Why Whales Beach

Whales strand only when the surface currents are flowing towards shore. Why?


by Capt. David Williams

Military sonar, oil industry airguns, and underwater explosives are proven to cause beachings. But whales have been stranding for millions of years so how do we connect the modern and the ancient?

Suppose we back up and say that it is not sonar, airguns, and explosions. Instead, it is a force one step removed. For example, let’s say that the pressure waves generated by man-made devices injure diving whales. This way the facts make more sense because the worst danger any air breathing diver could face is a series of sudden changes in diving pressures that induced barotrauma in their cranial and middle ear air spaces. In other words, military sonar, oil industry airguns, and explosives generate intense changes in water pressure that in turn cause sinus barotrauma in all diving mammals.

Said more specifically, sinus barotrauma is the specific injury that causes whale beachings. This makes sense because the air contained in their massive sinuses serves underwater to reflect, focus, and channel the returning echonavigation clicks they use to navigate. Barosinusitis destroys their acoustic sense of direction and causes them to be lost at sea.

The only ancient sources of intense changes in diving pressures are undersea earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the violent impact of a meteorite with the ocean’s surface. This means that seaquakes, volcanic explosions, sonar, airguns, explosives, and meteorites all cause whale strandings.

This seems far too simple! Whale scientists have been struggling for 40 years to solve the centuries-old mystery of why whales mass strand. How could they not see the simplicity in the above concept?

Maybe they were bribed to look the other way?

The Maritime Safety Division of the US Navy warned us back in 1966 that natural seafloor disturbances were extremely dangerous to marine life and to ships.  The US Navy told us point blank in the left column of page 59 of this research article: “MARINE LIFE CAN BE DESTROYED BY A SEAQUAKE.” If they knew this back in 1966, why didn’t they sponsor a research project to investigate the association between seaquakes and mass stranded whales?

The US Navy could not say it any clearer in 1966. They even warned us that seafloor upheavals were powerful enough to sink ships. They stated on the last page of the above linked article: 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.  (link to original file)

Oh my goodness! According to the US Navy, a seaquake can bust a ship open and cause it to sink like a stone. This was not the first time a warning had been issued. In November 1941, the Chief of the Seismological Observatory at Fordham University warmed that a big earthquake near the Azore Islands might have crushed every submarine within 500 miles like an egg. (linkThis was an intuitive prediction that would one day come true. 

The US Navy was 100% right in 1966; however, by November 1968, the admirals were wishing they had never told the public anything about the dangers of seaquakes. They were scampering around trying to destroy all the evidence showing they knew seaquakes could sink ships and kill marine life. They missed both the 1941 and 1966 articles and this researcher happened to find them.

Here’s why they wanted to destroy this evidence: Two years after they published the 1966 article, the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously vanished in the earthquake-prone waters a few miles south of the Azore Islands, the same area where the 1941 earthquake occurred.

The Navy towed a camera sled back and forth over Scorpion’s wreck site, snapping 10,000 photos, which was turned over to Naval Headquarters around the 15th of November 1968. The pictures convinced the admirals that a shock wave from an undersea earthquake had sent their $40 million nuclear attack submarine to the bottom. They had 5 other identical Scorpions built on the same flawed designed. The admirals need to scrape all of them. They were in deep shit and they knew it.

You can read the long story here.  The short story is that the USS Scorpion was poorly designed and in pitiful mechanical condition when it was sent on it’s last mission and the admirals were well aware of all her problems. This turns the accidental sinking by shocks from an undersea quake into the reckless homicide of 99 US Navy sailors. Said differently, the US Navy knowingly sent the USS Scorpion on a suicide mission.

They needed some way to cover-up the reckless homicide in case the seaquake connection leaked out.

They decided to pretend they knew nothing about how an earthquake could sink nuclear submarines. To back up their story, they needed to classify or destroy all their previous seaquake research and create the illusion that they were unaware of any danger. So, on the 15th day of December 1968, in a hush-hush manner, the Office of Naval Research issued a contract valued at $2,661,808.00 to Scripps Institution in San Diego to study how a seaquake sank the USS Scorpion (link).

Besides the seismic shock waves that knocked off the sub’s starboard dive plane, Scorpion’s maintenance problems were extensive.

Even with a missing dive plane, the sub would have never sank if its emergency system to blow the water out of its ballast tanks and float it to the surface had been working. But Scorpion was a wreck looking for a place to crash even before the seaquake shockwave hit it. (Read About the US Navy’s Cover-Up of the Scorpion Sinking).

Furthermore, the sinking by a seaquake proved that the Scorpion’s original hull designed was flawed. If Congress found out about these problems, every admiral in the Navy would have been court martialed and likely sent to the brig. Rather than decommission Scorpion’s sister ships, the Navy decided to keep them out of seismically hazardous waters until they could retire them without creating a scandal. To do so, they order a SEAQUAKE HAZARD CHART from Scripps so they could direct these flawed submarines around danger zones until they were able to quietly retire them. But, if you read the 1966 document mentioned above you can clearly see that they did not need a seaquake report or a hazard chart. They already knew where the danger zones were, and the Azores Triple Junction was one of the most dangerous.

