WHY WHALES BEACH
The first thing to do to understand why whales beach is to clear your mind of all the nonsense you’ve heard from whale scientists. Just follow along below and use your own common sense.
The whales and dolphins that mass beach themselves all have a few things in common. For one, they all primarily feed on squids that breed and lay their eggs along the earthquake and volcano prone mid-ocean ridge systems that circle the globe like seams on a baseball. The squids favor this seismically-active volcanic mountain range because the seafloor is warmer and serves to incubate the trillions of eggs they lay annually.
Just like the hoofed animals on the Serengeti plain, toothed whales are just following their food.
Mass stranders also share other common traits. They are all breath-holding deep divers that emit loud acoustic clicks underwater. Like bats in air, deep divers read the returning hydroacoustic echoes and use this acoustic information to navigate the oceans and find their prey in the pitch-dark waters.
The big difference between bats and odontoceti whales is that bats cannot echolocate underwater and odontoceti cannot echolocate in the air. This is so because sound underwater is different than sound in air. Water is 800 times denser than air and sound speed is 4.3 times faster. In fact, the acoustic impedance of water is 3,500 times higher than that of air. This mismatched acoustic impedance means that a sound in water will bounce off pockets of air like a flashlight beam bounces off a mirror. Said differently, the large cranial air spaces of deep diving odontoceti will bounce returning echoes in a fashion to enable echonavigation and echolocation.
This also means that each species, depending on its lung and sinus air volume, will reach a depth where the air is so compressed that the animals can not longer fill its sinuses. In other words, at a certain depth, the biosonar of a specific species will stop working. This is the maximum depth of the species.
Nor will sound in air penetrate into the water. This explains why a person yelling along the edge of a pool cannot be heard by someone submerged.
All mass stranders (odontoceti) also have large cranial air spaces that occupy ~30% of their heads. Said differently, the most acoustically advanced mammals on our planet can properly be called airheads. Moreover, because this cranial air is an acoustic mirror underwater, evolution took advantage and used the air sacs and sinuses to enhance their biosonar system. As the first whales started to dive underwater 55 million years ago, their cranial sinus cavities naturally began to serve as an acoustic barrier to insulate, isolate, generate, reflect, focus, and channel returning echo signals to make their echo-navigation and echolocation functional.
According to a long-discredited theory of evolution, anatomy will be structured according to functions associated with use; for instance, giraffes are taller to reach the leaves of trees. By contrast, in Darwinian evolution, form precedes function as determined by natural selection. That is to say in the rejected theory of evolution, the form was altered by the required function, whereas in Darwinian evolution small variations in form allow some parts of the population to function “better”, and are therefore more successful reproductively. In other words, the sinuses were present before early whales started feeding underwater. That they started functioning a few million years later as underwater acoustic mirrors was a beneficial happenstance.
If the sinuses and air sacs rupture in modern toothed whales, their biosonar system quits working. They can still hear by way of their cochleas but they can no longer determine the direction from which a sound comes.
Damaged cochleas would naturally destroy their echonavigation and location abilities and so would a barotraumatic sinus injury. In other words, as mentioned above, there are two ways we could acoustically blind an entire pod of toothed whales (odontoceti). The best way would be to assault the most fragile part of their acoustic anatomy. To determine that part easiest to defeat, we must determine how evolution went about protecting the cochlea and the sinuses.
To protect the cochlea all evolution had to do was thicken the bone so it could withstand drastic changes in pressure. On the other hand, the sinuses presented a huge problem because the volume of air held inside fluctuated in direct proportion to the external water pressure. Making the sinus membranes too thick reduced their flexibility during rapid changing pressures and caused them to rupture more easily. The only thing evolution could do was keep the sinus membranes thin so they could stretch while working on ways injured whales could recover from pressure-related sinus injuries.
Evolution does not think or plan. Rather the process is a series of accidental genetic mutations. If the mutation aids survival, there will be more whales passing along the genetic change. If the mutation hinders survival, then the genetic change will eventually disappear. For example, any gene that might cause whales to commit mass suicide would have long ago vanished from the gene pool. Genetic processes all work toward the survival of the fittest.
And since mass stranders are all deep diving, air-breathing, breathe holding mammals, that dive to feed 2-3 times every day along the most seismically active zones on the planet, the greatest danger they face is from rapid and excess changes in diving pressures generated during seafloor seismic upheavals.
