25 December 2014


Watch the above video. Notice that the announcer closes by asking: "What might have disoriented them?" The answer is simple. Pods of beached whales and dolphins (odontocete) mass strand because they are no longer echo navigating due to barotraumatic injury in their cranial air spaces. But whale scientists will not tell you that a pressure-related injury in the cranial air spaces causes biosonar failure in odontocete species. They are fully aware that the air contained in the heads of odontocete serve underwater to bounce, channel, reflect, isolate, insulate, send, and otherwise direct the returning echoes these animals use to navigate and find their food.  Busted cranial air sinuses, air sacs, and middle ear air pockets easily disable odontocete biosonar just as if the small sensory hairs of their cochlear were broken during exposure to an underwater explosions or military sonar! Leaking cranial air spaces will also prevent them from diving deeper than a few feet. Since they can not dive and can not echolocate their food, they will always arrive at the beach with only non-digestible squid beaks, fish bones, and sometimes plastic in their stomachs. They are starving and sometimes swallow plastic bags flapping in the waves mistakenly thinking they were squid or octopus. Non-digestible stomach contents is a consistent finding of all mass stranded adults. And because all their fresh water comes from the food they eat, they are always severely dehydrated, another consistent finding.


Non-digestible stomach contents and dehydration points directly to barosinusitis that disrupts diving and echolocation of their natural prey. Had the barotraumatic injury occurred 2-3 months before the beaching, the whales would have died of dehydration, starvation, and/or in the bellies of sharks. Had the barotrauma occurred 2-3 days before the stranding, there would still be fresh food in their stomachs and they would be hydrated. The empty stomachs and severe dehydration in 99% of mass stranded marine mammals prove that they were not able to dive and feed themselves for at least 2-3 weeks before they went ashore. Odontocete can drink small amounts salt water as long as their kidneys remove the extra salt. But if they are starving, the first organs to fail is their kidneys. Another unanswered question is whether or not stranded whales suffer the symptoms of severe dehydration? Dehydration is a reliable predictor of impaired cognitive status in humans. Objective data, using tests of cortical function, support the deterioration of mental performance even in mildly dehydrated young adults. Dehydration also frequently results in delirium as a manifestation of cognitive dysfunction. Delirium is a serious disturbance in mental abilities that results in confused thinking and reduced awareness of one's environment. There is no doubt that mass stranded whales are confused and totally unaware of their situation? Additional studies have identified an increase in cerebral nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-diaphorase activity (nitric oxide synthase, NOS) in dehydrated mammals. The increase in NOS can cause cell and tissue damage leading to middle ear infections (Link) and in the case of whales, one might expect confusing echo-navigation and location signals. Watch the video below and notice that a long line of people are trying to block whales from turning and swimming back to the beach with the flow of the current. You are seeing LOST/CONFUSED pilot whales:

With a little honest research, we could narrow the time since their last feeding down to within a few days. We could then multiply the number of days by their estimate downstream swim speed. This would tell us approximately where they were when they became confused and lost their acoustic sense of direction. We could then look around for some type of catastrophic pressure disturbance on the seafloor,  a sonar encounter, or a nearby explosion that might have generated severe pressure disturbances. Any event that would injure the entire pod at the same time.


Whale scientists could easily verify echo-navigation failure by simply watching a pod of whales swimming either on the way to a beach or away from the beach after a so-called successful rescue. It matters not if they are headed to the beach or swimming away, a lost pod of whales will ALWAYS swim downstream with the flow. Scientists and the public have both observed whales swim to the beach with the incoming tide and/or the wind-driven currents. Both scientists and the public have observed a previously stranded whale swim away from the beach when the tidal and/or wind-driven currents are washing out to sea. We see this all the time in person and in hundreds of videos. But neither the public nor the scientists make a point of the fact that 100% of all mass-stranded whales and dolphins are always swimming with the flow of the surface currents when they go ashore or when they are pushed back out to sea. It could not be any more obvious that stranding whales and dolphins are not navigating when the arrive at the beach or when the swim away. They are always swimming downstream with the flow. And they are always dehydrated and have no fresh food in their stomachs. Another dead giveaway that they can not dive and feed themselves. Their biosonar system is simply not working. Scientists and rescue people NEVER mention that pods of toothed whales do not dive under the water as they slowly swim down current and away from the beach after a so-called successful rescue. If you rely on whale scientists and/or rescue teams to explain things to you, you will never find out the truth. Instead, observe and think! Ask any open-water-trained scuba diver. They will tell you that the flow of the current is a force that disrupts diving and disorients divers as much as any other. Unless carefully calculated, monitored and accounted for, oceanic currents, even in the mildest form, can cause difficulties for unsuspecting divers. Drag forces can sweep them away from the boat, causes shore divers to miss the planned exit location and, when strong, it physically taxes divers as they labor to swim against it.