This is why whale scientists sponsored by US Navy grants do not talk about seaquakes or sinus barotrauma in whales! 

Because their sinus air serves underwater to reflect and focus returning echonavigation clicks, injuries in their cranial air spaces can easily knock out their biosonar system and prevent them from diving and feeding themselves. This loss of echo-navigation explains why whales beach themselves.  The USS Scorpion affair proves the US Navy has known of the great danger to whales for many decades, maybe all the way back to the 1940’s.

Revealing the truth about the sinking of the USS Scorpion by a seaquake will also lessen the shock of what you read below.

One last point before we move to whales. the chart below will give the TNT equivalent of an earthquake in the seafloor (ref). My best guess is that the event that sank Scorpion was between 6.5 and 7 magnitude.

mag 4.0               1,000 tons     Small Nuclear Weapon
mag 5.0             32,000 tons     TNT Equivalent
mag 5.6           100,000 tons     watch video of explosion
mag 6.0         1 million tons     Double Spring Flat, NV Quake, 1994
mag 6.5       5 million tons     Northridge, CA Quake, 1994
mag 7.0     32 million tons     Largest Thermonuclear Weapon
mag 7.5     160 million tons     Landers, CA Quake, 1992
mag 8.0           1 billion tons     San Francisco, CA Quake, 1906
mag 8.5           5 billion tons     Anchorage, AK Quake, 1964
mag 9.0         32 billion tons     Chilean Quake, 1960

In case you doubt a seaquake can sink a nuclear submarine, read this article by NASA scientists (link) in which they calculate that a 7.4 seaquake generated a shock wave at 6 kilobars (100,000 pounds per square inch). Here’s a science article about an oil tanker destroyed by a seaquake (link).  Here’s a story about the US Navy setting off artificial seaquakes at China Lake, California in 1957 (link).  In 1962, they were advertising for companies to help them learn how to create and use artificial seaquakes and earthquakes as weapons of war (link).  They were even setting off nuclear explosions in the Van Allen Radiation Belt circling earth just to see what kind of damage they could create. This was really shocking. A few months after Professor Van Allen discovered the radiation belt, the US Navy was blasting away, trying to destroy it. They showed no concern for the human race, let alone the poor whales in the ocean!

There’s another reason why the US Navy don’t want you do know seaquakes cause whale strandings. The barotraumatic injury from a seaquake is identical to injuries caused by military sonar and oil industry airguns. If they reveal how seaquakes injure whales, the convict their own sonar.

Here’s a 1908 report by the crew of a sailing vessel that witnessed 47 dead whales and miles of dead fish after a nasty seafloor earthquake (link) near Cape Horn. This reminds me of the 337 dead baleen whales killed recently by seaquakes west of the southern tip of Chili (link).

Now you are ready to learn the truth!

Seaquakes explain why whales beach!

Every small boy knows what happens if he strikes together two stones under water while his head is submerged. A solid blow causes pain in and around his sinuses. For the same reason the boy feels pain, nearby diving whales, fishes with swim bladders, and sea turtles will feel unimaginably intense torture lasting for a minute or more when the seabed is ripped asunder by the sudden fracture of millions of tons of rock. This is so because water, being incompressible, will transmit the full force of the shattering seafloor.

Underwater earthquake shocks (aka; seaquakes) are not felt as a single blow because the force that causes the intense changes in diving pressures is not one big bang. Rather, the p-waves come as a series of wrenching snaps, as massive rocks, twisted and strained out of shape by an accumulation of forces slowly exerted over centuries, suddenly lurches back toward an alignment that relieves the stress. The result is that solid rock, which normally moves only with the passing of geological ages, accelerates briefly to 8000 kilometers per hour, unleashing huge quantities of energy and creating a violent shaking movement.

If this snap back occurs in a more vertical plane, as happens during both normal and reverse (thrust) faulting, and the hypocenter (focus) is between 8 to 20 km below the rock-water interface, the p-waves will impact the rock-water interface and cause the seabed to dance up and down like a gigantic piston many miles in diameter. This sudden up and down motion pushes and pulls at the bottom of the incompressible water, generating a series of low-frequency changes in the surrounding water pressure that speed towards the surface at 1,500 meters per second.

Sound waves propagating through a liquid consist of half cycles of compressions (positive-pressure) and expansions (negative-pressure). During the compression phase, sinus air would rapidly compress. During the expansion phase, sinus air would instantly expand. In other words, a pod of whale above the epicenter would experience a series of unimaginable changes in diving pressures that bounce back and forth between positive and negative changes at an average of ~7 cycles per second (14 half-cycles or phases per second). This pressure disturbance might continue for a minute or more. This means that an entire pod of submerged whales, busy feeding on squid, might be caught off guard and suffer a serious barotraumatic injury in their cranial air spaces and lungs. This injury explains why whales beach.

On the other hand, jerking movement in the horizontal plane during strike-slip faulting does not normally generate dangerous changes in diving pressures because water is not compressed when the seabed moves parallel to the surface. It’s similar to rowing your boat with the paddled turned sideways. However, there are instances when quick parallel motion along the drop-off edges of steep undersea mountains, and at junctions where transform faults intersect with mid-ocean ridges, that strike-slip events can push directly against the water. Such situation will indeed generate potent seaquakes in mountainous areas and at the edge of continental drop offs. During such events, the changes in water pressure will travel horizontally and can easily become trapped in the SOFAR channel and cause injury to deep diving whales hundreds of miles away.