The most common injury is all divers is sinus and/or middle ear barotrauma. Divers must make sure that the internal air pressure in their cranial air spaces is always nearly equal to the external water pressure. Otherwise, they will suffer an injury in and around their internal air pockets.
And since a sinus injury will disable their biosonar, they would end up acoustically blind.
Throughout history, pods of whales and dolphins have suffered catastrophic accidents that cause their biosonar system to fail. Since they would be lost, the prevailing surface currents will always point them headfirst downstream in the path of least drag. And, if the sharks don’t get them first, they will eventually swim to a sandy spot. This is so because the currents guiding the whales is the same energy that builds beaches. Where beaches are building, you will find stranded whales, seaweeds, and all sorts of flotsam. Where beaches are eroding, you will not see stranded whales, seaweeds, driftwood or any garbage.
Because they cannot dive and feed themselves, all stranded whales will have no food in their stomachs and, because their fresh water comes from the food they eat, they will be super dehydrated. Regardless of their weakened condition, rescue teams just pushed them back out to deep water on the outgoing tide and then claim to have saved another pod while begging for more donations. They knew the whales had nothing in their stomachs and suffered severe dehydration but they don’t even give the poor starving animals any water or food. Just shove them off the beach during the outgoing tide and beg for more donations.
Here’s the shocker! Why can’t the world’s scientists figure out why pods of whales beach themselves? It’s impossible to believe they are all that stupid. The only answer is that there is a major cover-up going on about why whales beach sponsored by the US Navy and the oil industry. The cover-up seems even more obvious when you realize that these two groups are the worst underwater acoustic polluters in the entire world; yet, together they contribute 97% of all the money spent worldwide to study whales. Why in God’s name are the two worst acoustic polluters of the marine environment supplying whale scientists with 97% of all their research funds? The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. They furnish 97% of whale research funds just so the whale scientists keep on pretending that they have no idea why whales beach.
Consider the necropsies of dead stranded whales. Scientists have cut open 500,000 beached whales and still claim they have no clue why whales run into the beach. So why cut up more whales? The answer is simply. The money they get to cut up more whales and dolphins is a payoff to keep their mouths shut!
We know that military sonar, oil industry air guns, and underwater explosives explain why some whales beach. But whales have beached for millions of years so how do we connect the modern reason for why whales beach and the ancient reason?
Suppose we back up and say that it is not sonar, air guns, and explosions that explain why whales beach. Instead, it is biosonar dysfunction caused by the rapid changes in water pressure generated by these devices. This makes more sense because the worst danger any air-breathing diver can 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 air guns, and explosives generate intense changes in ambient water pressure that in turn cause sinus barotrauma in all diving mammals and this is why whales beach.
This makes sense because, as mentioned above, the air contained in their massive sinuses serve underwater to reflect, focus, and channel the returning echo-navigation clicks they use to navigate and find their food. Doctors call the injury barosinusitis. It simply destroys their acoustic sense of direction without causing cochlear deafness. They lose their sense of direction, swim downstream with the same flow that builds beaches which explain why they land in the sand.
The only ancient sources of intense changes in diving pressures are undersea earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (see recent example), and the violent impact of a meteorite with the ocean’s surface. This means that barosinusitis induced by rapid and excessive pressures changes during exposure to seaquakes, volcanic explosions, sonar, air guns, explosives, and meteorites are the six major reason why whales beach.
This seems far too simple! How can we be for sure that this is why whales beach?
You’re not going to believe this but it is true! The Maritime Safety Division of the US Navy warned us back in 1966 that seismic compressional waves (aka; seaquake waves) given off by 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.” Since they knew this back in 1966, why didn’t they sponsor a research project to investigate whether seaquakes and undersea volcanic explosions were the reasons why whales beach?
The statement that “marine life can be destroyed by a seaquake,” when combined with the fact that US Navy never spent 10 cents to research natural undersea upheavals as the answer to why whales beach would convict the US Navy of a massive cover-up in any court in the world!
They told us seaquakes could destroy marine life. 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! The US Navy says a seaquake can bust a ship apart. And, this was not the first time a US official had issued a warning. Believe it or not, in November 1941, the Chief of the Seismological Observatory at Fordham University warned US Citizen that a big seaquake near the Azores might have crushed every submarine within 500 miles like an egg (link).”
Holy shit! America’s top earthquake expert warns that a big seaquake could sink every submarine within 500 miles!
