The 337 baleen whales washed ashore in Patagonia, Chile were killed by several undersea earthquakes in the Southern Ocean 2,000 to 3,000 miles west of Chile!
In April 2015, more than 20 large sei whales were discovered dead and rotting inside an inlet along the rocky coast of southern Chile near the Gulf of Penas. Scientists suggested red tide; however, the Deafwhale Society strongly disagrees because the Antarctic water that flows into the Southern Chilean Coast is far too cold to support a massive bloom of the species of algae that causes red tide. These blooms generally occur where there are high levels of nutrients present, together with the occurrence of warm, sunny, calm conditions. As you will read below, the conditions needed for red tide were not present in the area south of 47 degrees where the 337 carcasses were discovered. As far as I can determine, there has never been a red tide this far south. There is evidence of red tide toxin in Chile, but these events are limited to Northern Chile Coast, 2,000 miles north of the current standing sites.
In investigating the sei whale beaching, we did uncovered a nearby shallow-focused whale-dangerous earthquake causing us to advanced the idea that shockwaves from this event had killed the whales (link). However, in consideration of the finding of 337 dead whales in area in June, we expanded our research and now admit that we might have selected the wrong earthquake.
We are now developing a shocking new hypothesis to explain the 337 dead whales. We offer solid evidence that undersea earthquakes upstream from Patagonia have been causing mass baleen whale beachings for millions of years. Our attention is especially drawn to a 6.7 magnitude shallow-focus earthquake that occurred ~2,400 miles west of the stranding area on May 19, 2015 (link). This is the strongest earthquake to occur in this area of the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge in the last 100 years. (area chart)
It is entirely possible that a massive bloom of phytoplankton, that occur often in this area during May, drifted above the epicenter at the same time the seafloor erupted catastrophically. If this did indeed happen, billions of tiny phytoplankton would have attracted the larger zooplankton, the favorite food of the filter-feeding mysticeti whales. There might have been as many as 300 or more individuals within fifty mile circumference of this epicenter of this powerful quake. The point being that both the shockwaves and the intense changes in diving pressures induced by this 6.7 magnitude shallow seaquake might have fatal injured the sinus cavities of 200+ baleen whales. The injury would have knocked them senseless, causing the whales or their carcasses to swim or float blindly downstream. If so, the current would have guided them straight to the Southern tip of Chile where they would have been washed ashore in the first week of June, a few weeks before the pictures and images of 337 dead whales were recorded (link).
It is also possible that several of the other 29 moderate earthquakes that occurred upstream from where the carcasses were seen, contributed to the large number of carcasses and bones (link).
Seaquake Shocks That Injure Whales
Every small boy who learned to swim in a river or pond 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 sinus cavities. We can apply this same effect to diving whales when the seabed is ripped asunder by the sudden fracture of millions of tons of rock. If whales are caught by surprise nearby such a natural undersea upheaval, the world’s most prolific divers will feel unimaginably intense torture in their massive cranial air spaces. This is so because water, being non-compressible, will transmit the full vibratory force of the shattering seafloor.
Underwater earthquake shocks (aka; seaquakes) are not felt as a single blow because the shifting forces that causes the intense changes in diving pressures is not one big bang. Rather, the seismic p-waves that crisscross the bodies of the diving whales are generated by a series of wrenching snaps, as massive rocks, twisted and strained out of shape by an accumulation of strain slowly exerted over centuries, suddenly lurch 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 vibratory energy, creating violent shaking movements.
The snapbacks generate low-frequency hydroacoustic compression waves (p-waves) that consist of both a positive and negative pressure pulses of equal intensity.
If the seabed shifts in the vertical plane, as happens during both normal and reverse (thrust) faulting, and the hypocenter is 7 to 20 km below the rock-water interface, the p-waves will impact the rock-water boundary causing 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 non-compressible water, generating a series of low-frequency changes in the surrounding water pressure estimated at ~600 pounds per square inch for a magnitude 5 earthquake. These waves of changing ambient pressures speed towards the surface at 1,500 meters per second.
If you believe pressure waves from a 100-gun seismic array, or similar pressure waves generated by a high-energy military sonar, can kill marine mammals, you must also believe that a seaquake can do the same since man-made noise pales in comparison to natural undersea upheavals. (see seaquakes louder than nuclear explosions)
Seismic p waves felt in water are called seaquakes. Said differently, a seaquake is the low-frequency noise generated by an undersea earthquake or a volcanic explosion.
In a stunning report published in 1964, the Maritime Safety Division of the US Navy issued a safety warning on the danger of seaquakes. This group made it clear in their summary on the left side of page 59 that “MARINE LIFE CAN BE DESTROYED BY A SEAQUAKE.” The US Navy also confirmed in this report that seaquakes could bust open a ship and sink it like a sack of rocks. They stated on the last page of this report: “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.”
The danger to marine life was not newly discovered by the Navy is 1966. Thousands of seamen have witnessed dead whales and massive schools of dead fish floating after a concussion from a seaquake but thought such seaquake carnage was normal as revealed by the 1945 example on the left. Fishermen and whalers just went out to sea, hooked up to the dead whales and towed them to the whaling station and collected some cash. No alarm at all and no one doubted that a seaquake could injure a pod of whales or kill a school of fish.
There are many variables that must be considered to know whether a seaquake might fatally injure diving whales. For example, usually when a series of seismic p-waves traveling through the solid earth encounter the rock-water interface, some of the wave energy will reflect back to the solid and some will refract into the water. On the other hand, when the distance from the focus point to the rock-water interface is less than the length of the p-waves, these compressional waves enter the hydrospace as if there were no interface at all. If this occurs, p-waves from earthquakes focused between 1 to 7 kilometers below the rocky bottom will move into the water without distortion or energy loss. And since the focus is so near the water, the intensity of the waves do not lose much wallop due to spreading.