Clue to why pelagic whales beach in mass: they feed above mid-ocean ridges, the most earthquake-active areas on planet Earth.

Strike-slip faulting can also generate violent hydroacoustic pressures when the propagation of the rupture along the fault’s surface occurs at speeds in excess of the seismic shear wave (S-wave) velocity. These supershear earthquakes cause an effect analogous to a sonic boom.

The size of the average quake that I find associated with a mass stranding is ~5.2 magnitude. I believe quakes below 4.5 mag. and above 7 mag. do not injure pods of whales because: (a) events less than <4.5 are too small, and (b) precursor signals given off prior to events above >7 are easily detected by the whales in time for them to move out of the way.

There are many variables that must be considered to know whether pressure changes during undersea earthquakes might injure an entire pod. For example, when a seismic pressure wave traveling through the earth encounters the rock-water interface, some of the wave energy will reflect back to the solid and some will refract into the water. However, when the overall length of the p-waves is longer than the distance from the focal point to the rock-water interface, these longitudinal waves can enter the hydrospace as if there were no rock barrier at all. Said differently, p-waves from earthquakes focused less than ~5 kilometers below the rock-water interface will move into the water without distortion or energy loss. This anomalous transparency was recently discovered at the air-water interface (link) (link). When asked if the same transparency existed at the rock-water barrier, Dr. Oleg A. Godin replied in the affirmative. He clearly stated that his findings applied as much to the solid/water boundary as it did to the air/water boundary. This means that quakes as small as 4.7 magnitude might indeed injure pods of diving whales if these events originate less than ~5 km below the seabed. This anomalous transparency was recently confirmed by two researchers working at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division (link).

It should be easy to use the occurrence of dangerous quakes in known odontocete habitats to predict strandings weeks in advance. However, using depth of focus as criteria is not reliable because the focal depth in the data is usually defaulted to 10 km, which is ~4.5 km longer than the average p-wave in warm volcanic rock. Said differently, key data separating what might be a whale-dangerous quake from one that is harmless is not available at this time. Nor can you be sure whether or not whales are present above a particular quake.

Another problem for predicting strandings in advance is that whales can detect pre-quake signals. This explains why events above 6.8 magnitude never seem to cause odontocete pod strandings. Stronger quakes give off much stronger precursors than do lesser events. For this reason, the greater the magnitude of the seaquake, the less likely a pod of whales will be injured. Nor do we find quakes below 4.7 magnitude associated with mass beachings.

The problem now is we do know which signals alert the whales so it makes predicting even more difficult. Bottom line is that stranding predictions will be accurate only one time out of every ten.

On the other hand, predicting when whales will not strand along a particular shoreline  based on the lack of whale-dangerous earthquakes upstream is 95% accurate. These prediction would be 100% accurate if we knew with certainty whether military sonar was operating in the area. Another cause of injury that we can not predetermine in whether a heavenly body crashed into the sea and caused an injurious pressure pulse near a pod of whales.

It does help predictions to know that ~90% of all mass strandings are caused by earthquakes located in only ten small 100-mile-long segments of the entire 40,000-mile-long mid-ocean ridge system. In other words, only about 1,000 miles of oceanic faults appear to be dangerous to diving pods of odontocete. This might be because these areas are squid breeding grounds, or it might be due to a lack of detectable precursor signals. It might also be due to something particular in the seafloor itself, such as the presence of volcanic hot spots, hydrothermal vents, and other deformities in the seabed. The point being is that there is much to learn before one can accurately predict pod strandings based on seabed earthquakes. However, as mentioned above, predicting when whales will not mass strand based on the lack of upstream earthquakes is rather easy providing there is no military and oil industry operations and no heavenly bodies crashing into the water.

What is known is that the typical shallow earthquake along the mid-ocean ridge system generates a noise level of ~244 decibels (re:1 mPA). Will ~244 decibels cause auditory/sinus injuries in pods of diving whales? When converted to pounds per square inch, 244 dB equals 220 psi or 15 atmospheres. The energy level drops quickly as the distance between the pod and the seafloor increases. This means that both the depth of the dive and the nearness to the bottom during exposure also determines the possibility of injury. Whales near shore in shallow water would be far more vulnerable to a local quake. An example would be the 20 Sei whales recently killed along the Chile Coast. (link)

One should also consider that there will be various degrees of injury. Some pods might suffer slight barosinusitis and recover much sooner than other pods that may not survive long enough to beach themselves.

Drop off edges along continental shelves, and the tall peaks of undersea volcanoes are prime feeding grounds for pelagic odontocete. Compressions and rarefactions (longitudinal p-waves) coming up these inverted cone shapes from an earthquake at the base of these mountains, or from the continental shelf might be especially dangerous for a diving pod for several reasons. For one, the pod would be expected to be closer to the rock-water interface. If so, the anomalous transparency might increase the intensity of such pressure waves. Again, much is still to be discovered.