Prepare yourself for another shocker!
The prediction by America’s top seismic expert in 1941 would indeed come true in 1968. The US Navy was wishing back then that the public had never heard anything about the dangers of seaquakes. They were scampering around trying to destroy all the evidence showing they knew seaquakes could kill marine life and sink ships and submarines. 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 telling us a seaquake could sink a ship, the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously vanished in the earthquake-prone waters a few miles south of the Azores, 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. These pictures arrived at Naval Headquarters around the 15th of November 1968. The evidence convinced the naval experts that a shock wave from an undersea earthquake had indeed sent their $40 million nuclear attack submarine to the bottom. The US Navy had 5 other identical submarines built on the same flawed designed. They classed these fast attack submarines as skipjacks. They had to scrape the other five. They were facing a terrible crisis that would get all the admirals fired!
You can read the long story here. The short story is that the USS Scorpion was poorly designed and in pitiful mechanical condition when the admirals sent it on its last mission and they knew it before the nuclear sub ever left its home port at Norfolk, Virgina. This turns the accidental sinking by seismic shock waves into the reckless homicide of 99 US Navy sailors. Said differently, the US Navy knowingly sent the USS Scorpion on a suicide mission.
The admirals 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 earlier 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 way, 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 could have surfaced if its emergency system to blow the water out of its ballast tanks had worked. 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 revealed the flaws in Scorpion’s original hull designed. 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 tell the truth and decommission Scorpion’s five 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 the skipjack fleet. 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! If they did, you’d know why whales beach and the bribery money would stop gushing!
As mentioned above, because the air in their sinuses serves underwater to reflect and focus returning echo-navigation 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 Scorpion affair only 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 the video of an 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 Quake, 1906
mag 8.5 5 billion tons Anchorage, Alaska Quake, 1964
mag 9.0 32 billion tons Chilean Quake, 1960
If you doubt a seaquake can sink a nuclear submarine, read this article by NASA scientists (link). This team of physicists calculated that a vertical thrusting 7.4 seaquake generates 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 the US Navy don’t want you to know seaquakes cause whales to beach. The barotraumatic injury from a seaquake is identical to injuries caused by military sonar and oil industry air guns. If they show how seaquakes injure whales, they convict their own sonar.
Here’s a 1908 report by the crew of a sailing vessel that saw 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 submerges his head underwater and smashed two stones together. A solid blow causes pain in and around his sinuses. The boy feels pain for the same reason nearby diving whales, fishes with swim bladders, and sea turtles will feel unimaginably intense torture lasting for a minute or more when a fracture of millions of tons of rock suddenly rips the seabed asunder. This is so because water is not compressible; it transmits 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 forces accumulated slowly 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 the skin of a drum 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 moving through a liquid consist of half cycles of compressions (positive pressure phases) and dilations (negative pressure phases). During the compression phase, the air in the cranial sinuses of a pod of diving whales would rapidly compress. During the dilatational phase, the air inside their heads would instantly expand. In other words, a pod of whales above the epicenter would experience a series of unimaginable changes in diving pressures that bounce back and forth between positive and negative at an average of ~7 full cycles per second (14 half-cycles or phases). This fluctuating pressure 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 serious barotraumatic injuries in their cranial air spaces, middle ear air spaces, and their lungs. This injury knocks out their acoustic sense of direction and explains why they swim downstream eventually being washed into a sandy area by the incoming tide.
This is not rocket science. This is just common sense.
But not all seaquakes cause injury. 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 like 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, where strike-slip events can push directly against the water. Such situation will indeed generate extreme pressures changes in the water near mountains 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.
Strike-slip faulting can also generate violent hydroacoustic pressures when the rupture speed along the fault is faster than the speed of the seismic shear waves (S-waves). These super sheer earthquakes actually cause underwater sonic booms.
You must understand that there are hundreds of variables to cause seaquakes to be either harmless or deadly.
The size of the average quake that causes mass strandings is ~5.3 magnitude. I believe quakes below <4.5 and above >7 do not injure pods of whales because (a) events less than <4.5 are too small, and (b) precursor signals given off before the main shock of all quakes above magnitude >7 are easily detected by the whales in time for them to move away.
There are many other variables to considered before deciding whether pressure changes during an undersea earthquake 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 into 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 enter the water 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 transfer 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 apply as much to the solid/water boundary as they do 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 rock/water interface. This anomalous transparency was recently confirmed by two researchers working at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division (link).