This anomalous transparency at the air-water interface was recently discovered (link) (link). When asked if the same transparency existed at the rock-water barrier, Dr. Oleg A. Godin replied in the affirmative. He 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 diving whales if the events originated less than 7 km below the seabed. This boundary transparency was recently confirmed by two researchers working at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division (link).
As mentioned above, sound waves propagating through a liquid consist of half cycles of compressions (positive-pressure) and expansions (negative-pressure). During the compression phase, the volume of air inside the whale’s sinuses would rapidly compress. During the expansion phase, this same volume of air would instantly expand. In other words, whales above the epicenter would experience a series of unimaginable alterations in diving pressures that bounce back and forth between positive and negative pressure at an average of ~7 cycles per second (14 half-cycles or phases per second). This disturbance in diving pressures might continue for a minute or more. This means that 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 along mountainous mid-ocean ridges 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 deep sound channel, causing injury to deep diving whales hundreds of miles away.
We know baleen whales use deep sound channels to communicate over long distances because scientists often record their low-frequency calls in this area. However, there exists a special danger in the Southern Ocean because the channel is not much deeper than a few hundred meters below the surface, one-fifth as deep as it is at the equator.
If the vibrations are trapped in this sound channel, whales diving, feeding, and communicating in the Arctic and Antarctic might be injury up to a hundred miles or more from the epicenter of a strong earthquake.
According to lead scientists Carolina Gutstein, this is the largest single baleen whale stranding event known to science. But this statement cannot be true. Gutstein’s team could not identify the species of the rotten carcasses nor the species of the skeletons from the air. This event is certainly not a single mass stranding of 337 baleen whales. Otherwise, there would only be rotting carcasses and no bones, or there would be only bones. The evidence of both carcasses and bones establishes different stranding dates. It might even be that a series of maybe 20 different strandings occurred over many months, and over 300 miles of shoreline in which there are a thousand channels and small islands that would trap injured whales.
In Deafwhale's opinion, this part of Patagonia is the largest baleen whale trap ever discovered! In fact, the entire coast of Chile has likely been a graveyard for earthquake-injured whales for 20 to 30 million years as evidence by the recent find of ancient whale bones in the Chile desert (link). The scientists who found these whale graveyard's said they were the result of not one but four separate mass strandings. Instead considering the possibility that these beachings were the result of natural undersea upheavals, they advanced the false notion that the whales were killed by red tide toxin.
One of the lead scientists said, "We can't say whether those were the killer algae, but they do not falsify the argument for harmful algal blooms being the cause in the way that the sedimentology falsifies tsunami being a potential cause." (link)
And they certainly don't falsify the argument for natural undersea upheavals. In other words, the scientists who found the bones are only guessing by choosing from all causes of mass beachings except natural undersea disasters. Red Tide is the fallback stranding concept used by scientists who refuse to consider shockwaves and concussions generated by earthquakes in the seafloor. Such violent oceanic disturbances have been killing marine mammals for 50 million years but scientists refuse to consider these events.
Before blaming red tide, one must consider that the cold Pacific tidal waters washing in and out of these inlets come directly from the ice cold Antarctic via the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) also known as the West Wind Drift (WWD). The water is simply too cold for a massive bloom of Karenia brevis, Alexandrium fundyense, or any of the other toxic dinoflagellates that produce the deadly red tide toxin.
|The cold Circumpolar Current (aka: West Wind Drift) flow around Antarctica to wash into Southern Patagonia|
This current flows clockwise from west to east around Antarctica. It is also known as the West Wind Drift (labeled at the bottom of the chart above). The ACC is the dominant circulation feature of the Southern Ocean and has a mean transport of 100-150 million cubic meters per second, making it the largest ocean current in the world.
As you see above, this cold current flowing into the Southern Chilean Coast keeps warm ocean waters away from the area where the whales beached. This cold water also keeps red tide algae from blooming near the southern tip of Chile. Red tide algae need more warmth before a bloom could get started and kill whales south of the Gulf of Penas. There is no evidence that a toxic red tide bloom has ever occurred in this area of the world.
The current running offshore of the stranding area is also known as the Humboldt Current.
The current running offshore of the stranding area is also known as the Humboldt Current.
The way it looks at first glance, some of the present bunch of whales might have stranded over a year ago or even longer. How long does it take for bones to vanish from a beach? And how long does it take for the flesh to disappear if the carcasses were frozen solid during Patagonia's cold winter starting in March of 2015?
In the Deafwhale Society's opinion, it looks like the scientists discovered the world’s leading baleen whale stranding area—the most perfect place in the world to start digging for ancient whale bones.
Chile’s Southern Patagonia is like a Cape Cod or a Farewell Spit, the two leading toothed whale stranding beaches in the world. Said differently, this area serves as a trap for baleen whales injured by undersea earthquake activity ~1,500 to ~3,000 miles upstream and west of Patagonia, not whales killed a few miles offshore. The Southern Ocean west of southern tip of Chile, serve as a major feeding grounds for baleen whales. They are often observed in these waters in groups of 3 to 50 individuals. Many species feed here at different times.
This area 2,000 to 3,000 miles upstream also serves as the epicenter of a very large number of whale-dangerous undersea earthquakes. These events give off shockwaves and concussions that could easily knock a group of feeding whale senseless. The injuries would either kill them outright, or they might survive for up to 60 days. Unable to navigate in their injured state, they would be forced to swim in only one direction, DOWNSTREAM in the path of least drag. To understand how and why read http://deafwhale.com/surface-currents-guide-stranded-whales/
The site will be updated after we have had a chance to do more research.
Capt. David Williams