Discounting the fact that p-waves from extremely shallow events can pass undisturbed into the water column, the amplitude of the changing pressure in a moderate seaquake is directly related to the rate of acceleration in the seabed coupled with the vertical distance traveled by the upsurging rocky bottom. This is because slower vertical movement allows time for the water to flow horizontally, weakening the pressure pulsations by increasing the circumference of the disturbance.

During a typical shallow magnitude 6 earthquake with lightning fast acceleration, the increase in water pressure might reach ~2,000 psi above ambient one meter off the rocky bottom. When the seabed suddenly snaps back to its undisturbed position, the sudden jerk downward creates a negative pressure pulse called a rarefaction phase.

When the seafloor is dancing rapidly, a series of intense low frequency (LF) hydroacoustic compressions and decompressions shoot up towards the surface four times faster than sound travels in the air. As mentioned above, the frequency of these pressure changes range from -2 to 100 cycles per second (cps), averaging about 7 cps with two (14) phases per cycle.

These seismically-generated pressure disturbances were commonly called seaquakes a hundred years ago. Scientists now call them by a confusing mix of non-descriptive names with T-phase waves being the closest fit. It also seems that scientists don’t want to public to know too much about seaquakes. One must often read a hundred scientific articles to find the intensity of these events.

What Happens When Intense Oscillating Water Pressures Crisscross a Pod of Diving Whales?

An encounter with a painful noise from a military sonar or oil industry airgun at a great distance does not cause problems for diving whales; they simply swim to the surface and raise their heads out of the water, or they swim off in the opposite direction. On the other hand, the sudden encirclement by a series of rapidly changing ambient pressures (seaquakes) that overwhelm each animal’s ability to compensate is a nightmare come true for a pod of odontocete down on a feeding dive. Injury to the entire diving pod is inevitable.

The position of the animals when exposed is also critical. For example, if the whales were swimming straight down towards the bottom, the increased pressure would roll over them from head to tail. On the other hand, if they were swimming straight up to the surface, the pressure would roll over them from tail to head. It would seem to be far more dangerous if the whales panicked and bolted for the surface because the expanded air in the cranial air spaces would have no avenue of evacuation. On the other hand, the leveled-off position would seem safer during seaquake exposure. Maybe this is why odontocete always swim towards the bottom and back to the surface at an angle of about 30 degrees?

The Injury

During seaquake exposure, the volume of air contained in each cranial air space increases and decreases in lockstep with the ongoing external pressure oscillations.  While the size of each cranial air spaces rapidly changes, the size of the nearby non-compressible bones, internal organs, muscles, fat, and blood remain the same. This rapid fluctuation in cranial air volume situated next to stationary anatomical parts establishes shearing forces that can easily induce barosinusitis, barotitis media, labyrinthine fistula, and other pressure-related diving injuries similar to sinus barotrauma, the most common injury in human scuba divers.

The evidence for seismically-forced changes in the overall size of the cranial air spaces is found throughout the anatomy of odontocete. Much evolution has taken place to adapt these animals to seismic pressure changes; however, evolution was forced to make compromises between protecting diving whales from seaquakes and enabling them to dive deeper and acoustically detect their prey in total darkness. Said differently, toughening their sinuses would have altered both their maximum diving depth and their acoustic reception. Much is to be discovered about seaquake-forced evolutionary adaptations coupled with their ability to detect seismic precursors.

Moreover, the air contained inside their cranial air sacs, which are situated in the space between and around their two cochleas, serves to isolate one inner ear from the other, and to reduce the perceived level of the animal’s own echo navigating clicks. This acoustic isolation and insulation of the two ears allows odontocete to hear independently in each ear.  If stereoscopic reception fails so does their echolocation and echonavigation. Even a slight interference in one ear would be disastrous for acoustically dependent odontocete because their biosonar system requires two balanced independent receptors.

Beaked Whale Sinuses
 If you call a beaked whale an airhead, you are technically correct.

Since their cranial air spaces function both underwater as acoustic mirrors and to isolate one cochlea from the other, a simple tear in one sinus or air sac might throw off one ear and easily result in the dysfunction of both echolocation and echonavigation. 

This researcher is not the first to suggest an injury in the cranial air sinuses and air sacs would knock out their sense of direction.

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) There in, 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)

It seems that prior to 1977, scientists were indeed trying to understand how a pod of whales might lose it acoustic sense of direction. At a 1977 mass stranding in Florida, scientists suggested to a newspaper reporter that, “the directional sonar, which steers them away from danger, somehow went awry.” (link)

Whale scientists stopped talking about the idea that whales might suffer echonavigation failure in the late 1970s. But this researcher could never get the words of Dr. Peter Purves out of his head. “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 it’s sense of direction.” I believed every word Purves said in 1977 and I still believe them today. This Seaquake Hypothesis is in total agreement. Seaquake induced barosinusitis would indeed cause the breakdown of the air sac system, which would result in the whales losing all sense of direction. In fact, Dr. Purves’ comment was what caused me to start research barotrauma in mass stranded whales.

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.”