If a diver becomes lost in a current, rescue teams can be assured that he or she will end up swimming downstream. Why is it true that lost divers, whales, and swimmers always swim the flow and never against it? Because water is 800 times denser than air. You can feel the density of air by putting your arm out of a car window at 50 mph. You will immediately feel the strong resistance to the speeding wind, but you can still hold you arm fairly straight. But if you put your arm over the side of a small boat moving at only 10 mph, the drag in the water makes it impossible to keep your arm submerged. In other words, when whales or scuba divers swim upstream against a current, the current pushes back in the form of powerful drag forces. When a healthy pod of whales is echo-navigating to a new position, they can easily swim upstream against the drag of a 3-knot current because they know where they are going. On the other hand, when a pod of non-navigating whales tries to swim upstream, the increased drag forces turns their streamlined bodies around and points them head first in the downstream path of least drag without them even realizing it. Just like water always flows downhill, non-navigating whales, lost scuba divers, and lost swimmers always swim with the flow. There are no exceptions. Even lost logs always float downstream. How stupid are whale scientists never to recognize such a simple observation? They see and they know what is happening. You would be sadly mistaken to think they don't know that non-navigating whales ALWAYS swim downstream! The whales have no other choice! Lost whales have no idea the current is controlling the direction in which they swim. Said a bit differently, if the wind-driven surface currents, including the force of the incoming tide, are flowing to the beach, a pod of non-navigating whales will always swim towards the beach. The human chain in the above video is trying to prevent the whales from swimming back to the beach with the flow. They will continue their efforts until the tidal flow and the wind-driven currents are flowing out to sea. Then they will no longer be needed since the pod of lost whales will swim away from shore on their own. Lost whales will swim around in any and all direction with no idea which way to swim if there is no current to guide them. Open your eyes and look! It is so easy to see.


If you want non-navigating beached whales to swim back out to deep water, push them off the beach when the tidal current is flowing away from the beach. This is exactly how non-navigating stranded whales are now supposedly rescued. When the wind-driven currents blowing in towards the beach overpower the tidal currents flowing out to sea, the rescue teams must either kill the whales or load them on trucks and transport them overland to a different beach with a strong outflow. Whale scientists could easily and cheaply prove it to themselves and the world by following a hundred meters behind the next rescued pod. If the freed whales constantly swim down flow, they have no acoustic sense of navigation. If the pod does not dive to catch a meal, the pod is obviously suffering diving-related barotrauma! How simple it is! I would even pay all the expenses and the steer the boat myself to verify the effort was not faked by one of the scientists. And the scientists could verify that I did not fake the outcome! But such a simple cheap experiment will never be conducted because the whale scientists already know the outcome.


Current is the energy that both builds and erodes beaches; therefore, non-navigating whales, dead or alive, will be guided by an incoming tide and/or wind-driven current to a sandy area that is in the process of building; not to areas where the sand is being carried away. Large and small land masses that extend out to sea opposing the downstream flow, like Cape Cod, Farewell Spit, and Cape Sorrel, trap a lot of sand along with a lot of lost whales. In fact, every popular standing spot around the world serves as a giant catching-arm system for both lost whales and sand.


All you have to do is understand one simple truth: all mass stranded whales have previously suffered a diving-related injury that caused the failure of their acoustic sense of direction. If you don't believe that lost whales and lost swimmers always swim downstream, close your eyes and try to swim across a flowing river. You will never reach the other shore. Or, if you are afraid to blindfold yourself in a river, put a rubber duck in a bathtub, stir the water, and watch it float down current. Resistance to the flow of the upstream current turns everything swimming or floating in the water with no sense of direction and points it downstream. No exceptions!


The above consistent observations prove that pods of stranded whales and dolphins lost their acoustic sense of direction long before they arrived at the beach. This is the single most important key to unraveling the centuries-old mystery of why whales and dolphins strand themselves. Whales with a working navigation system would never swim into the beach. They know that such an act is suicidal.

Whales Evolved 55-Million Years Ago From 4-legged dog-like animals. They had air sinuses and middle-ear air chambers like present day canines. Over the next 20 million years, while these early dolphins slowly evolved a working biosonar system, evolution took advantage of the acoustic reflectivity of the air in their cranial sinuses.  This bit of evolution was to be expected simply because sound waves underwater bounce off air pockets like light bounces off mirrors. The original canine cranial air sinuses began to function as acoustic reflectors, serving the new evolved whales by directing sound around in their heads in a way to sharpen their ability to echolocate and echo-navigate. Evolution transformed cranial air spaces into organs of hearing just as critical to the workings of odontocete biosonar as are their cochleas. Echo-navigation and echolocation of their food is as impossible for toothed whales with busted sinuses as it would be for whales with busted cochleae. As toothed whales became better adapted to diving deeper and deeper, the evolutionary remodeling taking place in the cranial air spaces created an entirely new set of problems.


