Of the Ears of Whales

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Whales are awe-inspiring creatures. When I was a kid, they used to bring in the whale carcasses to the rendering plant not far from my dad’s house, and a couple times I got to watch them winch the huge sperm whales from the catcher boats. A small kid next to an enormous whale with a giant toothy jaw agape … I stood astonished. They sliced them open. I was a cattle-ranch-raised kid of the free-range variety, so I’d seen lots of innards … but never anything of the scale and size of whale entrails. Zowie, my eyes bugged out when I saw that. Overwhelming.

And I was lucky enough once to have a big humpback whale surface totally unexpectedly right next to our small 27’ (8 metre) commercial fishing sailboat when a shipmate and I were negotiating a narrow shallow channel between an offshore rock and the coast … twenty feet (six metres) of water under the keel and the whale was much longer than that, it was longer than the boat. Who expects a giant whale right next to the land in such shallow water? It sounded like a wave breaking right next to the boat. I assure you, it was terrifying, an experience capable of loosening a man’s bowels most remarkably. And as it slid by, I saw its enormous, ancient eye, surrounded by wrinkles. Not a black round primordial eye like the eyes of sharks, but the eye of a warm-blooded kinsman. I was left quite shaken.

Being a great fan of these great creatures, I was watching a Nature documentary on humpback whales the other day. They were showing the whales hunting with their “bubble screens”, and how they used powerfully loud sounds to herd the anchovies into a tight ball. They said the whale clicks were about 200 decibels … extremely loud, in other words.

What brought this to mind was an article entitled “Are Wind Turbines Killing Whales?“. The article claims that recent mass whale beachings in Europe might be from wind turbines, saying:

As scientists have pointed out, “It is likely that acoustic masking by anthropogenic sounds is having an increasingly prevalent impact on animals’ access to acoustic information that is essential for communication and other important activities, such as navigation and prey/predator detection.”

“Blinded” by this masking, whales and dolphins could seek refuge in shallow waters, away from big ships and killer whales. There, low tides could surprise them, as large pelagic species have limited experience with tidal flows.

In September 2012, 19 pilot whales, a minke whale and a large sei whale beached on the coast of Scotland opposite an area where air guns were being used by ships surveying the ocean floor, as a prelude to installing offshore wind farms. “A second pod of 24 pilot whales was spotted in shallow water by Cellardyke around the same time, but [it] returned to sea without beaching,” the article noted.

Offshore turbines were also associated with “many” stillborn baby seals washing up onshore near the UK’s Scroby Sands wind farm in June 2005. “It’s hard not to conclude the wind farm is responsible,” the author concluded.

Many more similar deaths may well have been caused by wind farms at sea. The scientific and environmental literature abounds in warnings about risks to marine mammals from man-made noise.

Let me start with what is perhaps the earliest observation of mass whale strandings, that of Aristotle in the 4th century in his Historia Animalium:

“It is not known for what reason they run themselves aground on dry land; at all events it is said that they do so at times, and for no obvious reason.”

So we have reports of mass strandings of whales since forever. Now, I’ve read claims before about how the sounds from seismic prospecting or from sonar were (or were not) causing damage to the whales, and speculations that freighters made enough noise to interfere with them … but not wind turbines. So I thought I’d go see what I could find about noise in the ocean. Here’s the best of what I found:

ambient and localized noise oceanFigure 1. Noise sources in the ocean. “LFAS” is low frequency active sonar, of the type discussed below. SOURCE: Noise and Cetaceans

Fascinating. Now, from that, the humpbacks are only putting out about 150 decibels of noise, and blue whales are at about 175 decibels … but further research supports the existence of stronger noises from hunting whales, viz (emphasis mine):

The researchers played recorded ultrasound whale clicks to several long-finned squid (Loligo pealeii) swimming in a water tank. This species of squid grows to about a foot long and is commonly found off the coast of the northeastern United States.

The ultrasound clicks were broadcast at up to 226 decibels, which is about the most intense whale echolocation click a squid would be exposed to in the wild. If the clicks were at a frequency humans could hear, they would be as loud as a rifle shot heard from three feet in front of the muzzle.

“That would shatter our eardrums. It’s a deafening sound to an animal that can perceive it,” Hanlon told LiveScience.

But not only were the squid not knocked senseless, they did not react at all to the ultrasound bursts, and actually swam in front of the speaker as if nothing were happening.

“That’s like a Bose commercial where you’re sitting there and your hair is straight back because the sound is blasting out,” Hanlon said. “That to us was a stunning result. We did the experiment several times over because we could hardly believe it ourselves.”

Hmmm …

I find other studies putting the intensity of the humpback hunting sounds in the same strength range, at somewhere around 200 decibels …

So a humpback whale is a creature that hunts right next to other humpbacks, all of which are making noise at around 200-225 decibels right in each others’ ears. Stow that thought away for a moment.

Now, can marine mammals be damaged by loud noise? Sure, just like terrestrial mammals. However, there is much dispute about how much sound it takes. It’s very hard to study, because we have reports of mass whale strandings stretching from Aristotle to last years stranding of 337 ! whales in Patagonia. Makes it hard to tell the natural strandings from the anthropogenic ones … sound familiar?

The only really well-documented analysis I’ve found of the question occurred after a mass stranding of five different species of toothed whales in the Bahamas. The Navy was testing multiple high-powered sonars. These were nominal 235 decibel sonars, plus a short blast that was an unknown (classified) amount larger, used in an inshore channel which appears to have focused the effects of the sonar through “surface ducting”, where the sound is trapped in a shallow layer. The report of the ensuing investigation is a fascinating document. The Executive Summary says (emphasis mine):

Based on the way in which the strandings coincided with ongoing naval activity involving tactical mid-range frequency sonar use in terms of both time and geography, the nature of the physiological effects experienced by the dead animals, and the absence of any other acoustic sources, the investigation team concludes that tactical mid-range frequency sonars aboard U.S. Navy ships that were in use during the sonar exercise in question were the most plausible source of this acoustic or impulse trauma.

This sound source was active in a complex environment that included the presence of a strong surface duct, unusual underwater bathymetry, intensive active use of multiple sonar units over an extended period of time, a constricted channel with limited egress, and the presence of beaked whales that appear to be sensitive to the frequencies produced by these sonars. 

The investigation team concludes that the cause of this stranding event was the confluence of the Navy tactical mid-range frequency sonar and the contributory factors noted above acting together. Combinations of factors different from this one may be more or less likely to cause strandings. Research should focus on identifying problematic combinations so they can be avoided. The actual mechanisms by which these sonar sounds could have caused animals to strand, or their tissues to be damaged, have not yet been revealed, but research is under way.

So under certain specialized conditions with multiple high-powered sonars operating over an extended period in confined waters, including one interval at a strength so high it is classified, we have seen evidence of damage.

But those are specialized circumstances, and the ocean is a noisy place. One of the first things you notice when you start scuba diving is just how much noise there is down there. And there are loud noises as well—lightning strikes are very common on the ocean, and they put out broadband noise at 200 dB … and some of the whales themselves are cranking out 200 dB noise, not thousands of meters away, but right next to each other.

