by Dee McLachlan
It just happens I am writing a movie action script on whales at the moment. So I am alarmed to see that 416 pilot whales beached themselves overnight at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island, New Zealand.
More than 70% have died, with locals desperately trying to save the remaining.
In the many reports I have read and heard so far, there is little talk as to the cause. There seems to be a general acceptance that this is just what happens.
Allegedly, there are records of beached whales going back to 300 BC. But scientists seem to agree that whale strandings appear to be occurring more frequently and in larger numbers than previously known.
This stranding makes it the third largest in New Zealand’s recorded history.
450 whales were stranded at Great Barrier Island off the coast of Auckland in 1985, and back in 1918, 1,000 whales beached themselves on the Chatham Islands.
Why does New Zealand have one of the highest rates of whale strandings in the world? 5,000 since 1840.
The reasons for whale strandings are still unclear. Some marine biologists point to chemicals and pollution, such as plastic. But this does not really explain mass strandings.
When it is an individual case, it could be a combination of factors: age, sickness or injury. In the case of one or two beached dolphins, it may be that they were trying to escape a predator, such as an orca (killer whale).
Many species of cetaceans travel in large pods. So what’s the explanation for mass beachings?
Navigational errors? Cetaceans use echolocation for hunting and navigation, and they are particularly vulnerable to sound.
Sound, Sonar Testing and Echolocation
The US Navy uses sonar and also tests explosives under water. And the very high levels of sound used can harm the hearing and the ability to echo-locate.
A deaf whale that can’t hunt is a dead whale.
It is possible that older leaders with hearing loss have led the pods astray.
The US Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service, released a report acknowledging that the Navy’s experimental sonar played a role in the deaths of 17 marine mammals in the Bahamas in 2000.
The effects of sound
In 2012, thousands of dead dolphins off Peru were blamed on the sonar blasts used by firms to find oil under the sea.
Brenda Petterson in the Huffington Post wrote (in “Killing With Sound”) that:
“There are no noise-cancelling headphones to stop the U.S. Navy’s 235-decibel pressure waves of unbearable pinging and metallic shrieking. At 200 Db, the vibrations can rupture your lungs, and above 210 Db, the lethal noise can bore straight through your brain until it hemorrhages that delicate tissue.
“The collateral damage of this high-intensity military sonar is shocking. But because all these millions of dying whales or dolphins are too often out of human sight, they’re also out of mind.” [except for those few strandings]
I wonder what techniques were being used to explore the seabed in the search for MH370?
Recently exploration companies have started to explore the seabed for oil and minerals.
Under the ocean’s waves there is a treasure trove of rich gold, copper, zinc, and other valuable minerals. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), the deep sea contains four kilograms of mineable gold for every person on Earth.
$150 Trillion worth.
Earth’s real mining boom hasn’t even begun. And you can bet those companies don’t give a damn for life on earth.
Photo credits: Daily Express, www.collective-evolution.com