Rapid and excessive changes in the surrounding (ambient) water pressure during a dive will injure the sinus membranes and may damage middle ear air cavities. The same would happen in an airplane flying at 30,000 feet if the cabin suddenly lost pressure. In fact, any sudden change in ambient air pressure (water pressure for divers) in excess of any counterbalance mechanisms can cause barosinusitis and severe pain.

As a diver, if you suffered a serious sinus injury, especially barotrauma in your middle-ear air chambers, you would lose your ability to sense acoustic direction and might even become stone deaf. A pod of dolphins would suffer the same only much worse. They could not dive more than a few feet due to severe sinus pain. Even if they tolerated the pain, they could not echolocate their food. Nor could they echo-navigate the open ocean. They would be acoustically blind. In other words, the entire pod would be in serious trouble if some upheaval of nature generated a series of rapid pressure changes that caught them by surprise during a feeding dive. Catching them off guard is an important factor simply because, if they hear a dangerous sound approaching from a distance, they will move away before injury occurs. It's similar to dolphins swimming away from the sound of killer whales approaching. On the other hand, the approaching sound might fool them. For example, suppose a navy sonar boat turns on its transducers for a short period near a pod of beaked whales who aggressively protect their territory. The pod might swim in the direction from which the sound came and prepare to fight off a group of unknown intruders. As they approach nearer to the sonar vessel, suppose the navy blasted the area again with powerful sonar. It does not take but a few seconds to induce a deadly sinus barotrauma in a group of diving whales when caught be a surprise too close to a loud sonar. Beaked whales are especially vulnerable to navy sonar because they are aggressive and usually scarred up from fighting among themselves.

Now watch this video about an underwater earthquake recorded 900 miles from the epicenter. The first sounds traveled a bit faster through the solid seafloor with the noise bleeding into the water above. The last set of vibrations traveled 900 miles through the water and almost destroyed the hydrophones.

Keep in mind that rapid pressure fluctuations during a seaquake (at ~7 cycles per second) are especially dangerous for deep sea divers because the volume of air in their enclosed air spaces rapidly increases and decreases during each second of exposure. On the other hand, bodily tissues, blood, and bones remain the same. During rapid changes in air volume, the fluttering of the air in the sinus cavities causes substantial pressure differentials at the air-filled interfaces inducing shear forces that tear, bruise, and disrupt tissues, membranes, and blood vessels. This type of injury happens because the volume of air inside the cranial air spaces bounces back and forth in lockstep with the external pressure changes. On top of this, each acoustic cycle consists of two different phases. One is positive pressure, and the other is negative pressure. Both phases have equal intensity. One phase is a vacuum, the other is high pressure. This means that when a diving whale is exposed in the near field to the hydroacoustic vibrations from the average undersea earthquake or volcanic explosion, the volume of air in its sinuses will compress and expand 14 times every second.
Now for something a bit shocking!


Pelagic odontocete were so successful several hundred years ago that they could have easily overgrazed on the squid breeding stock if there was no mechanism in place to control their numbers. Underwater catastrophic upheavals served the balance of nature by providing this control. Nature thinned out 5-6 pods every month from a popular feeding area thereby keeping a sustainable balance. This process was not harmful to the species because the injured pod would swim downstream with the current for 2-3 weeks until their injuries healed and they regained the ability to dive and feed. Since they had no acoustic memory of how to get back to their old feeding grounds, they were forced to find a new habitat, thereby spreading the species all around the globe. Nature always balances things.


Recovery was easy back then because oceans and seas were filled with more than a billion schools of small fish and squid tightly balled together a foot or so below the surface. The injured pod would huddle in a tight group for protection against sharks and swim blindly downstream. They could spy hop and see birds in front of them diving and feeding on the surface schools. The senior pod members knew this meant that a life-saving meal was below where the birds were diving. All the seaquake-injured odontocete had to do was swim among a packed school with their big mouths wide open and catch a big meal every few days. This kept them hydrated and supplied enough nourishment to sustain them during a 2-3 week recovery period. Evolution was happy with this arrangement because it was a perfect solution; it thinned the over-populated areas while at the same time spreading the the species all around the globe.

However, now that the fishing industry has spread their huge nets along the surface and removed 90% of the surface schools on which the seaquake-injured pods rely for recovery, far fewer pods survive today than did a few hundred years back.


