path of least drag that drew the lost pod into the backwaters. In fact, no matter where you look, if you check the tides and the wind-driven currents at the time of the beaching you will see that the current was always washing towards the stranding beach and NEVER away from it.
Here’s another little tidbit. The only time a stranded pod with no acoustic sense of direction will swim away from shore is when they are pushed back into the water at the same time the wind-driven currents and/or tidal flow are washing back out to sea. This is exactly how rescue teams claim to save whales—they wait until the surface currents are flowing out towards deep water and then release the lost whales pretending that they had made another successful rescue. In other words, that beached whales have no sense of direction agrees with the consistent observations that they MUST be released when the current is flowing back out to sea.
There is even more consistent factual observations we can add to echonavigation failure as the reason why whales strand.
The two most consistent findings in a pod of beached whales and/or dolphins is that they are severely dehydrated and have no fresh food in their stomachs. Sticking with the law of parsimony, the explanation that requires the least assumptions is that the pod lost its ability to dive and feed itself a few weeks before it went ashore. This agrees with a pressure-related sinus injury that causes the loss of echonavigation because whatever caused the echo-navigation failure would also render the pod unable to dive and echolocate its food. And since all the pod’s fresh water comes from the food they eat, the loss of biosonar function along with the loss of the ability to dive would explain both dehydration and no fresh food in their stomachs.
Here’s one more small clue. You will often see a lost whale raise its head out the water to look around like the one of the left. Notice that the tip of his snout is raw from running blindly into rocks. Whales can often be seen spyhopping near shore, trying to avoid the beach.
There’s one more consistent observation we can add. Beached whales and dolphins show up on the beach many times with the skin burnt off their backs. Obviously, they have spent many days in the burning hot sun even before they stranded. The only way this could happen is if they had lost the ability to dive and were forced to swim on the surface for days in a calm sea. When we coupled the burnt back with loss of echonavigation, the dehydration, and no fresh food in the stomach, we get the picture that the pod is not diving to feed itself. This makes it easier to assume that the injury that knocked out their biosonar system was a diving-related pressure injury resulting in a sinus barotrauma that prevents them from diving.
So now we have a pod of lost whales that can not dive and feed themselves. If we go back to the law of parsimony, the simplest assumption is that our pod has encounter a series of rapid and excessive pressure changes (seaquakes more likely than not) that has ruptured one or two of the their many sinuses and small air sacs that make up their cranial air spaces. In other words, barotrauma in the cranial air spaces is the cause of the loss of biosonar and the ultimate reason why whales mass strand.
We know of six common sources of pressure disturbances that might cause sinus barotrauma in a pod of diving whales. Since whales have been mass stranding for millions of years, a few sources need to be ancient. The three that immediately come to mind are seaquakes, volcanic explosions, and the rare time when a heavenly body slams into the water’s surface. The US Navy agrees with us on the natural seafloor disturbances.
Modern sources of sinus barotrauma in whales would be military sonar, oil industry airguns, and underwater explosions. The US Navy agrees that these sources can injury whales, but they deny having any knowledge about how the injury might occur. This hints that they are not only covering up seaquakes but also sinus barotrauma as well.
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