It is also postulated herein that fewer pods stranded a hundred years ago because the oceans were not so noisy. In my opinion, in a quiet sea, feeding pods could hear micro-quake precursor signals in time to surface and raise their air-filled heads out of the water.

Another reason for the increase in pod strandings is overfishing by more than 500,000 purse seining vessels that drag huge nets across the surface entrapping schools of sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and other small fish that ball up a few feet below the surface. These schools blanketed the oceans a hundred years ago. In those days, seaquake-injured pods, unable to dive, could easily feed themselves by swimming down a few feet into one of these schools with their large mouths open wide. Bumping into a tightly-pack school of fish every few days would have provided enough nourishment and the fresh water to sustain them during a recovery period that probably lasted ~3 weeks. Once they started to dive again, they would be forced to find a new feeding grounds, spreading their species all around the globe. As it stands now, with very few schools of surface fish to help them recover, seaquakes alone might eventually cause the collapse of pelagic odontocete populations.

Click here to read a more about seaquake-induced navigation failure in pelagic odontocete.

Why Whales Strand: Loss of Echonavigation

Watch the short Nat-Geo video below: Notice the NOAA whale scientists suggesting that a healthy pod follows a sick one to the shore because they are so much in love with each other. This is pure propaganda designed to keep you in the dark.

The announcer closes by asking, “What could have possibly disoriented them?”

I have shown you above how they lose their sense of direction. Now I will show you how lost pods of seaquake-injured pelagic whales consistently swim from the point of injury to a beach. I consider this seemingly impossible feat to be the second most important clue to unraveling this mystery.

Watch this video (link) in which two Mythbusters blindfold themselves and try to swim across a calm lake. It shows how difficult it is to maintain a straight course with having a stationary focus point off in the distance.

But understanding the difficulty in blindly swimming a straight line does not show how seaquake-injured pods swim several thousand miles from their offshore feeding grounds and consistently land on sandy beaches.

But before we sort out which way a pod of disorientated whales and dolphins might swim we need to consider three facts:

(1) The busted sinuses that cause the pods to mass strand, also prevents them from diving and feeding themselves due to great pain. Even if they could dive, acoustically locating squid and fish in the dark waters of the deep sea would be impossible.  The evidence that they are not diving and feeding is found in every necropsy done on mass stranded whales. Every time the scientists cut open their stomachs, all they find is indigestible squid beaks and the hard ear bones of fish they were eating prior to being injured. And since their fresh water comes only from the fish and squid they eat, the severe dehydration found in each pod member is even more evidence that they had not been feeding for weeks. To counter the obvious, whale scientists falsely claim they vomit before going ashore. But no one has seen such behavior. Furthermore, if they did vomit, the squid beaks and fish ear bones would come up with the vomitus. You can’t vomit fresh food and leave only the indigestible scraps in your stomach.

(2) The eyes of the pilot and false killer whales, the most frequent mass stranders, are set on the sides rather than the front of their heads. They cannot see in front of them, which explains why they use biosonar exclusively in navigation and finding fish in the dark. On the other hand, dolphins with pointed beaks have a little better eyesight looking forward. The question is why don’t they use their eyesight to stay out of the unsafe pounding surf zone? Several answers come to mind. For one, the average stranding does not occur until ~3 weeks after the suspicious seaquake encounter. It is likely that they can avoid a beaching at first by using their eyes (spyhopping). But when the combination of severe dehydration and vitamin depletion weakening their eyesight, they would not be able to see any great distance, especially at night. The available research indicates that physical, visuomotor, psychomotor, and cognitive performance occurs when 2% or more of body weight is lost due to lack of fresh water.  Eyesight would also fail as they neared a rough surf zone where sand and bubbles were being injected into the water by the breaking waves. It is also thought that the vision of vitamin-depleted, dehydrated odontoceti would be of little value in staying off the beach at night, especially during a rough sea. This might explain why most stranded pods are discovered at the high tide mark early in the morning by the first visitors to the area.

Now imagine you are blindfolded, walking in an open field during a powerful windstorm. Without a visual marker to focus on, you would soon be walking downwind in the path of least resistance. This especially applies in water because the density of the water is 800 greater than air. Swimming blind head first into a 3-knot current is about the same as walking blindfolded into hurricane force winds.

But let’s be a bit more scientific. We know from Newton’s first law that thrust is required to cause our pod to move through calm waters. If thrust was the only force applied, a lost pod would continuously gain speed. However, this never happens because thrust is always countered by drag forces that push back against any movement. The faster a pod swims in a calm sea, the greater becomes the drag force trying to slow them down.

But rarely are the surface currents calm, so we must consider the difference between swimming downstream and swimming upstream. If the current flows in the same direction a pod is swimming, drag forces are greatly reduced, making it much easier for them to swim downstream. Swimming with the flow is the same as swimming in the path of least drag. On the other hand, if our pod is swimming upstream against the flow, drag forces increase dramatically. Since our lost pod has no guidance system or visual marker to focus on, they will not be able to hold an upstream compass heading against the increasing drag forces. Bottom line is that drag, without our acoustically blind whales even knowing it, will turn a lost pod and point them downstream in the path of the fastest moving current. (Read this article confirming that whales are guided ashore by surface currents.)