In the days of our great-grandparents, sinus barotrauma usually healed within a few weeks. Evolution's solution to overcrowding on certain feeding grounds was to allow seaquake injury to simply move a few pods several thousand miles away and force them to find a new feeding ground. However, with very few schools of surface fish to help them recover, seaquake-induced sinus barotrauma is an extremely deadly injury today. There is only one thing humans can do to save pelagic odontocete: we must decide if we want to stop eating sardines or protect our whales.

Here is another problem: Barotrauma is the most common injury in scuba diving and no doubt the most common injury in pelagic odontocete that dive and feed 2-3 times every day over the mid-ocean ridges, the most quake and volcanic-prone territory on Earth!


Whale scientists have NEVER investigated sinus barotrauma as a cause of strandings. Nor have they ever investigated sinuses injuries induced by undersea natural upheavals. This failure to look at the most likely cause of mass beachings is not due to stupidity! They do not investigate undersea upheavals and sinus barotrauma because the injury is identical to the injury caused by undersea explosives, navy sonars, and oil industry airguns.

The next question is how does the US Navy and the oil industry prevent whale scientists from telling the truth? The answer is very simple indeed! These two groups fund 97% of all whale research worldwide (link). Whale scientists need to protect the source of their funds, just like cancer researchers protected the tobacco industry back in the 1950s when big tobacco paid for all the lung cancer studies. The world is filled with crooked scientists willing to sell their honor for a few dollars -- this is simply a fact of our times.


As an example of the influence money has over research, take a look at a recent book published on the workings of the biosonar system of whales. The title is Hearing by Whales and Dolphins edited by Whitlow W.L. Au, Richard R. Fay. Although the acoustic function of the air sacs and sinuses is mentioned 25 times as being necessary for the working of the biosonar system (link), the word barotrauma gets one vague mention (link). I say again--pressure related sinus barotrauma is no doubt the most common injury in odontocete whales just as it is in human divers. The reason this is true is because the cranial air spaces are the most vulnerable part of any diver's anatomy, and the easiest to heal if provided with nourishment and fluid to keep the immune system in top working order.


Try to find a science article explaining barotrauma in the world's most prolific divers. You will not find such injuries discussed anywhere in the scientific literature no matter how long you look. Scientists practice a weird code that allows them to ignore common sense unless some other scientists publishes a paper to say that common sense is scientifically sane. No whale scientists have ever published a paper saying barotrauma is a frequent injury in the world's most prolific divers so other scientists have no evidence to support the concept. This is how "no scientific awareness" becomes the "best scientific information available."
Pinocchio carton character

Instead of looking at the possible loss of acoustic navigation, whale scientists keep repeatedly telling you that healthy whales follow a sick pod member to the beach because they love each other too much. This is nothing more than US Navy propaganda.
Think about it this way: rapid and excessive changes in water pressure during a dive is every diver's worst nightmare come true. Toothed whales and dolphins are not exceptions. These diving mammals have massive head sinuses. In fact, excluding bone and brain tissue, roughly 30% of the total volume of the head of a pilot whale or a beaked whale is air enclosed in various sinuses, air sacs, and middle-ear air chambers. Calling these whales airheads is technically correct.


Toothed whales and dolphins (odontocete) also have a unique grouping of air sacs situated in the space between their two cochleae. These pockets of air and oily foam serve to isolate/insulate the left and right organs of hearing from each other in the same fashion as a pair of stereo headphones isolate the sounds entering your left and right ears. If diving whales lose the ability to hear in full stereo, they automatically lose their sense of direction. If they lose their sense of direction, they end up exactly like the whales depicted in the Nat-Geo video at the top of this article!

As I told you before, barotrauma in the cranial air spaces stops them from diving due to pain. If they are not diving to the depth of their natural prey, they are not feeding. Since all their fresh water comes from the food they eat, it is easy to understand why they consistently show up on the beach suffering severe dehydration with only non-digestible squid beaks, a few pieces of floating plastic, maybe a knot of floating rope, and the hard bones of fish ears in their stomachs.

Imagine that a pod of pelagic dolphins is on a deep feeding dive when a natural catastrophic event is the rocky seabed suddenly erupts below them. If the seafloor dances in the vertical plane, the up and down jerking pushes and pulls at the bottom of the water column causing rapid and excessive changes in diving pressures. This means that an entire exposed pod would suffer barosinusitis at the same time.

Since the nursing young do not make the deep feeding dives because they lungs are not fully developed, they would be the only ones not injured. When the injured pod finally reaches the surface, they would be as lost as a blind man thrown overboard in the middle of the deepest ocean.


Seaquakes rock big oceangoing trawlers and can quickly wipe out oil tankers so you can safely bet that these events can also injure pods of diving dolphins and whales. If you doubt there is a danger, please read the hundreds of vessel - seaquake encounters detailed on these two pages (1750 to 1899) (1900 to present).


