09 December 2014

Seaquake Causes 7 Sperm Whales to Beach in Southern Australia on Dec. 8th, 2014

On 22 Nov. 2014, a magnitude 5.1 seaquake erupted in the seafloor along the Southeast Indian Ridge 2006 km (1246 mi) SSW of Perth, Australia.  This area is a known sperm whale feeding habitat. The whales dive along this range of volcanic mountains feeding mostly on squid.

The quake occur at 49.196 S ; 108.748 E. This location is not far from 49.700 S ; 125.870 E where sperm whales were injury by a seaquake on 5 October 2014.  This group stranded at Golden Bay New Zealand on 22 November 2014.

Sixteen days after the seaquake, on Monday morning (December 8), six sperm whales stranded on Parara Beach in the Gulf of Saint Vincent just south of the town of Ardrossan. A seventh whale was found near a jetty later in the day. A fisherman has also reported seeing an eighth whale in deeper water. (see top news report)

Ardrossan caravan park manager Steve Ruddock said a worker at his park spotted some of the stranded whales splashing in the water as the tide headed on the morning of 8 December. This indicates that the whales likely swam as close as they could to the high tide mark, and were left stranded when the water receded from under them.



The quake struck while they were on a feeding dive. The dancing seafloor generated a series of changes in ambient water pressure that caused barotrauma in their cranial air spaces. Since this air is used to deflect, focus, and channel returning echo-clicks, the injury knocked out their sense of direction.

They became hopelessly lost at sea in an instant.

It wasn't long after the stunned whales returned to the surface until the hunger sharks picked up on the taste, smell, and erratic action of the wounded pod.

With no sense of direction on their own, surface currents quickly pointed the swimming whales downstream in the path of least drag. That they travel with the flow is only common sense -- everything lost at sea always swims or floats downstream. Said differently, no blind swimmer can swim upstream against the current for more than a minute or two. If you doubt it, blindfold yourself and go for a swim. You'll be shock at how fast you are swimming downstream.

Now lets look at the surface currents for the week after the injury:




The quake was located exactly at the lower left corner of the chart above. You can see how the lost whales would have swam east along 49 S until they were due south of the area where they stranded. The distance between the seaquake and the stranding beach is about 3500 kilometers. Being dogged day and night by vicious sharks, the pod would have swam about 225 km per day, which would have placed them near the beach were they stranded.

NEWS UPDATE:

On 09 December 2014 at 13:18:29 local time at the epicenter, a mag 5.1 seaquake occurred along the Western Indian-Antarctic Ridge, near where two recent earthquakes are thought to have injured whales and caused a mass stranding. This quake was listed at a default depth of 10 km and located at: 49.773°S 122.694°E.

This is a known sperm and pilot whales feeding grounds.

Will this quake also cause a stranding? There are a couple of things that indicate it will not. First, it occurred at 1 pm in the afternoon, when most whales are resting on the water's surface. Second, it occurred near a transform  fault. This means that more likely then not, the motion in the seafloor was horizontal. Side to side motion does not generate strong pressure pulses as compared to events with mostly vertical motion.

But... there is so much I don't know about these seaquakes that make it difficult to predict strandings. We will wait and see on this one.  No stranding is predicted. If one does occur, it will happen near Golden Bay, New Zealand sometimes during the Christmas holidays.


Capt. David Williams
Deafwhale Society
(We seek truth, not money!)

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2015
Dec 09: Whale Dangerous Earthquake South of Perth 
Dec 09: Seaquake causes dolphins to strand Baja California   
Nov 23: Seaquakes kill 322 baleen whales in Chile    (shocking)  
Aug 24: NOAA whale scientists dumbfounded   
Aug 14: stranded dolphin is determined to be deaf   
Aug 08: seaquake causes pilot whales to strand Nova Scotia   
Jul   27: is our stranding solution flawed as scientists claim   
Jun  01: pilots stranded Isles of Skye from Reykjanes Ridge   
May 22: dead whales washing ashore on the California Coast   
May 10: earthquake kills 20 Sei Whales near Chile Coast   
Apr  10: seaquake strands 150 melon-headed whales in Japan   

2014   
Dec 25: navigation failure in mass stranded whales  (most popular)   
Dec 08: seaquake causes 7 sperm whales to beach Australia   
Nov 24: seaquake beaches 3 sperm whales at Golden Bay   
Nov 04: seaquake beaches 60 pilot whales in Bay of Plenty   
Oct 29: nine pilot whales strand on Prince Edward Island   
Apr  11: 60 pilot whales beach in Bay of Plenty   
Mar 20: Cape Ray Newfoundland 37 dolphins beach   
Mar 14: undersea quakes louder than nuclear explosions   
Mar 13: seaquakes cause whale strandings 32 million years   
Mar 02: blue whale killed by seaquake in Kuwait   
Feb 27: seaquake kills young killer whale   
Feb 23: predicting mass beachings based on seaquakes   
Feb 21: lessons in understanding why whales beach   
Feb 18: seaquake Greenland Sea kills 3 sperm whales   
Feb 12: nine orcas killed by seaquake   
Jan 30: Cape Cod mass stranding predicted   
Jan 20: seaquake causes 39 pilot whales to strand Florida   
Jan 16: seaquakes beach 65 pilot whales in Golden Bay   
Jan 05: seaquake beaches 30 pilot whales in Golden Bay   

2013   
Dec 06: why did pilot whales beached in the everglades?   
Apr 30: seaquake beaches 6 killer whales in Iceland   
Apr 25: beached whales stop war games   

2012   
Dec 08: seaquake beach pilot whales South Carolina   
Nov 15: pilot whales beach at Golden Bay, New Zealand   
Nov 04: seaquake causes two pods to beach at King Island   
Oct 28:  pilot whales strand on North Andaman Island   
Oct 17: earthquakes cause New Zealand whale stranding   
Sep 09: earthquake kills pregnant sperm whale   
Sep 03: seaquake strands pilot whales in Scotland   
Aug 24: two quakes cause near beaching in Cape Verde   
Jul  28:  200 Pilot Whales Northwest of Iceland   
Mar 19: Four Sperm Whales Wash Ashore in China   

2011   
Dec  31: world's rarest whales killed by earthquake   
Mar 06: 52 melon-headed dolphins strand in Japan   

2008   
Nov 20: 52 Pilot Whales Stranded in Tasmania


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