It’s easy to use dangerous quakes in known odontoceti habitats to predict strandings weeks in advance. However, using depth of focus as criteria is not reliable because the focal depth in the data defaults 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 one be sure that whales are present above a particular epicenter.
Another problem for predicting beachings is that whales can detect pre-quake signals. The problem now is that we do know which signals alert the whales so it makes predicting even more difficult. Bottom line is that mass stranding predictions are correct 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% correct. This prediction would be 100% correct 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 seaquakes in only ~ten 100-mile-long segments of the entire 40,000-mile-long mid-ocean ridge system are responsible for ~90% of all mass strandings. In other words, only about 1,000 miles of oceanic faults seem dangerous to diving pods. 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 volcanic hot spots, hydrothermal vents, and other deformities below the seafloor. The point 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 are 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 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 odontoceti. 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 closer to the rock-water interface. If so, the anomalous transparency might increase the intensity of such pressure waves. Again, much is still unknown.
Discounting 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 ranges from -2 to 100 cycles per second (cps), averaging about 7 cps with two phases per cycle for a total of 14 phases.
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 the 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 odontoceti down on a feeding dive. Injury to the entire diving pod is inevitable.
The position or angle 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 spooked and bolted straight up towards the surface, the pressure would roll over them from tail to head. Such a panic move would be far more dangerous because the 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 odontoceti always swim towards the bottom and back to the surface at an angle of about 30 degrees?
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 stays 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 odontoceti. Much evolution has occurred in the attempt to adopt these animals to seismic pressure changes; however, evolution had 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 how seaquakes forced evolutionary adaptations coupled with their ability to detect seismic precursors.
Moreover, the air contained inside the cranial air sacs in the space between and around their two cochlear 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 allow odontoceti to hear independently in each ear. If stereoscopic reception fails so does their echolocation and echo-navigation. Even a slight interference in one ear would be disastrous for acoustically dependent odontoceti because their biosonar system requires two balanced independent receptors.
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 failure of both echolocation and echo-navigation.
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) 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, where 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 trying to understand how a pod of whales might lose their biosonar system. 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 echo-navigation 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 its sense of direction.” I believed every word Dr. Purves said in 1977. My 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 for the answer to why whales beach.
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 that fewer pods beached 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 seine fishing 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 packed 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 odontoceti populations.
Click here to read a more about barotraumatic navigation failure in pods of pelagic odontoceti.
Why Whales Strand: Loss of Echo-navigation
Watch the above short Nat-Geo video: 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 US Navy 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 the mystery of why whales beach.
Watch this video in which two Mythbusters blindfold themselves and try to swim across a calm lake. This is not a river where water flows downstream. This is a lake where water might flow in any direction depending on the wind. The film simply shows how impossible it is to maintain a straight course without having a stationary focus point some distance away from the swimmer. Said differently, to swim a straight line in a current, you need to fix your eyes on something stationary in the distance.
But understanding how impossible it is to swim a straight line if you are blind 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 explain which way pods of lost whales and dolphins might swim we need to consider several facts:
(1) The busted sinuses that cause the pods to mass strand also prevent 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 still 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, hard ear bones of fish, and maybe the plastic they’ve mistakenly eaten since their injury. And since their fresh water comes only from the fish and squid they eat, the severe dehydration found in each pod member is additional evidence that they had not been feeding for weeks. To counter the obvious, whale scientists falsely claim that 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 stranded pods, are set on the side and not the front of their heads. They cannot see directly 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 beaching does not occur until ~3 weeks after the suspicious seaquake encounter. It is likely that they could avoid a beaching at first by using their eyes (spy hopping). But with 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 breaking waves inject a lot of sand and bubbles into the water. It is also thought that the eyesight of a 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 the first visitors to a beach in the early morning discover most stranded pods, and usually at the high-tide mark.
Now imagine you are wearing a blindfold, 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 to water because it is 800 denser than air. Swimming blind head first into a 3-knot current is about the same as walking blindfolded straight into hurricane force winds.
But let’s be a bit more scientific. We know from Newton’s first law that our pod requires thrust 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 forward 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 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 never be able to hold an upstream compass heading against the increasing drag forces. Bottom line is that drag, without our acoustically blind pod even knowing it, will turn them and point them downstream in the path of the fastest moving current. (Read this article confirming that surface currents guide beached whales ashore.)