The US Navy admitted in 1966 that pressure disturbances during a seaquake can kill and injure marine life. (see SUMMARY on page 59: “Marine life can be destroyed by seaquakes.”) If the US Navy tells you marine life can be killed by seaquakes, you can bet that the sinus cavities of a pod of diving whales can be injured in a fashion that knocks out their biosonar system. You can also bet that US Navy sonar does EXACTLY THE SAME THING! The above is not my original conclusions. 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 of the Function of the Spermaceti Organ of the Sperm Whale." (Link) Therein, these two famous cetologists state:
"The structure of the two vertically oriented air sacs that bound the ends of the spermaceti organ suggest that they are sound mirrors. The posterior sac (the frontal sac) possesses a knob-covered posterior wall that is probably an adaptation allowing maintenance of the sound mirror in any body orientation and during deep dives, Finally, this complex anatomical system is suggested as a device for the production of long-range echolocation sounds useful to the sperm whale in its deep sea habitat, in which food must be located at considerable distances in open water."

Moreover, on page 20 (chapter 16) of a 1977 book edited by Professor Norris entitled Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, the famous cetacean anatomists and curator at the British Museum of Natural History, Dr. Peter Purves, stated: "It is very easy to imagine a condition in which the air-sac system has broken down, so that it is no longer reflecting, and, with the isolation of the essential organs of hearing disrupted, the animal may lose its sense of direction." (link) I did not pull my theory out of thin air. I stole it from three of the best whales scientists that ever lived. They knew barosinusitis disabled biosonar. In fact, Professor Ken Norris spent hundred of hours coaxing me over the phone. He told me repeatedly to leave the US Navy out my articles, or I would never succeed!  I know as a fact that prior to 1977, scientists were indeed trying to understand how a pod of whales might lose its 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 early 1970s. You will understand why if you read: http://deafwhale.com/us-navy-whale/  But I could never get the words of Dr. Peter Purves out of my 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 and I still believe it to today.  In fact, my Seaquake Hypothesis (link) is in total agreement with all the above-mentioned scientists. Both seaquake and sonar-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 researching 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."

For those readers who would like to dig deeper into the connection between cranial air spaces and echo-navigation, I recommend "Anatomic Geometry of Sound Transmission and Reception in Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)" by Ted Cranford et al. (Link)

beaked whale air sinuses

The above depicts the back view of the air chambers (aka acoustic mirrors) in the head of an adult beaked whale. The back third of the lower jaw, known as the pan bone, is very thin (white). Its internal fat (MFB) fills the hollow region within the lower jaw and terminates near the ear complexes (TPC). The air-filled maxillary and peribullary sinuses (blue) are large and also form acoustic shields (mirrors) to isolate the two ears from one another. The pan bone is very thin (white). Its internal fat (MFB) fills the hollow region within the lower jaw and terminates near the ear complexes (TPC). (Link) Enclosed sinus and air sacs make up 30% of the volume of the heads of beaked whales--this is likely why they are so easily injured by military sonar. The same holds true for pilot whales, explaining why they are injured so often by seaquakes. The more air you have in your head, the more likely you are to be injured by sudden changes in diving pressures.


As pressure builds during a dive, a scuba diver's regulator furnishes compressed air to keep the sinuses at their average surface volume thereby preventing sinus squeeze. Even though whales have no scuba tanks, the air in their cranial air pockets still maintains surface volume even on a deep dive. This is so because after 55 million years of diving, evolution has rearranged the sinuses so that, as the volume of air is reduced in the air chambers of the head by the increasing ambient pressure during a dive, the whale can shift compressed air from the lungs into the sinuses to keep them properly inflated and to ensure that their biosonar continues to function at depth. Moving the air from the lungs does not cause a lung squeeze because the ribs are hinged allowing the lungs to collapse almost flat. In this fashion, deep divers have lots of air to fill their sinuses and keep their biosonar system working down to their maximum diving depths, which is reached when all the available air in their lungs is shifted to the cranial air spaces.


This system of enclosed air spaces is an evolutionary marvel; however, there is an inherent danger when diving to great depths with a head full of compressed air. The tissues, ligaments, and membranes surrounding, attached to, or near these air cavities are susceptible to injury when a series of sudden oscillations in the ambient water pressure causes the volume of the air to fluctuate so rapidly and excessively that it cannot be counterbalanced by the whale's pressure-regulating anatomy. Whales have bundles of blood vessels that lay flattened against the inside of the sinus walls, taking up very little space. When the pressure suddenly increases and the sinus air is compressed, these blood vessels suddenly engorged themselves to occupy the extra space and prevent a sinus squeeze. The reverse happens when the pressure decreases. However, the amount of blood that can rush in and out of these chambers is limited by the diameter of the blood vessels as they course through bony channels in the skull. This means there are occasions when this protection is overcome by excessive and rapid pressure vacillations extended in time.