In fact, the drag force will constantly keep a lost pod swimming downstream inside the segment of the fastest flow. Said differently, if lost whales swim in a major current, like the Gulf Stream, they will be guided into the fast lane. They would also be carried close to land whenever a fast-moving filament spins off from the main flow and moves inshore.

One can tell when these filaments spin-off by observing the color change in coastal waters. The waters near the beach become a much deeper, cleaner-looking blue. You can often spot the blue water at mass beachings if you arrive soon after the event occurs. The near shore will be clouded with sand and bubbles so you need to look a few miles offshore for the first color change.

rough surf
Perfect whale stranding conditions.

Bottom line is the reason whales mass beach is simply. A lost pod goes ashore only when the current guides them into a sandy shore at the same time the tidal flow is washing in and the wind is blowing towards shore. The beach will look a lot like the one on the right. Such conditions make perfect stranding weather. But don’t take my word for it. Become a mass stranding investigator and confirm the oceanic condition during beachings by watching videos taken early during a stranding. You also need to record tide data, surface currents, rip tides, and etc. Here are a few videos showing wind and weather condition that favor strandings (link) (link) (link) (link) (link).

For some strange reason, whale scientists never record or even mention the flow of the surface currents, wind direction and speed, the intrusion of a filament of offshore water, times of the high and low tides, rip currents, alongshore currents, height of the breaking waves in surf zone, estimated time of the actual stranding, offshore weather over the last few days prior to the beaching, or any other data that could be used to determine the flow of the surface currents. In fact, they avoid any discussion of the surface currents. Why? I can not answer for them.

flat calm beach
Whales never strand during a calm sea because there is no surface current to guide them to the sand.

Here’s a fact you can easily verify without the guidance by whale scientists. Whales never strand when there is no shoreward flow as you see in the picture on the left. The point here is that if you prove to yourself that beached whales and dolphins are always swimming with the flow of the surface currents when they go ashore, then you have proven to yourself that they have no sense of direction whatsoever.

NO SENSE OF DIRECTION is the final key to unraveling the centuries-old mystery of why whales beach.  Failure to observe the obvious fact that stranded whales and dolphins (dead or alive) always swim with the surface currents is the main reason whale scientists could never solve the mystery and why a sea captain was able to do so. Ignoring the tide charts, rip currents, and etcetera is not good science. It’s just too easy to see with your own eyes when you know the truth prior to making observations. I can glance out across a body of water and tell you in seconds which way the water is flowing. Swimming downstream with the flow of the surface currents exposes the biosonar failure in mass beached whales and dolphins.

The perfect sand trap catches sand and lost whales swimming with the flow.

Geographical land masses that extended out to sea with a hook shape, opposing the flow of the usual surface current, like Cape Cod in the USA and Golden Bay in New Zealand, are natural sand traps because current is the energy that carries each grain of sand to build and maintain a beach. It’s a no-brainer. Hooked-shaped land masses that oppose the general flow trap both sand and lost whales swimming downstream.

I say this again to hammer home the point: it is the same no matter where you look. Any land mass that opposes the general flow of the current will trap sand, lost whales (dead or alive), seaweeds, logs, and other floating trash.

Imagine how our lost pod might feel. They can hear each other, but sinus barotrauma has destroyed their acoustic sense of direction. If they wanted to know what was 10 to 20 feet away in murky water, they must raise their big heads high out of the water and look around with their eyes.

The video below shows a pod of lost pilot whales near the Icelandic Coast. There is a strong current washing from the right side of the screen to the left; the same direction that the pod is swimming. Notice the abnormal close spacing of this LOST pod. If interpreted correctly, these telltale observations show the severe stress brought on by echonavigation failure and aggravated by the presence of a pack sharks a little too deep for the camera to see. Notice also that individuals are raising their heads to see if they are too close to the rocky shore. Scientists call this spyhopping. But it usually is an acoustically blind whale trying to keep from crashing into the rocky coastline.

Now take a quick look at a healthy pod of pilot whales and notice the big difference.

Now go back and look at another seaquake-injured pod with no sense of direction. Watch them milling around inside a backwater bay, raising their big heads high, trying to use eyesight to stay off the rocks and find their way back to deep water. Imagine how they feel. They know they’re lost. They know sharks are trailing them. There is a strong wind blowing from right to left. Tidal flow is slowing moving to the right, opposing the wind. Spyhopping is the only way for acoustically blind pods to investigate their surroundings. They obviously know their sonar is not working.

The above videos reveal erratic abnormal behavior in pods not yet stranded. It is obvious that all the members of the pod are highly distressed, not just one or two sick ones.

The fact that most stranded pods are found early in the morning by the first visitors to the beach tells us that most pods strand at night when using spyhopping techniques to stay off the beach don’t work.

Gale-force winds cause strong shoreward flow that guides lost whales into rocky shores.

On rare occasion, when storms generate an extraordinary strong shoreward flow, a lost pod will be washed with the flow into a rocky coast. Or, they might get drawn into a backwater lagoon through an inlet by the inrush of water during a rising tide. Once inside the shallow backwater lagoons, lost whales would mill around until their bellies touch the muddy bottom. They would then find it difficult to raise up high enough to spy hop the channel. They would be left stuck in the mud at low tide, which is exactly what happens.

