In the last few weeks, at least a dozen deaths of gray whales and other cetacean species were logged along the California coast. The bodies have been discovered as far north as Fort Bragg, and further south in areas between Santa Cruz and Monterrey.
Marine biologists have taken great interest in the phenomenon, and concern has mounted as to the causes behind this sharp upturn in deaths. Researchers note that the deaths have coincided with the annual migration of gray whales, which begin their journey from Mexico north to Alaska around this time every year. However, in addition to gray whales, sperm whales, a humpback whale, and two which were logged as species that could not be identified (possibly due to decomposition) have also been reported.
The San Francisco Gate reported the similarities between the recent die-off and a wave of gray whale deaths that occurred between 1999 and 2000:
“Frances Gulland, the senior scientist for the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands, said the last time there was a large increase in strandings was in 1999 and 2000, when 40 dead gray whales were found on beaches in the Bay Area.”
The die-off that occurred at the turn of the century reportedly led to “a 25 percent decline in the overall gray whale population.” It was believed at the time that two factors may have contributed to the deaths: changes in the distribution of ice in the Arctic, as well as weather patterns associated with El Niño.
However, some data also suggests that whale deaths may be associated with earthquakes. In the last few weeks, as the California whale deaths made headlines, similar occurrences were being reported elsewhere in the world. In April, more than 130 deep ocean melon-headed whales beached themselves northeast of Tokyo. A similar incident that occurred in 2011 was followed by a magnitude-9 offshore earthquake one week later, and the ensuing tsunami led to the deaths of 18,000 individuals.
Earlier today, Julian Ryall writing for The Telegraph noted concerns about a possible connection between whale beachings and earthquakes:
Virtually all the 156 dolphins that beached themselves over the weekend on the coast of north-east Japan have died, while the incident has also triggered speculation that another major earthquake is imminent.
Shortly afterward, news broke that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake had just occurred off the coast of Japan, with similar news of a magnitude 6.7 quake that occurred off the Alaskan coast.
According to reports citing a USGS statement, there was not believed to be any tsunami threat associated with the Japanese quake. Similarly, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a statement that the earthquake had been “located too deep inside the earth”, and that any danger from a tsunami would not be likely.
In 2011, similar reports stemming from New Zealand documented whale beachings that were followed by offshore earthquakes. The Mirror interviewed Indian professor Arunachalam Kumar, who speculated about a connection between the whale deaths and earthquakes:
“It is my observation, confirmed over the years, that mass suicides of whales and dolphins that occur sporadically all over the world, are in some way related to change and disturbances in the electromagnetic field co-ordinates and possible realignments of geotectonic plates thereof… I would not be surprised if within a few days a massive quake hits some part of the globe.”
It should be noted that Kumar was correct in his estimate, and that an earthquake did follow his prediction.
Kumar is cited elsewhere as “India’s most eccentric genius,” having engaged in studies that include interspecies communication and possible reasons why attractive women may couple with less attractive men. Despite his esoteric interests, Kumar holds a life membership with the Ornithological Society of India, the Bombay Natural History Society, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and a number of other organizations. He has received awards that include a Certificate of Appreciation for contribution to Medical Literature in 2004, an Intel Award for ‘Best Computer Science Project’ in 2001, and the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award for Medical Service the following year.
Following the whale beachings in Japan earlier this year, concerns were already mounting that they might foretell another deadly tsunami, the likes of which occurred in 2011. While geological data presently does not suggest a tsunami threat, the idea that geomagnetic disturbances resulting from seismic activity might affect the navigational abilities of cetaceans is compelling.
Could it be argued that a correlation does exist, given the history of similar beachings that have been followed by offshore earthquakes around the world, and especially in the Pacific regions?