Said differently, the evolved protection is vulnerable to over and under pressures generated during undersea earthquakes, explosive volcanic eruptions, the violent impact of a heavenly body with the water's surface, underwater explosions, military sonar, and oil industry airguns.

These disturbances generate waves of sudden changes in diving pressures that are EXTREMELY hazardous to all divers who venture below the surface with enclosed pockets of air. The list of animals that might be injured includes whales, dolphins, manatees, walruses, penguins, polar bears, fish with swim bladders, sea otters, sea turtles, and human divers.

mass stranded whale washed up on Japan Beach by rough incoming tide
Seaquake-Injured Melon-Headed Whales Ashore by Heavy Surf in Japan

Imagine a pod of pelagic toothed whales or dolphins (odontoceti) feeding on squid above the mid-oceanic ridge system when a violent mid-size earthquake suddenly erupts below them. Not much happens if the seafloor moves from side to side (horizontal) because water will not transfer shearing motion. It's like turning your boat paddle sideways. On the other hand, if the seabed dances vertically, the rapid up and down piston-like motion of the rocky bottom pushes and pulls at the water column, generating powerful low frequency (LF) changes in hydrostatic pressure that travel towards the surface at 1,500 meters per second.


Most whale scientists pretend to be clueless when it comes to earthquakes in the seafloor. They do not want to talk about anything that is not approved by their sources of money, the US Navy and the oil industry. They say that quakes of similar magnitude must be equally dangerous, but this is simply not true. The intensity of any changes in pressure is not so much related to magnitude as it is to the peak ground acceleration of the shifting seabed and to the depth of the quake's focal point below the rock/water interface. The faster the seafloor dances up and down, the greater the pressure changes in the water.

Even greater pressure oscillations are induced when the focal point of the rupture is only a few kilometers below the seafloor. This means that there is a great difference between the danger of seaquakes even if they are the same magnitude.
During events focused less than ~5 km deep, the seismic p-waves reach the rock/water interface long before the energy spreads out and weakens. More so, when focused less than ~5 km, seismic p waves are longer than the distance from the focal point to the rock-water interface. This opens a mysterious window NOAA physicist Dr. Oleg Godin calls an anonymous transparency. This allows seismic waves to pass through the interface without reflection, refraction, or diffraction. Dr. Godin stated that this transparent interface not only exists between water and air but also between the solid seafloor and the water. This means that undersea earthquakes between magnitude 4.5 and 6.5, focused less than 5 km deep in the seabed, can be extremely dangerous to diving whales. The low-frequency seismic vibration from these shallow events pass directly into the hydrospace producing intense oscillations in ambient pressure, Moreover, they often erupt without precursor activity (micro-quakes) that the whales might use as a warning of a pending disaster.

In deeper quakes of greater magnitude, the dancing seafloor becomes like the faceplate of a gigantic sonar transducer 10 miles in diameter. However, unlike military sonar, airguns, and explosives, most of these strong, deeper quakes give off various precursors signals that whales are able to detect in time to swim many hundreds of miles away (link). It could be no other way because strong quakes generate shocks that could kill every whale within 150 miles of the epicenter. As an extreme example, NASA physicists estimated the shock wave of a 7.5 seaquake at 6,000 kilobars (100,000 pounds per square inch) one meter off the seafloor (link).

Whales could never have thrived in our seismically-active oceans unless they were masters at detecting precursors from strong earthquakes. These intelligent marine mammals should be able to teach us how to predict major earthquakes weeks before they occur if our scientists would only stop lying about why they strand (Link). Said differently, denying the truth about why whales beach themselves is preventing humans from learning how whales detect major quakes long before they occur. In other words, ignorance of the association between whales and seismic upheavals is no doubt killing thousands of humans every year.


We know that healthy toothed whales and dolphins use sound to find their way around in the open sea. They produce loud clicks by moving air back and forth within their elaborate nasal air sac system. The echoes that bounce back from the seafloor are received by the lower jaw in a modified form of bone-conduction. From the jaw, these vibrations are transferred into a fat filled channel and then carried in acoustic fat to the cochlea (inner ear). The brain then compares the sonogram of the echoes with memory. They know where they are because they been there before.

echo clicks return to whales via channels in the jaws
Skull of Toothed Whale Showing Sound Reception Path
The intensity of the echoes entering the fat filled channels depends on the angle of the lower jaw to the source. In the simplest terms, all a toothed whale needs to do to read the returning echo is to scan her head back and forth and up and down until she extracts all the vital data she needs to pinpoint her location. Since the outbound clicks are focused via the oil-filled melon by bouncing sound off the air sinuses, there must be a mechanism to isolate/insulate the two cochleae otherwise the volume of the outgoing clicks would overwhelm the returning echoes.