More Proof

If pushed from the beach when the surface currents are flowing in towards the sand, non-navigating whales and dolphins will be turned back to the beach by the shoreward flow, which is also exactly what has been going on ever since man started pushing them back out to deep water. Rescue teams have learned thru trial and error that they must refloat acoustically blind whales only when the tidal current is flowing out to sea. They usually move the whales off the beach and then hold them there until the falling tide starts washing out. Sometimes they release too soon or the whales break away from their grip. When this happens, the poor whale starts swimming fast and just turns around and heads back to shore. If there are nearby rocks, the ACOUSTICALLY BLIND WHALES continuously bang into them in a BLIND craze. I have never seen a video that offers more PROOF of lost echo navigation any better than the one below. Please watch it!

On the other hand, when the weather kicks up a strong shoreward wind that overpowers the tidal flow back out to sea, waiting on the tide to drop before releasing the whales will not work. Re-floating in such conditions is impossible, and the rescue teams know it, so they inject them with a deadly substance or shoot them in the head as revealed in the video below:

You don’t have to cut the whales open to see the truth. The fact that beached odontoceti cannot swim out to deep water when the surface currents are washing shoreward is SOLID PROOF OF BIOSONAR FAILURE. As mentioned above, rescue teams know by trial and error that there is no hope for a successful refloat during a strong shoreward flow. Whales with dysfunctional biosonar cannot swim against even into a slight current, let alone heavy breakers. It’s like asking a blind man to swim upstream against a strong flow. It can’t be done and the rescue teams know it. So instead of killing them, some rescue teams will load them on trucks and carry them to a distance beach on the opposite shore where the wind and tide are blowing out to sea. The video below is a perfect example of the inventive ways rescue groups use to get acoustically blind whales to swim offshore to the waiting sharks.

On the other hand, if the surface currents are calm, the whales will mill around in shallow water as you can see in the video below that was taken from a helicopter. It shows the whales slowly swimming hither and yonder in a slack current. It is so so obvious that, without the flow of the current to guide them off in one direction or another, the lost pod simply mills around with no idea which way to swim. You can see that they have NO SENSE OF DIRECTION. 

You can also see several whales that were ripped apart by the sharks. Sharks trail these wounded pods all the time. The other whales know the sharks are in the area and would like to leave, but again, they need moving water to guide them downstream. They stay within earshot of their pod mates because they know if they swim off on their own, the sharks will quickly isolate them and move in for the kill. Sharks play the major role in keeping the wounded pod together. A wounded pod does not stick tight to each other because of some great love of each other–they stay herded together for protection against shark attack. If you remain in a herd of twenty fellow whales, the odds that you will be the next whale eaten by the sharks are one out of twenty. Swim off on your own and odds increase one to one. The acoustically blind whales know this–they why they stay together. Whale scientists also know this, but would rather you believe the whales stay together due to close family ties. The strong love bond plays on the hearts of humans and causes them to donate more money to push the whales out to the sharks waiting miles offshore. Sometimes I even believe the sharks know the rescue teams are about to feed them so they patrol offshore just waiting for their dinner to be pushed out to a little deeper water.   

I repeat… the OBVIOUS FACT that stranded whales always swim downstream with the flow of the surface current is clear and unmistakable evidence of biosonar failure. The most logical explanation that fits with the million-year history of mass strandings is pressure-related sinus barotrauma induced by natural catastrophic upheavals in their backyard. In the order of the most likely first, barosinusitis in odontocetes can be caused by seaquakes, violent volcanic explosions, navy sonar, oil industry airguns, and the rare time when a heavenly body slams into the ocean’s surface near a pod of whales.

Whale Scientists Got it Wrong!

One story they repeat over and over again is that healthy toothed whales strand during heavy seas because the incoming waves kick up the sand causing acoustic interference with their biosonar signals. Or, when the sea is not so rough, they say biosonar does not work on a gradually sloping beach. Both concepts are easily refuted. Odontocete are intelligent animals that have evolved for 55 million years in our oceans. They would have learned many millions of years ago not to swim near a beach when the waves kick up the sand and block both their eyesight and their echo navigation. Give them a little credit — toothed whales are just not that stupid. Dolphins will not even jump over a rope floating on the surface in a calm pool because it distorts their biosonar; they would NEVER swim into sandy water filled with air bubbles.

They have thrived for million of years in stormy seas and would instinctively know to swim to deep offshore waters long before the storm kicked up. They would naturally avoid shallow beaches until the weather improves. If they didn’t, they would have gone the way of the Dodo Bird a long, long time ago. The only reason you will see them near shore during heavy seas is when their biosonar system has been previously disabled.

Healthy dolphins know how to have fun offshore during heavy seas.

Dolphins love the rough seas as long as the water is clear and their biosonar is working.
Biosonar works great in rough seas as long as the water is free of bubbles and sand.