So it seems doubtful to me that the sound of freighters or the thwop-thwop-thwop of some dang wind turbine would be enough to drive a whale goofy by damaging their hearing.

However, the authors of the article postulate a second possiblity. They say that perhaps the sound of the wind turbines is masking other sounds:

“Blinded” by this masking, whales and dolphins could seek refuge in shallow waters, away from big ships and killer whales. There, low tides could surprise them, as large pelagic species have limited experience with tidal flows.

This seems very doubtful for several reasons. First off, the wind turbines are inshore, in the shallows. So if the thwop-thwop sound is making it hard for the whales to hear, they would move offshore away from the turbines, not inshore as their theory claims.

Next, any whale who thinks they can escape a killer whale by going inshore needs to go back to the whale school. Killer whales not only go into shallow waters and spend weeks or months there. They are also known to drive themselves right up onto the beach to capture seals.

killer whale on beach

Sometimes I think that there ought to be a law that you have to have crossed an ocean by boat before you are allowed to write about sea … but I digress. As you can see, the best authors do not recommend staying inshore as a way to avoid killer whale attacks …

Next, I don’t buy that mass strandings occur because “large pelagic species have limited experience with tidal flows”. Most whale species involved in mass strandings spend at least part of their time in near-shore waters. In fact, in many mass strandings, when people have pushed the whales back out to sea, they have turned right around and beached themselves again—and that obviously has nothing to do with the tide.

Finally, at this point the offshore wind turbines have been there for some years. If they were a whale trap, surely we’d have seen some strandings before now.

At the end of the day, in most instances, the cause of most instances of whales stranding themselves on shorelines around the planet remains a mystery. And it seems like this stranding near the wind turbines is in the same situation of having an unknown origin, because it can’t plausibly be laid at the feet of the wind turbines themselves.

Unless perhaps this time the whales are beaching themselves in a grand cetacean Gandhi-style non-violent protest against the turbines, a final tragic attempt to encourage humans to get rid of those expensive subsidy-sucking machines marring the lovely surface of the sea.

And don’t even get me started on the ongoing slaughter of marine birds by offshore wind turbines …

Regards to all,

w.

My Usual Request: Misunderstandings are the bane of the internet. If you disagree with me or anyone, please quote the exact words you disagree with. I can defend my own words. I cannot defend someone else’s interpretation of some unidentified words of mine.

My Other Request: If you think that e.g. I’m using the wrong method on the wrong dataset, please educate me and others by demonstrating the proper use of the right method on the right dataset. Simply claiming I’m wrong doesn’t advance the discussion.

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AJB
March 6, 2016 3:07 pm

Willis, have you run across this guy’s blog and theory?
http://deafwhale.blogspot.com/
The empty digestive tract part is interesting.

AJB
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 6, 2016 3:24 pm

Yep, that’s pretty much the impression I was left with. Nice sound tracks BTW, thanks for that.

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 9, 2016 5:59 pm

You say, “In fact, in many mass strandings, when people have pushed the whales back out to sea, they have turned right around and beached themselves again—and that obviously has nothing to do with the tide.”
You are mistaken. Let me start by saying that whales mass beach for one simple reason; they have lost their acoustic sense of direction due most often to sinus barotrauma. Without a sense a direction, a lost pod of whales will be turned by drag forces and pointed downstream into the path of least resistance. In other words, a lost pod of whales will always swim with the flow of the surface currents as directed by the tidal flow and/or the wind-driven currents or a combination of the two. Thus, your statement that when freed, whales often return to the beach has nothing to do with tidal flow is 100% incorrect. The return to the beach after being push off has everything to do with the incoming tidal flow and/or wind-driven surface currents. I suggest you read: http://deafwhale.blogspot.com/2014/12/navigation-failure-in-mass-stranded.html
By the way, I have 52 years of ocean going experience and have been obsessed with solving the centuries-old mystery of why whales strand since 1964. If you struggle through my capital letters and use of highlighting, you will see all the evidence you need. And, there’s plenty more if you wish to see it.
Capt. David Williams

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 9, 2016 6:36 pm

Willis,
Strange that you seem to challenge my work because you don’t like the way I write. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Let me clear up a few things for you. My hypothesis says that pressure waves from undersea earthquakes and volcanic explosions cause sinus barotrauma in pods of diving whales. The injury disable their acoustic navigation and causes them to swim blindly into the sand. What’s wrong with that idea? Do you have any evidence that says it’s not true? I should point out that in the chart in your article above, the loudest source of undersea noise just happens to be undersea earthquakes and volcanic explosions.
You also dismiss my work because you suggest I promote conspiracy theories. Why not read the real reason why the US Navy covers-up why whales strand: http://www.deafwhale.com
You can also read how and undersea earthquake sank the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion and why the US Navy wants to keep the seaquake danger out of the public domain. http://deafwhale.com/uss-scorpion/
You also say that whales emit 200 db signals right next to each other. This is misleading since it makes no mention of the manner in which whales hear. Whales hear via their lower jaw, If a sound is too loud, they can simply turn away from the source. They are also well aware of the acoustic weapon they possess and would never use it in an irresponsible way.
I might add that I have read many fictional articles written with fancy words in a most tasteful style that have no resemblance whatsoever to the truth. In other words, smooth as silk but still garbage.

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 10, 2016 8:42 pm

Willis, you write great sarcastical prose, but your reasoning is only surface deep. For example, you accept that sonar killed the beaked whales in the Bahamas just because scientists said so. Let me muddy the water a little. Beaked whales have the most fantastic acoustic abilities of any animal our planet has ever know or ever will know. They can probably hear a humpback whale fart from a thousand miles away. So tell me, what motivated these acoustic experts to swim towards the navy sonar and get themselves killed? Why didn’t they swim away from the noise?
Here’s some question for you:
1. Why do whales strand on sand 95% of the time and not rocks or mud flats?
2. Why do some whales swim back to the beach when release and others swim to deeper water?
3. Where do odontoceti whales find the most squid?
4. Why would sperm whales enter the North Sea where there are no giant squid, their favorite food?
5. Why do odontoceti feed mostly at night and rest during the day?
6. Why are all mass stranded whales super dehydrated and have no fresh food in their stomachs?
7. Do odontoceti whales drink salt water?
YOU’LL FIND A LOT OF ANSWER HERE: http://deafwhale.com
When it comes to why whales strand, you simply have no knowledge. You mistakenly believe the BS that whale scientists feed you, but you don’t know if it is true or not.
I think you should stick to sarcasm, something you seemed to have mastered.
Capt. David Williams

Toto
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 12, 2016 10:23 pm

Capt. David Williams gives a link to a page which claims to know the true cause of the sinking of the USS Scorpion submarine. Too much conspiracy theory for me. However the USS Scorpion case is very interesting in the context of sound travel in the oceans because it was found by listening to tapes of ocean sounds from vast distances away and calculating where to search from that. The idea was dismissed by the Navy’s experts, who had failed to find the sub, but eventually they did look there and they did find it. The story is told in the book “Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage”, which is a great read. See also:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Scorpion_%28SSN-589%29