This acoustic isolation of the two inner ears is accomplished by surrounding them with a mixture of air and foam contained in a grouping of air sacs called the pterygoid sinuses. The middle ear also has a set of enclosed air spaces that aide echo-navigation. Air works as the perfect sound barrier underwater because the acoustic impedance mismatch between air and water causes water-borne clicks to be reflected in a similar fashion to how light is reflected from a mirror.
To drive home the point... air serves not only for acoustic isolation but also to reflect sound in the proper direction to ensure the function of their navigation system. Let something go wrong with the sinuses and air sacs and the whales can no longer navigate. Nor can they dive and echolocate their prey. They become lost at sea and unable to feed themselves. Since their fresh water comes from the food they eat, they soon become dehydrated as well as malnourished.
The degree of injury in the internal sinuses and middle-ear air cavities will depend on the percentage of change in the surrounding water pressure coupled with the duration and frequency of the infrasonic waves. The nearer the whales are to the surface, the more danger they face because the percentage of change is greater in shallow water. As an example, imagine a pod of diving whales is suddenly exposed to potent oscillating changes in ambient water pressure at ~10 cycles per second while only 10 meters below the surface where the absolute pressure is ~30 pounds per square inch (psi). Suppose a seaquake has induced absolute pressure changes oscillating between ~90 psi above ambient followed by a negative phase ~90 psi below ambient. The air in their enclosed air spaces will suddenly compress to 1/3rd of its normal volume on the positive pressure phase and then expand a microsecond later to 3 times normal volume on the negative pressure (600% change). These changes in air volume will occur maybe 10 times per second for up to one minute.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (link) exposed a dead dolphin to shock waves measured at ~10 to ~300 psi. Dr. Darlene Ketten reported (OCEAN MAGAZINE Vol. 47, page 2, 2009):

“Dolphin carcasses can suffer essentially no significant damage in the received range of 10 to 15 psi and significant damage to some organs above 25 psi. At 300 psi, dolphins, well, basically, the dolphins are mush. For comparison, 20 psi is about the pressure a 200-lb. man's shoe heel exerts on a floor when he walks, and a large dog's jaws can produce 400 psi of pressure when it bites."
The above results would not be the same in a living dolphin for two important reasons: (a) the sinuses and air sacs collapse after death so would not be exposed, and (b) an explosion is a split-second exposure as opposed to a seaquake that might last up to one minute. Diving whales might be exposed to 20 seconds of continuing pressure changes during an average undersea quake.

When the sinus membranes tear, air mixed with loose blood will escape into the head forcing the sinuses to close. The membrane might heal in a week or so, but how long would it take the whale to absorb the loose air and blood from his head? The injury might also be in the accessory air pockets of the middle ear, or in many different places within the extensive system of the sinuses and air sacs. It might even be in the nerves. No matter where the injury, the resulting barotrauma will destroy their ability to echo-navigate, and prevent them from diving and feeding themselves. Their recovery would depend on a few chance encounters with a shallow school of surface fish or squid. Three weeks later they might be able to dive to 20 meters. They might reach 50 meters after another few weeks. Best guess is that the recuperation process will take 60 days depending on the original injury and on whether the injured pod is able to catch an occasional meal a few feet below the surface.

As mentioned above, recovery would have naturally been much easier a hundred years ago because there was a great abundance of tightly packed schools of surface fish for the injury pods to eat. However, the almost complete removal of this low hanging fruit by the purse seining industry makes recovery extremely difficult.

Non-feeding whales will quickly become dehydrated because all their fresh water comes from the food they eat. Besides the loss of their sense of direction and the loss of their ability to dive and feed themselves, their other problems would be a shark attack, malnutrition, weakened immune response, and severe stress.  Other than an attack by sharks, being washed onto a sandy beach by an incoming tide or a strong shoreward wind-driven current would be the second worst possible outcome for the lost whales.

Unless the whales are fed, hydrated, and treated for their injuries, the rescue teams are not saving whales. But they are doing some good because they are feeding sharks. There are ways to save many of these animals but who is going to spend the money that will be needed?  The only real solution is to ban overfishing by the huge purse-seine fishing trawlers and give the oceans a chance to recover back to the level it was a hundred years ago.

Scientific Articles Supporting the Above Conclusions:

Aroyan, J. L. (2001). “Three-dimensional modeling of hearing in Delphinus delphis,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 110 (6), 3305–3318. delphis,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 110 (6), 3305–3318.

Aroyan, J. L., Cranford, T. W., Kent, J., and Norris, K. S. (1992). “Computer Modeling of Acoustic Beam Formation In Delphinus delphis,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 92 (5), 2539–2545.