Here’s the main point. By saying that sand, bubbles, and sloping beaches interfere with biosonar and cause strandings, the scientists are admitting that beachings are the result of biosonar failure. The question is: why do they blame sand, bubbles, and a sloping beach while excluding other more obvious causes of biosonar failure like deafness and sinus barotrauma? Why is it that we never hear whale scientists mention barosinusitis in toothed whales? These sea mammals have massive air sinuses and are the most prolific deep sea divers the world will ever know. I find it impossible to believe that scientists have never considered a diving-related pressure injury. To me, thinking whales never suffer sinus injuries is like thinking humans never stumped a toe or broke a leg.

A pod of lost melon headed whales is washed ashore in rough seas.

Study the pictures above and the one at the top of this web page. They were taken in typical mass beaching weather. Notice the raging sea in the background. You can tell there is a strong shoreward wind setting up the breaking waves. You can also tell that the whales were washed up the beach during high tide and left in the sand when the tide dropped. If they had a working biosonar, why didn’t they just turn around at high tide and swim back to deep water? Obviously, the biosonar systems of the entire pod failed.

Stranded Whales and Dolphins Can be Saved

As you will see in the video below, stranded pods can be rehabilitated if protected from sharks for 3-4 weeks, given plenty of fresh fluids, and fed lots of fish and squid. The question is will governments spend the money? Or, are they happy when the rescue groups push the poor whales out to the waiting sharks while pretending to save them?

Why Do Most Folks Blame US Navy Sonar And Not Undersea Earthquakes?

For example, when asked about seaquakes causing whales strandings, a whale conservationists wrote: “I would speculate that strandings have more to do with the United States Navy than anything else. The studies and proof is there. I believe they are doing more damage in the name of national defense than underwater earthquakes. I only believe this because quakes have been happening since the beginning of time. Although they might have great impact. Whales have evolved along side of this whereas the Navy has only recently been using sonar.”

ancient toothed whale
30-million-year-old toothed whale hunting fish.

This person is suggesting that because earthquakes were around long before whales moved from land back to the sea, they must have evolved a means of dealing with the danger. To a certain degree, this is true. As said above, I believe that fewer pods stranded a hundred years ago because the oceans were not so noisy, and more pods recovered. In my opinion, the quiet sea helped feeding pods hear micro-quake precursors in time to swim to the surface and raise their air-filled heads out of the water.

I would also counter the comment by saying that archaeological finds show that whales have been mass stranding since the stone age, and likely a long time before man even walked upright. This fact alone rules out Navy sonar as the primary cause of mass beachings. I might even go so far as to suggest that seaquake-injured pods swimming blindly downstream with the current would be far more vulnerable to Navy sonar and oil industry airguns simply because that can not determine which way to swim to avoid these devices. It is possible that the surface flow could carry them directing into the path of the ships emitting dangerous acoustic signals in which case additional injury would be added to the original barotrauma.

Another reason I don’t fault sonar and airguns so much is because healthy whales can hear these devices from a long distance away. They would swim off in a different direction long before the intensity became injurious. Of course, this does not prevent a sonar or airgun array from trapping a pod inside a cove where they have nowhere to swim to avoid serious trauma.

I might add here that I have located a whale-dangerous earthquake upstream from and prior to every stranding associated with sonar. I wrote the Navy a letter telling them not to use sonar downstream from whale-dangerous earthquakes. As far as I know, there has not been an instant is which sonar has caused a mass beaching since.

I might also add that a few hundred years ago undersea earthquakes might have served an important evolutionary purpose. Allow me to explain: In the 1700s and 1800s there were so many whales and dolphins feeding along sections of the mid-ocean ridge that there was a good chance that they could overgraze and deplete the local squid breeding stock. For this reason, the removal of a few pods every so often by a seaquake was an evolutionary advantage, especially since recovery was easy because the injured pods were feeding every so often on one of the numerous schools of small fish they easily caught near the surface.

Since their biosonar was rendered temporarily dysfunctional by the seaquake, they had no acoustical memory of how to get back to their old feeding grounds. They had to find new habitat. This meant that seaquakes served evolution by thinning the pods from the mid-ocean ridges and spread the species around the world at the same time.

This was also a time when drive fisheries for small whales began to flourish. At first, there were plenty of wounded pods looking for a new habitat so the drive fisheries did little damage. At about the same time, oceanic trawlers began removing the massive schools of small fish that the whales relied on for recovery. As the surface schools became depleted, more whales started stranding and pod sizes slowly got smaller until we have the situation today when the removal of pods by seaquakes alone threatens to eliminate the breeding stock and cause the extinction of pelagic toothed whales.

There are things that we can do to change this situation.

I am convinced that many whale species can detect earthquake precursors. If we study how they do it, we might be able to duplicate these signals and cause the whales to flee the area before the start of sonar and/or commercial operations. We might even learn from the whales how to predict major earthquakes weeks in advance and save thousands of human lives every year.

But it’s gonna be difficult to get the US Navy to agree on such a plan. They are warmongers far more interested in covering up the killing of whales than they are in saving whales or human lives. They fund, along with the oil industry, 97% of all whale research worldwide. Whale scientists must do and say what these two groups want if they expect to get funding. In other words, they have to lie or find another job.

Capt. David Williams
Deafwhale Society (the oldest whale conservation group in the world)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.