Craig Moore
March 6, 2016 3:18 pm

Years ago in the Swiftsure race http://www.swiftsure.org/ a whale surfaced next to us at night and bumped our keel. It was pitch black darkness. Was a bit unnerving. By the way did you ever read Hugh Downs ‘A Shoal of Stars?’ http://www.amazon.com/Shoal-Stars-Account-Everymans-Dream/dp/B003VZZ3MG

Kent Noonan
March 6, 2016 3:20 pm

Willis makes a very good point, that whales couldn’t be too easily damaged by sounds if they make so much of it themselves. But this is a very complex issue. I have been in the water while a whale was singing, very close by, and I can tell it was one of the loudest sounds I ever heard. Frequency matters a lot. Ultrasonic sound has much different effects than audio or infrasonic. Acoustic impedance of the target makes all the difference, and varies with frequency. Probably the reason squid could ignore the sound is they are acoustically transparent in that part of the spectrum. If you clap your hands once per second, are you making a 1 Hz sound, or high frequency? Both. Many of the sounds whales make have this character, multiple frequencies. I have a friend that is an expert in whale behavior regarding sound. Much of the impact of man made sound is not that it is damaging, but interfering with other sounds of interest. Sometimes the effects are simply that it scares them and they try to avoid it, by surfacing too fast. However, some man made sounds ARE damaging, because they have a lot of energy at frequencies that move a lot of tissue. Air guns would be a good example. I have permanent hearing loss from a very similar type sound.
It is good to keep in mind that whales communicate with sound over very long distances, so hearing is vitally important to them. A seemingly small impact can have major effects for them. I have listened underwater with hydrophones to whales from very far away, many miles, and the sound of a small boat 3 miles away completely drowns it out. It even drowns out the nearby singers.

Don K
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 2:47 am

I doubt there’s any way to be sure about whales and wind turbines short of discussing the matter with a cetecean. But I’d find the stranding argument a lot more persuasive if whales alter their migration patters to avoid (or visit) the turbines. I did check the internet to see if altered whale migration patterns is currently a big deal in marine biology circles. I found the inevitable plethora of speculative crap about how climate change will kill all the whales within days if we don’t change our evil ways. I didn’t find anything that sounded serious and well substantiated.

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 11, 2016 7:11 pm

Willis, you need to learn a few things. You need to be made aware that sound waves, regardless of frequency, travel underwater as a series of positive and negative pressure changes above and below the surrounding water pressure. Intense higher frequencies (+2,000 hz) easily damages the cochlea, On the other hand, intense low frequencies (0.5 hz and 100 hz) mainly damage the cranial air spaces. In dealing with LF sounds, there are scores of other factors to consider beside the decibel level. The following are just a few: (1) distances from the sound source, (2) depth of the water, (3) orientation of whales, (4) temperature of the hydrospace, and (5) many more factors.
You also need to know that the air in the sinuses serve to reflect, focus, and channel all returning echo-location clicks. Thus, both a cochlea injury and a sinus injury will disable the normally excellent acoustic sense of direction in odontoceti.
You also need to know which way a pod of whales would swim in case their biosonar system was disabled. You smart man. It should be easy for you to understand that whales with no sense of direction will always swim downstream in the path of least drag. It’s the only way any object, dead or alive, will travel in the open ocean. You should also be smart of to know that the currents guiding lost whales (dead or alive) is the same energy that carries sand to build beaches. These means that the odds are extremely high that lost whales wash into to sand. That it is is called “whale beachings” is practical proof that beached whales have no acoustic sense of direction when they swim into the sand. More proof is offered by the FACT that any successful refloat of beached whales must be done with the tidal currents are flowing offshore. If released when the water in washing ashore, the whales just turn around and come back to the beach.
I could go on for days showing you how little you really know about whale strandings. You know practically nothing because this is what the US Navy and oil Industry want you know. You also need to learn how to read scientific papers about whales stranding. You can tell when whale scientists are blowing smoke up your butt by looking for the qualifiers such as, may, maybe, likely, some scientists believe, possible, could, might, and a dozen other words that should not ever appear in the scientific paper. How can write science by qualify all your statements.
If you want to know why they lie, read http://deafwhale.com
Capt David Williams, Chairman
The Deafwhale Society, the oldest whale conservation group in the world!

Reply to  Capt. David Williams
March 11, 2016 7:20 pm

David Williams,
A better attitude would go a long way.

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 12, 2016 4:22 am

There is no way to win an argument with a stranger to the truth because the dummy will never know that he is lost within the empty space between his ears. What a joke! Goodbye.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 12, 2016 1:10 am

Williams,
You’ve been owned by Willis.
Next…

TomRude
Reply to  Kent Noonan
March 6, 2016 6:41 pm

Exactly Kent! As you correctly pointed out, frequency rather than loudness could be a factor. One can blow 120 dB into an ultra sound whistle behind someone and that person won’t notice; try to change the frequency and…

Bob Denby
Reply to  Kent Noonan
March 7, 2016 9:03 am

Woulda, coulda, shoulda … what if? … maybe.. SOUNDS TO ME like your postulations would serve as ‘boiler-plate’ for a grant request (I guess).

March 6, 2016 3:23 pm

Oh well, there goes one argument against off-shore bird cusinarts.

ATheoK
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 6, 2016 5:46 pm

Agreed. And I used it in a rebuttal just last night.
Oh well, not like there is a shortage of negative issues about wind farms.
Then again, as I remember being a similar scenarios with the apartment next door blasting highly amplified noxious sounds and thumps; and I sure felt like beaching myself repeatedly against concrete columns just so I could get some sleep.
Maybe the cetacea feel the same about having wind farms next door.
Then there are the researchers playing with literally blasting squid by sonar; only there are some big problems with testing squids using sound. ‘Potential for Sound Sensitivity in Cephalopods’:
T. Aran Mooney, Roger Hanlon, Peter T. Madsen, Jakob Christensen-Dalsgaard, Darlene R. Ketten, and Paul E. Nachtigall’

“…Early anecdotal reports suggested that cephalopods might detect sounds because squid were attracted to 600-Hz tones and cuttlefish ( Sepia officinalis ) elicited startle responses to 180-Hz stimuli (Dijkgraaf 1963 ; Maniwa 1976 ) . Norris and Møhl ( 1983 ) later postulated that squid might be debilitated by the acoustic intensity of foraging odontocete (toothed whale and dolphin) echolocation clicks. This hypothesis led Moynihan ( 1985 ) to suggest that squid might, in turn, be deaf to acoustic stimuli to avoid this “stunning.”…

Cephalopods tend to be very visual critters and don’t sport what people would consider ‘ears’. However;

“…Previous studies have shown that cephalopods are sensitive to underwater particle motion, especially at low frequencies in the order of 10 Hz. The present paper deals with quantitative modeling of the statocyst system in three cephalopod species:…”

. Unfortunately, this particular bit of research is all models after this note.
From the sound sensitivity paper:

“…However, anatomical evidence of squid statocysts indicates that the organ acts as an accelerometer (Budelmann 1976 ) potentially used for acoustic detection (Budelmann 1992 ) . Behavioral conditioning experiments later confirmed that squid ( Loligo vulgaris), octopus ( Octopus vulgaris ), and S. officinalis can detect acceleration stimuli from 1 to 100 Hz, presumably by using the statocyst organ as an accelerometer detecting the body movements of the squid in the sound field (Packard et al. 1990 ) . This and a follow-up study (Kaifu et al. 2008 ) showed that cephalopods can detect the low-frequency particle-motion component of a sound field, but the question whether cephalopods are also sensitive to higher frequencies and sound pressures still remained. Recent laboratory experiments have demonstrated that squid do not exhibit antipredator responses in the presence of odontocete echolocation clicks (Wilson et al. 2007 ) , indicating that they cannot detect the ultrasonic pressure component of a sound field…”

An organ that detects particle acceleration is not the same as an organ that converts external sound to internal signals including volume/intensity.
Perhaps the research goons playing with the sound equipment should find other work.

ATheoK
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 8, 2016 7:01 pm

My apologies for the double post. I thought my PC or ISP provider ate the post.
Deletion of my second post(s) is welcome!

B.j.
March 6, 2016 3:34 pm

How do they navigate ? Is it by a sound map, a kind off radar? Like moths do by the moon and get confused by our lights.

Kent Noonan
Reply to  B.j.
March 6, 2016 4:17 pm

Echolocation is the main navigation tool. Studies have found that while migrating, they go from one geological feature to another, many miles apart, finding a seamount or cliff face acoustically. There are probably other audible cues as well, the sound of a basin or open water, like us standing in a room with high ceilings or a narrow corridor. And they have high intelligence, the largest brains on the planet. So it would be reasonable to assume they can memorize features for navigation.

Kent Noonan
Reply to  Kent Noonan
March 6, 2016 4:22 pm

Oh yeah. It is useful to consider that our Navy designed the low frequency active sonar (LFAS) by emulating the sounds whales make. frequency sweeps and bursts that are designed to highlight specific features in the acoustic landscape. Using this, they can find a submarine from hundreds (thousands?) of miles away. And it sounds like a robotic whale.

Paul Mackey
Reply to  Kent Noonan
March 7, 2016 1:52 am

I have got lost a number of times by mis-interpreting the features I thought were waymarkers. The worst was at night in the Breacon Beacons, with thirty blokes getting very cheesed off following me rouned in a circle…….

JohnWho
March 6, 2016 3:40 pm

“Next, anyone whale who thinks they can escape a killer whale…”
Typo.

Marcus
March 6, 2016 3:59 pm

I really wish the rating system worked !! 5 stars…

KuhnKat
March 6, 2016 4:15 pm

Willis,
I notice a large lack of frequency mentioned in most of the articles. We are affected differently by the same amplitude at different frequencies. It would be strange if the whales weren’t also.
I give weight to your comment that the turbines have been operating for years with no previous beachings, but, degradation from ageing of the things could be changing the spectrum and amplitudes they are emitting.
Another area that needs more research.

Marcus
Reply to  KuhnKat
March 6, 2016 4:33 pm

..Maybe they are starting to vibrate more, setting up some weird harmonics ??

kuhnkat
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 11:41 pm

Strangely enough I don’t see an entry for Wind Turbines on the chart…
I tend to agree that they are NOT the problem, that it is natural, but, no current data means it is NOT possible to exclude them as contributory.

ShrNfr
March 6, 2016 4:16 pm

May I suggest the use of black type on the various areas. The light type on the bright green is almost illegible. I personally have excellent color discrimination, so if I am having problems, I suspect that there are folks who cannot read the type at all in them.

kokoda
Reply to  ShrNfr
March 6, 2016 4:43 pm

Willis has a slight problem with color.

ShrNfr
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 5:53 am

All very fine and all very well, but I will call it to your attention that if it is not your graph, a couple of simple steps in potatoeslop would clarify the information that you are attempting to present. I am sure your article has value. That value would be improved if you had better graphics in this case. Sorry you are sensitive on the topic of presentation, but this one could have been improved with a slight amount of work on that graphic, be it yours or somebody else’s.

Dodgy Geezer
March 6, 2016 4:24 pm

…At the end of the day, in most instances, the cause of most instances of whales stranding themselves on shorelines around the planet remains a mystery. And it seems like this stranding near the wind turbines is in the same situation of having an unknown origin, because it can’t plausibly be laid at the feet of the wind turbines themselves….
Aha… but, Willis, you’ve forgotten the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE! That’s the principle that lets the Greens ban a thing they don’t like purely because no one can prove that it’s 100% safe in all circumstances, including ones we haven’t thought about yet, in a future that no one can predict…
If the turbines were run by Shell to provide power for offshore drilling, there would be ‘Save the Whale’ marches in all major Western capitals next week…

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
March 6, 2016 7:00 pm

Dodgy Geezer gets a Budweiser as he has “said it all” about the greenies.
Willis points out that Aristotle, 340 years before Jesus was born, wrote that whale strandings were well known. Since the Greeks and Egyptians seem not to have built similar structures back then surely wind turbines weren’t the cause then.
President Obama could, of course, declare whale strandings to be “unprecedented” and have the EPA ban wind turbines. More likely than current temp readings that he HAS called unprecedented. Our knowledge of whale behavior doesn’t go back as far as temp proxies.
I wonder if Alexander and Barak have much in common.

PRD
Reply to  John H. Harmon
March 7, 2016 8:47 am

“I wonder if Alexander and Barak have much in common.”
Wow! Talk about stirring the imagination.

Luke
March 6, 2016 4:39 pm

Good analysis. I agree with your assessment, whale strandings have been documented for centuries and we still don’t know the cause.

March 6, 2016 4:53 pm

One adverse health effect to humans from low frequency infrasound pulses by wind turbines is due to vibration of the inner ear gyroscopics that contribute to balance. Those structures (one for each ear) are vibrated and confuse the neural inputs up the brainstem. That’s the source of the “sea sickness” symptoms. Studies from Wright-Patterson labs during the 60s (lost to me from fatal hard drive crash a few years ago) on flight simulators found that whole body vibrations at infrasound frequencies could be tuned to give all pilots sickening sensations including vibrating other tissues (particularly vertebrae) with resulting increases in blood pressure, heart rate …
None of those vibrations are audible to us – don’t have any idea about whales and humans are typically pretty low on animal sensation scales. Point is, those noises don’t have to be deafening to be damaging. Won’t speculate on beaching.

March 6, 2016 5:39 pm

Just a minor detail. Killer whales (orcas) are not even whales. They are the largest most viscious dolphin. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are the three recognized genera of sea mammals. All presumably decended from four legged land mammals,somewhen back when. All dolphins and porpoises are toothed. Whales come in two flavors; toothed (e.g.Sperm) and (krill) filtering (e.g. Balleen)
Otherwise another beautiful and poetic Willis post.