Balcomb, K. C. III and Claridge, D. E. (2003). “A mass stranding of cetaceans caused by naval sonar in the Bahamas,” Bahamas J. Sci. 2, 2–12.Sci. 2, 2–12.Sci. 2, 2–12.

Brill, R. L., and Harder, P. J. (1991). “The effects of attenuating returning echolocation signals at the lower jaw of a dolphin Tursiops truncatus,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 89, 2851–2857.

Cox, T. M., Ragen, T. J., Read, A. J., Vos, E., Baird, R. W., Balcomb, K., Barlow, J., Caldwell, J., Cranford, T., Crum, L., D’Amico, A., D’Spain, G., Fern├índez, A., Finneran, J., Gentry, R., Gerth, W., Gulland, F., Hildebrand, J., Houser, D., Hullar, T., Jepson, P. D., Ketten, D., MacLeod, C, D., Miller, P., Moore, S., Mountain, D., Palka, D., Ponganis, P., Rommel, S., Rowles, T., Taylor, B., Tyack, P., Wartzok, D., Gisiner, R., Mead, J., and Benner, L. (2004). “Understanding the Impacts of Anthropogenic Sound on Beaked Whales,” J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 7 (3), 177–187

Cranford, T. W. (1988). “The anatomy of acoustic structures in the spinner dolphin forehead as shown by X-ray computed tomography and computer graphics,” in: Animal Sonar: Processes and Performance, P. E. Nachtigall and P.  W. B. Moore, eds., (Plenum, New York) pp. 67–77.

Cranford, T. W. and Amundin, M. E. (2003). “Biosonar Pulse Production in Odontocetes: The State of Our Knowledge,” in Echolocation in Bats and Dolphins, J. A. Thomas, C. F. Moss, and M. Vater, eds. (The University of Chicago, Chicago) pp. 27–35.

Cranford, T. W., Amundin, M., and Norris, K. S. (1996). “Functional morphology and homology in the odontocete nasal complex: Implications for sound generation,” J. Morphol. 228, 223–285.

Cudahy, E. A., Hanson, E., and Fothergill, D. (1999). “Summary on the bioeffects of low-frequency waterborne sound,” in Technical Report 3, Environmental impact statement for surveillance towed array Sensor system low-frequency active (SURTASS LFA) sonar.

Finneran, J. J. (2003). “Whole-lung resonance in a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and white whale (Delphinapterus leucas),” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 114 (1), 529–535.

Frantzis, A. (1998). “Does acoustic testing strand whales?,” Nature (London) 329, 29.

Fraser, F. C., and Purves, P. E. (1960). “Hearing in cetaceans: Evolution of the accessory air sacs and the structure and function of the outer and middle ear in recent cetaceans,” Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology 8, 1–140.

Garner, E., Lakes, R., Lee, T., Swan, C., and Brand, R. (2000). “Viscoelastic dissipation in compact bone: Implications for stress-induced fluid flow in bone,” ASME J. Biomech. Eng., 122 (2), 166–172.

Hildebrand, J. A. (2005). “Impacts of Anthropogenic Sound” in Marine Mammal Research: Conservation beyond Crisis, J. E. Reynolds et al., eds. (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland).

Myers, M. R. (2004). “Transient temperature rise due to ultrasound absorption at a bone/soft-tissue interface,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 115 (6), 2887–2891.

NOAA (2001). “Joint Interim Report Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Event of 14-16” March 2000. Washington, D.C., US Department of Commerce and US Navy, available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/prof-res/overview/Interim-Bahamas-Report.pdf.

Norris, K. S. (1964). “Some problems of echolocation in cetaceans.” in Marine Bioacoustics W. N. Tavolga, ed (Pergamon Press, New York) pp. 317–336.
Rommel, S. A., Costidis, A. M., Fernandez, A. J. F., Jepson, P. D., Pabst, D. A., McLellan, W. A., Houser, D. S., Cranford, T. W., van Helden, A. L., Allen, D. M., and Barros, N. B. “Elements of beaked whale anatomy and diving physiology, and some hypothetical causes of sonar-related stranding,” J. Cetacean Res. Manage., in press. (Link)

Soldevilla, M. S., McKenna, M. E., Wiggins, S. M., Shadwick, R. E., Cranford, T. W., and Hildebrand, J. A. (2005). “Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) head tissues: Physical properties and CT imaging,” J. Exp. Biol., 208 (12), 2319–2332. (Link)

Sunderland, S. (1978). Nerves and nerve injuries, 2nd ed. (Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh).

Wagner, M., Gaul, L., and Dumont, N. A. (2004). “The hybrid boundary element method in structural acoustics,” Z. Angew. Math. Mech. 84, No. 12, 780–796.
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