In fact, the drag force will constantly keep a lost pod swimming downstream inside the fastest moving filament of current. Said differently, if lost whales swim in a major current, like the Gulf Stream, the flow will guide them into the fast lane. They would also be carried close to land if a fast-moving filament of current spins off from the mainstream 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 water will be clouded with sand and bubbles so you need to look a few miles offshore for the first color change.
Thus, the reason why whales beach is really quite simple. A lost pod goes ashore only when the current guides them into the sand 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 the local 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 obvious reasons, whale scientists, supported by the US Navy and oil industry, usually don’t mention the flow of the surface currents, wind direction and speed, a finger of intruding 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 surface currents. Obviously, the only reason to ignore the most important data at a mass stranding is to kiss butt with those furnishing their money.
Observations forged science and form concepts, but concepts cannot be accepted unless they explain all the consistent observations. Thus, the mystery of why whales mass beach themselves cannot be resolved without accounting for everything we see during a stranding event. No consistent observation can be left unexplained.
Look at this video. See the seaweeds washed ashore during the recent heavy incoming seas. Listen to the wind. Look at waves breaking ashore. You must realize that the strong inflow of the currents guided these “LOST” whales ashore. Obviously, they were lost at sea for quite a long period before they reached the beach.
Here’s a fact you can easily verify without the help of 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 also proven 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. Refusing to acknowledge the obvious fact that stranded whales and dolphins (dead or alive) always swim with the surface currents is the main reason whale scientists never solved 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.
Always swimming downstream with the flow of the surface currents proves the biosonar failure in mass beached whales and dolphins.
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 the current is the same 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.
The video below shows a pod of lost pilot whales being released on the Scottish Coast. The timing for the release is wrong because the surface currents and wind is still washing shoreward. The rescuers are lining the whales up to be release as soon as the tidal flow starts to move offshore. But one whale breaks away from his team of handlers and starts swimming away on his own. Since he has no sense of direction, he immediately turns around and heads back toward the rocks. The rescuers scream and yell and try to scare him away from the rocks. Obviously, this poor whale has no sense of direction and no idea where to swim.
On rare occasion, when storms generate an extraordinary strong shoreward flow, a lost pod gets washed with the flow into a rocky coast. Or, they might get drawn into a backwater lagoon through an inlet by water rushing in 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 spyhop the channel. They would be left stuck in the mud at low tide, which is exactly what happens.
If pushed from the beach when the surface currents are flowing in towards the sand, as seen in the video above, the incoming current will turn non-navigating whales and dolphins and point them back to the beach, which is also exactly what has gone on ever since man started pushing them back out to deep water. Rescue teams have learned thru trial and error that they must release 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 above. Please watch it again!
On the other hand, when the weather kicks up a strong shoreward wind that overpowers the tidal flow back out to sea, waiting for 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 release 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 cannot be done and the rescue teams know it.
I repeat… the OBVIOUS FACT that beached 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 (see recent example), navy sonar, oil industry air guns, 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 to explain why whales beach is that healthy toothed whales go ashore 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, scientists say the reason why whales beach in because their biosonar does not work on a gradually sloping beach. Both concepts are easily refuted. Odontoceti species 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 water filled with sand and 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 improved. 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.
Here’s the main point. By saying that sand, bubbles, and sloping beaches interfere with biosonar and explain why whales beach, 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.
Study the picture above and the one at the top of this web page. 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 incoming tide washed the whales up the beach during high tide and left them 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. This is why whales beach!
Stranded Whales and Dolphins Can be Saved
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 as the reason why whales beach, a whale conservationists wrote: “I would speculate that why whales beach has more to do with the United States Navy than anything else. The studies and proof are 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.”
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 due to the massive schools of surface fish. In my opinion, the quiet sea also helped diving pods to 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 archeological 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 air guns 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 air guns 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 mass 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 many schools of small fish they easily caught near the surface.
Since a seaquake rendered their biosonar temporarily dysfunctional, 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 spreading 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 of small fish became depleted, more whales beached and pod sizes slowly got smaller until we have a situation today when the removal of pods by seaquakes alone threatens to eliminate the breeding stock and cause the extinction of pelagic toothed whales. Evolution is just too slow to keep up with the changes induced by man.
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 interested in covering up the killing of whales, not letting the public know why whales beach. As mentioned above, 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).
Our only mission has been to understand why whales beach.