Chip Javert
Reply to  ristvan
March 6, 2016 5:58 pm

ristvan
re: Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are the three recognized genera of sea mammals.
Huh? What about seals, sea lions, walrus, and (yes) polar bears? All mammals.

Reply to  Chip Javert
March 6, 2016 6:12 pm

Well, look up your species genera, then get back with your brilliant sea mammal non taxa. You really should use simple stuff like Google before posting such inanities.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Chip Javert
March 7, 2016 12:16 pm

Those are semi-aquatic creatures, not fully aquatic. Seals and walruses spend significant time on and breed on land. Polar bears only travel in the sea. They don’t even hunt there.

Chip Javert
Reply to  Chip Javert
March 7, 2016 9:03 pm

ristvan
Ok, so I accepted your coaching and looked it up at: https://www.marinemammalscience.org/species-information/list-of-marine-mammal-species-subspecies/.
Despite all your snark, polar bears (Ursus maritimus Phipps, 1774. Polar bear), seals, et al. are all “sea mammals”. I forgot manatee.
I suppose we’ll now have an pseudo argument over quality of my source.

Chip Javert
Reply to  Chip Javert
March 7, 2016 9:03 pm

eat all = et al

Don K
Reply to  ristvan
March 7, 2016 6:06 am

“Just a minor detail. Killer whales (orcas) are not even whales. They are the largest most viscious dolphin. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are the three recognized genera of sea mammals.”
Since we’re being picky, everybody seems to have their own taxonomy for the cetacea (and most everything else actually). Whales/dolphins/porpoises is a common breakdown for the odontoceti (toothed whales). Odontoceti doesn’t include the baleen whales which area a separate suborder (Mysticeti).
FWIW, Wikipedia puts killer whales in the family Delphinidae (porpoises), genus Orcinus
But that doesn’t mean that next week or next year someone won’t present strong arguments for moving Orcinus out of the Delphinidae into its own family or some other family.
Genus is a lower level term — second from the bottom in Linnaean nomenclature.
Taxonomy seems to be yet another unsettled science.

benofhouston
Reply to  ristvan
March 7, 2016 10:24 pm

I’ll give you the manatee. Others, you are splitting hairs to avoid the point.

Chip Javert
Reply to  benofhouston
March 8, 2016 6:27 am

The discussion is about the effect noise has on mammals spending significant time living & eating in the oceans. Splitting pedantic hairs about the taxonomy of sea otters (Enhydra ultras) and other sea is like counting dancing angels on the head of a pin.
When I GOOGLE “Marine mammals” (https://www.google.com/#q=sea+mammal+definition) I get the following: Marine mammals, which include seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, porpoises, manatees, dugongs, marine otters, walruses, and polar bears, form a diverse group of 129 species that rely on the ocean for their existence.Ristvan could use a maturity transplant .
I’m happy to provide ristvan with this needed update on the definition of marine mammals; I wish I could help as much with the required maturity transplant (or, in his case perhaps, implant).

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  ristvan
March 8, 2016 1:08 pm

Killer whales are indeed toothed whales (parvorder Odontoceti), of the genus Orcinus in the subfamily Orcininae of the family Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphins. Its sister families in the superfamily Delphinoidea are the Monodontidae (beluga whales and narwhals) and Phocoenidae (porpoises). Other superfamilies currently recognized in the Odontoceti are three river dolphin groups, sperm whales and beaked whales.

JBJ
Reply to  ristvan
March 11, 2016 4:29 pm

Yes they are whales – brush up on your taxonomy!!!

Steven F
March 6, 2016 5:53 pm

Just like the previouse article the sould levels for wind turibnes underwater are not listed. So I went to google andrestricted the search to pdf documents and found this document:
https://tethys.pnnl.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Nedwell_dBht_(2).pdf
It list noise levels underwtaer at 16Hz of 153 DB max. So if whales are puting out 200DB I can conclude that whales make more noise than wind turbines.

Chip Javert
March 6, 2016 5:56 pm

I always get a kick out of Tisdale & Willis’ posts. They do a good job of analyzing more-or-less obscure stuff and boiling it down into a thousand words or less, so that even I can understand (at least some of) it.
I like whales (who doesn’t?), but if I was a professional whale-hugger I’d at least do the homework to create a stacked-bar-chart (y axis: global total beached whale deaths; x axis: calendar year) plotting whale beaching with n-miles of a wind farm.
Some folks want to worry about wind farm (or other acoustic sources) whale beachings without any real “event” data. This is similar to the recent polar bear extinction fiasco – nobody, in fact, had even bothered to inventory the bears. When they did, it looks like we got bears coming out the wazoo, and populations are healthier than ever.

commieBob
Reply to  Chip Javert
March 6, 2016 6:41 pm

nobody, in fact, had even bothered to inventory the bears.

When I was in the arctic in the 1970s, Ian Stirling and his crew were actively studying polar bears. They were actually tagging them so they were pretty much on a first name basis.
The government scientists were able to produce plausible numbers for polar bears. The Eskimos disagreed with those numbers. They said there were way more polar bears than the government scientists said there were.
On the one hand, the Eskimos had more credibility because they spent many more man-hours on the land. On the other hand, they had an interest in inflating the numbers to get a bigger hunting quota. I tended to side with the Eskimos.
We can’t say that the government scientists didn’t bother to inventory the polar bears. The most we can say is that they got it wrong.

Chip Javert
Reply to  commieBob
March 7, 2016 9:13 pm

commieBob
I’m certainly no Polar Bear expert so I defer to you and the Eskimos. Following what I’ve read about polar bear census on WUWT over the past few years, I recall there are a number of Arctic territories inhabited by polar bears, some of which are “inventoried” more rigorously than others, but nobody claimed the entire species of polar bear had been accurately inventoried in all territories.
My previous comment was in reference to the entire population, which was alleged to be rapidly going extinct.

commieBob
Reply to  commieBob
March 8, 2016 5:27 am

Chip Javert says:
March 7, 2016 at 9:13 pm
commieBob
I’m certainly no Polar Bear expert …

Me neither. “Polar bears. Why’d it have to be polar bears?” (apologies to I. Jones)

My previous comment was in reference to the entire population, which was alleged to be rapidly going extinct.

While I have the greatest of respect for Dr. Stirling (and his associates), his expertise exists under the conditions in effect when he did his research. Everything else is extrapolation and hypothesis.

Reply to  Chip Javert
March 6, 2016 6:57 pm

Chip…..out the wazoo? Is that less than a gazillion? Or is it similar to “up to your ass in alligators”? Inquiring minds want to know.

Chip Javert
Reply to  fossilsage
March 7, 2016 9:16 pm

fossilsage
As it applies to Polar Bears in, it means you should not go trick-or-treating in Arctic territories dressed as a ring seal.

u.k(us)
March 6, 2016 6:24 pm

Some kind of suicide pact ?, we do it.

commieBob
March 6, 2016 6:24 pm

I recalled that cavitation could be a problem for sonar so I decided to google on it. What turned up was Pistol Shrimp.
These little guys can kill small fish with their 218 dB blasts of sound. Awesome!

Being and Time
March 6, 2016 7:21 pm

The obvious explanation is that the whales are just homesick for the land they left millions of years ago and would like to become terrestrial mammals again.

richard verney
March 6, 2016 8:09 pm

To me it is all speculation.
It may not be a question as to whether the sound damages the whale, but rather whether a sound confuses the whale. The nature and location of the sound together with the interaction of other sounds in the vicinity may be important.
However, since we do not know what whales are looking for, how they interpret the sounds that they detect, what these sounds mean to them and the significance they place on various and different sounds, it would be extremely difficult to reach any conclusion on whether a windfarm in any particular location may have an impact on them.
Thank god for fossil fuels since without those, there would probably be no whales left.

jorgekafkazar
Reply to  richard verney
March 6, 2016 10:51 pm

Obviously the sounds are a microaggression.

Martin Lewitt
March 6, 2016 8:16 pm

Even the bottom of the Marianas Trench is a noisy place. I wonder which frequencies are attenuated most with distance.
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/04/469213580/unique-audio-recordings-find-a-noisy-mariana-trench-and-surprise-scientists

asybot
March 6, 2016 10:12 pm

Willis I caught on to the way killer whales beach them selves to capture seals. On Vancouver Island there is a trail along the shore that many people walk along to see killer whales swim by, the trail is 10-15 ft high, I have often wondered how people can just stand there and oe and ah if they would realize what these animals are capable of, just seeing them from the relative safety of a large vessel they are something to behold but scary none the less.

March 6, 2016 11:39 pm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1626231/
“….were found to demonstrate a clear 11–13- year periodicity in the number of events…”
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1385110104001297
“…We compared the documented sperm whale strandings in the period from 1712 to 2003 with solar activity, especially with sun spot number periodicity and found that 90% of 97 sperm whale stranding events around the North Sea took place when the smoothed sun spot period length was below the mean value of 11 years, while only 10% happened during periods of longer sun spot cycles…..”

David Cage
March 7, 2016 12:03 am

May I correct the statement that wind turbines have been there for years. This is only half true. Yes wind turbines have been there for years but not ones the current size. The newer larger ones rotate slower so they produce a different frequency. As the wind hits the blade the energy extraction slows it down so you have in effect generated a pressure wave equal to the power extracted. In other words an extra low
frequency sound wave in the same order of power as the turbine rating. This is orders of magnitude more powerful than naval sonar. I notice that turbine people only start at frequencies of around 16Hz. Surely they must know the real power is at the blade rotation speed related one which is far lower.
Add to this we have far more very large arrays of them so the mix frequencies produced are going to now be across the board and right in the most damaging part of the spectrum for whale communication.
So far I have not seen any tests on the sound from wind turbines that addresses the real problem with arrays of them. The blades emit around a 6 Hz extra low frequency signal with each one different. The beat signals produce peaks at random points at really high levels but localised. Even the small five turbine local wind “farm” shows this effect when the wind is in a particular direction probably due to something to do with the tower alignment and spacing. Notice how even in the naval example the important part was intensive use of MULTIPLE sources.

JBJ
Reply to  David Cage
March 11, 2016 4:48 pm

I notice the “arm chair” experts never responded to your post!

ralfellis
March 7, 2016 1:20 am

Hey, Willis, slightly OT, but:
One reason for the initial rejection of my ice age paper, was because I mentioned you… ;-). Sorry, we are both in the same boat – outsiders in a conformist world. Apparently, the reviewer did not like ‘sceptical’ views the Thunderstorm Thermostas theory). Oh, how science has changed. (In truth, the review was a bit of a hatchet-job.)
R

John R Walker
March 7, 2016 1:30 am

It’s unlikely IMO to be down to sound pressure levels – more likely to be down to infrasound at frequencies which damage complex brains and/or other organs. People get killed by 7Hz and can be badly shaken up by ~14Hz. We know this and it’s been weaponised though it proved to be too dangerous to use because low frequencies are omni-directional therefore uncontrollable.
Wind power industry seems to have gone out of its way not to produce frequency and SPL spectral charts for turbines either on land or on the water in the infrasound frequencies known to cause physiological effects in humans and I would assume in other higher mammals.

John R Walker
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 4:14 pm

http://wayback.archive.org/web/20080920193328/http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/noise/research/lowfrequency/pdf/lowfreqnoise.pdf
I have read it before but I’ve just read it again – very little about infrasound – mostly about LF sound in the audible spectrum but some sections which do relate to negative effects from some infrasound/simulated infrasound trials.
However, the specific work I have seen starting in the 1950s is not included nor anything remotely like it. I prefer to believe that evidence and I have seen the plans of the equipment they used before they were officially destroyed to prevent anybody else trying to replicate the experiment(s). It was actually lodged as a patent at one time and available to anybody for a small fee. I have discussed this at length with people used to very low frequency sound e.g. industrial noise engineers and organ builders, and there was general agreement ‘it was possible’. But if you prefer Wiki then fine! That’s the world we live in these days…

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 9, 2016 7:35 pm

If you expose a mammal to a 7 hz signal in air, less acoustic energy enters the internal organs so there is less trauma. On the other hand, because flesh is mostly water, exposing a mammal to an intense 7 hz hydroacoustic signal while submerged is a different story entirely. The LF sound would travel through the body and alter the greatly volume of air in the lungs and intestines and place the heart in jeopardy by putting pressure on aorta and other major blood vessels. In addition, the resonant frequency of the abdominal mass is ~7 hz so it conceivable that such a signal would empty the bowels rather quickly. This signal is also very near the Schumann Resonance so various effects can be observed.
We must also consider sound underwater much differently that sound in air. The main difference is that air is a far less dense medium, so it doesn’t take much to move air, but sound attenuates reasonably quickly in air, whereas under water, you need a sound that’s intense enough to move the water, which is quite dense and heavy, but it’s not very compressible so the sound then will propagate long distances.
There is a lot learn here when talking about the likelihood of auditory injury in whales.

Gareth Phillips
March 7, 2016 2:06 am

“Sometimes I think that there ought to be a law that you have to have crossed an ocean by boat before you are allowed to write about sea”
” Stay close by your desks and never go to sea
And you may be rulers of the Queens Navy”
(Sir Joseph Porter 1878)
http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/gilbert/porter.html

Smokey (can't do much about wildfires)
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 7, 2016 10:19 am

Well spoken, Gareth, apt reference indeed.

Chris Wright
March 7, 2016 2:40 am

“Unless perhaps this time the whales are beaching themselves in a grand cetacean Gandhi-style non-violent protest against the turbines, a final tragic attempt to encourage humans to get rid of those expensive subsidy-sucking machines marring the lovely surface of the sea.”
.
That’s as good a theory as any!
.
Seriously, as whale beachings have been observed for hundreds and thousands of years, it’s amazing that we still don’t know what causes them.
Chris

Menicholas
Reply to  Chris Wright
March 7, 2016 5:26 am

Hey man, we do not even know why women ask men if their butt looks fat. And that was likely one of the first questions ever asked when words were invented.
“Why beached whales” has just got to wait it’s turn.

Capt. David Williams
Reply to  Chris Wright
March 9, 2016 7:41 pm

Chris, archeologists tell us whales have been mass beaching for at least 3 million years, likely much longer. Undersea earthquakes, volcanic explosions, and the occasion violent impact of a meteorite with the water’s surface is the only ancient source that could cause injury in diving whales. Sinus barotrauma is the #1 injury in scuba divers and is also the number injury in other diving mammals.

March 7, 2016 2:58 am

Please read this as an aside to the Willis scientific work.
The following poem from 1992 is dated by its reference to then Australian Prime Minister Hawke and Greenpeace buying another protest boat. Plus the style trying to emulate Tom Lehrer.
My life is all in tatters
Nothing else is left that matters
When I get this letter in the daily mail,
Inviting my donation
In return for life salvation – to
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
It says there’s nothing to it
Write a cheque, man, you can do it,
Or send us cash in case your credit fails.
You will feel an inner glow
As you watch your savings go –
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
My wife has up and left me
For a girl who’s acting friendly
And my youngest boy is heading off to jail,
For spreading L.S.D.
Through the kindergarten free –
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
My teeth are full of caries
And my mind’s off with the fairies,
But coughing up will make it all worthwhile.
They’re locking me inside
And I’m thinking suicide –
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
One daughter needs aborting
And another one is courting
A motor cycle hippie, out on bail
Who has suspected rabies
From biting dogs and babies
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
The rent is overdue,
So is daughter number two,
My overdraft is quite beyond the pale.
I’m threatened with eviction
And criminal conviction –
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
There should be peace within because
I have found this greenie cause.
Greenpeace ™ and I together will prevail!
There are better things for money
Than my life of milk and honey –
Save a whale! Save a whale! Save a whale!
Today I got a greeting
Saying that they’d held a meeting
And decided that the way to save the whales
Was to hold a protest talk,
Buy a ship and Robert Hawke –
And the whales? Save the whales?
Damn the whales!!

March 7, 2016 3:27 am

Much as I would like Wind Turbines to be responsible for Whale beachings, so that we could get them banned, Willis’ argument seems rather sound. The wind turbines may not make the whales beach themselves.

Menicholas
March 7, 2016 5:23 am

Why not get you started on the bird slaughter?
The birds, man. The birds!

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist level 7
March 7, 2016 5:57 am

Looking at the chart I see the rather surprising datum that submarines emit 100dB, about the same as Flipper when echolocating. As a long-time Tom Clancy fan I am outraged. I remember clearly from the TV show how much noise Flipper makes and I demand to know why we aren’t getting all the stealth we are paying for in our submarines! At least I assume those were our submarines; I can’t imagine the Soviet Union would invite scientists to study their submarines and publish the results (unless it’s disinformation).
I checked the linked article and although they show submarine noise in the graph, they do not list it in the table or provide a source for it. The table also claims that “background ocean noise” runs 74-100dB; at 100dB for any frequency between 100 and 8000 Hz, OSEA requires personal hearing protection. Maybe I should wear ear muffs when I dive.
Seriously, are submarines really that noisy?

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist level 7
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist level 7
March 7, 2016 5:58 am

For “OSEA” read “OSHA”. Sorry.

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist level 7
March 7, 2016 9:18 am

For some applications, subs emit over 200 dB.
Whale strandings have indeed occurred for about as long as there have been whales, but whale strandings have nonetheless been strongly correlated with sonar operations. Whales also have been observed to flee from some sonar emissions.

The Original Mike M
March 7, 2016 6:00 am

“And don’t even get me started on the ongoing slaughter of marine birds by offshore wind turbines”
I wish I could because it’s my suspicion that each one is a marine bird slaughter factory. The stanchions become artificial reefs and the resulting increase of marine life around them attracts the birds to their death. (And bird corpses attract even more fish which then attract even more birds…)

Don K
Reply to  The Original Mike M
March 7, 2016 6:45 am

“And bird corpses attract even more fish which then attract even more birds…”
… which attract larger predators like sharks and marine mammals such as whales

March 7, 2016 6:04 am

Fond though I am of CFACT and their great work on the side of rationality, I thought the article by Paul Driessen and Mark Duchamp, attempting to link off-shore wind turbines and whale beaching, long on supposition and short on facts—a bit too much like the way the Climatists operate. So it is good to see Willis taking a closer look at this claim.
Willis has the same complaint about the blog post linked by AJB:
http://deafwhale.blogspot.com
The author, a Capt. David Williams, claims that whale beaching is a consequence of violent undersea disturbances (seaquakes, volcanoes, meteorite strikes, etc. in addition to more recent anthropogenic devices) which can destroy the sinuses on which whales rely for sound production and echo-location, making feeding impossible and leading to starvation, dehydration, and disorientation. This is an interesting hypothesis, which surely deserves more research. Capt. Williams says that the stomachs and intestines of (some?) beached whales were empty, which suggests he’s on the right track. Has anyone looked at their sinuses?
The good Captain claims that the Navy and oil companies have conspired to silence this research direction, because they are themselves increasingly part of the problem (though historically it’s all nature, not man). This seems a bit far-fetched, as surely there is a good deal of research on whales that is not dependent on their funding—but then, who knows? Too often, he who pays the piper. . .
/Mr Lynn

Ex-expat Colin
March 7, 2016 6:22 am

Its likely a bad choice to be found in the UK North Sea and/or the English Channel, not known for bountiful life now that the EU trawls it to death. So, not sure about adequacy of fish lunches. There’s an awful lot of seals about and languishing well out of deep water I think…certainly in channels along the Norfolk coast.
Was thinking that their pinger(s) must give them an indication of depth? These boys will get into shallow water fast if they don’t clock the tides, as some have discovered…badly. So if they get returns indicating seals and go for it…might be catastrophic. Its a leadership problem perhaps?

March 7, 2016 6:32 am

Are off-shore wind farms “inshore” wind farms? And what are “beaked whales”?
Yes these machines do have an effect on wildlife. You’d be a dumb ass to suggest otherwise…

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Sparks
March 7, 2016 8:16 am
March 7, 2016 8:06 am

Whales are animals like all others. They exhibit herd mentality. That is generally, there is a leader and the rest just mindlessly follow the leader. The leader is generally the eldest with the most experience or memories and is trusted by the others to be the one to follow to food, safety, etc. If that leader suffers an error or mental degeneration the rest are at risk until a new leader to follow is discovered. Fish, birds, whales or humans, all lemmings that follow the leader. Only 1 in 10 is capable of original thought,or leadership. All the rest are just followers or fans…pg

ossqss
March 7, 2016 8:31 am

Has anyone ever done an autopsy on any of the beached whales? I would wonder if they perhaps had a parasitic issue or something similar to Naegleria fowleri (trophozoites in feeding form) found in fresh water as an example. Just a though as it doesn’t appear that noise is the culprit.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  ossqss
March 7, 2016 6:32 pm

We once dissected a pigmy sperm whale which beached alive, dying overnight. It was exceptionally full of worms (Sample size only one). These were nematodes which are very invasive and could easily enter and interfere with vital organs. Buckets full in the digestive system. Have heard one theory that this could be important, but have not checked the literature. Parasitologists complain that ecologists greatly underrate their effect.

Catcracking
March 7, 2016 8:52 am

Willis,
Thanks for another well thought out posting.

Chris H
March 7, 2016 9:05 am

Willis, I generally enjoy your posts and appreciate your approach to data analysis, however, I think you may be rather too precipitate in absolving wind turbines in this instance. Wind turbines produce infrasound from two major sources, the blades and the tower. The fundamental frequency is around the blade pass frequency, around 1Hz for larger turbines and is mainly caused by turbulence as the blades pass through differing wind conditions (wind shear) and blade-tower interaction. The towers themselves generate infrasound as they act as giant tuning forks/organ pipes. This would be transmitted down through the structure and into the surrounding water. Wind turbines tend to synchronise and there will thus be nodes where emissions from other turbines will both neutralise and augment each other.
I can readily accept that infrasound from large turbine arrays has the potential to disturb whale communications and navigation. As you note, mass strandings have been recorded for centuries and there may be no linkage, however, I don’t think we can exonerate them just yet.

Christopher Paino
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 3:17 pm

“People, whether blind or not, move away from irritating or confusing or dangerous situations.”
If that were true, there would be no Darwin Award winners.

F. Ross
March 7, 2016 9:13 am

Very good article Willis. Very reasonable deductions. Thanks.
(wish our submarines were down in the ambient noise region though)

Fred Harwood
March 7, 2016 12:24 pm

One of the loudest underwater noises I’ve heard was at 90 feet on a reef off of Tioman Island, which hosted thousands of shrimp and crabs clacking their claws at each other. Blocked out all other noises.

Fred Harwood
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 7, 2016 4:40 pm

Trying to sleep at anchor over grunting robin fish also was memorable. The sea provides a cacophony of loud noises that most people never hear.

Will Nelson
March 7, 2016 1:23 pm

“They are also known to drive themselves right up onto the beach to capture seals.”
…moving towel back now…

The Original Mike M
March 7, 2016 2:41 pm

Has anyone studied the affect VLF radio has on marine mammals? The radio frequencies used in VLF (~20KHz) seem to correlate to those used by the animals and the power used to broadcast in that low frequency range can be enormous – over a megawatt! Such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Communication_Station_Harold_E._Holt

March 8, 2016 9:44 am

Thank you Willis, I do appreciate a good critique. Thank you WUWT for showing an interest in the matter. And thank you everyone for your good comments, which I just happened to read.
It is a complex matter, and it will take many years before we can form an enlightened opinion. Marine mammal experts can’t even agree on why whales, porpoises and dolphins have been beaching themselves since the beginning of times.
Logic tells us that something in the sea, somewhere, sometime, makes that milieu unbearable to them, especially where individuals pushed back to the sea by humans do come back to beach again (thanks for that reminder, Willis). Be it sound, be it infrasound, be it chemicals, all bets are open. Parasites, epidemics are other possibilities, and more that we don’t know about. The lemmings theory seems to be disproved in this case, as a couple of hundred miles separate the English from the Continental beachings.
Why did Paul Driessen and I suggest that wind turbines may be a cause? – Because they were the common denominator between the beachings in all 3 different countries, and also with another massive beaching event that occurred in Scotland in 2012. For that reason, and because the frequency of strandings in the North Sea went up seven-fold in the past decade or so, according to an article we forgot to mention…
I´ll try to find it and post it here.
Another thing did not make sense: the sperm whales that beached in England had empty stomachs. Those that stranded in Germany and Holland had their stomachs full. That’s if we are to trust everything that’s reported by journalists.
The only thing that did make sense was that the beachings all occurred in a part of the North Sea that is plagued with offshore wind farms, some operating, some under construction, some at the surveying stage (involving the use of powerful air guns to map the sea floor). Here are two maps that speak more than a thousand words: http://wcfn.org/2016/02/02/wind-turbines-and-marine-mammals/
In the circumstances, we thought it was our duty to bring that to the attention of the public, the media, and the scientific community, lest everyone soon forgets about the problematics of marine mammals and wind turbines. Years ago, when I tried to investigate on location the story of baby seals washing dead ashore at Scroby Sands, I found myself confronted to an omerta. This is how some industries go around problems: paying people to shut up.
That said, we stand to be corrected on some of our assumptions, on our reasoning, even on our conclusions. Neither of us are marine mammal biologists, and we welcome constructive criticism. Only one thing is sure: this subject is worthy of a real debate in the scientific community, and we shouldn’t let the Greens, the wind industry and their friends in government tell us that the science is settled .- It is not.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 8, 2016 6:09 pm

Thank you Willis. I will try answering tomorrow – it is getting late here in Spain.
Also, I’d like to find that article mentioning the 7-fold increase in North Sea beachings.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 9, 2016 12:43 pm

Thank you Willis. I take your point. It’s a good one.
My thoughts: when dolphins that people push back into the sea turn around and come back to beach, I find it hard to believe that it’s because something “make them think that they hear the deep ocean in the direction of the beach.” For that to be plausible, another disfunction in their brain would need to make them think that there is a wide, unsurmountable obstacle in the direction they were sent to by the rescuers. And every dolphin in the pod would need to have exactly the same screwed-up perception. The odds of this occurring are overwhelmingly against it. Besides, why would they not swim towards the perceived obstacle, to find a way around, under or above it?
Another thing: when they can feel the sand touching their tommies, it would take a stupid dolphin to continue pushing ahead until their body is half-way above the water line. The idea of suicide comes to mind readily. The question is their motivation.
This makes me think there is something unbearable in the ocean where they come from, and that they NEED to get their ears and brains out of the water, to ease the pain. Suppose surveying vessels sent by an offshore wind promoter to map the ocean floor are using powerful air guns to send unbearably strong signals into the water where dolphins are swimming. Suppose their inner ears, their sonar systems, their brains were hurt by these signals, as in the case documented by the US Navy. The acute pain would make them want to get their ears and skulls out of the water, at all costs.
Indeed, in the 2012 mass beachings, where 17 pilot whales, one minke whale and one sei whale stranded in Scotland, wind industry surveying vessels were at work at the time (in the Firth of Forth, where the strandings occurred). Swimming back towards the source of the noise (and possibly infrasound) would have been “unbearable”, and this could explain the beachings. Having their heads back in the water too, would have been unbearable.
http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/uk/campaigners-warn-seismic-surveys-for-offshore-windfarms-could-be-to-blame-for-whale-beachings-1.37117
That seems to me the most reasonable explanation. And if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then maybe it IS a duck after all.
In the case of the 29 sperm whales stranded in Jan-Feb of this year, in 3 different countries, we don’t have rock-solid evidence that some surveying was being done at the time. But looking at the map posted on wcfn.org, there are many future wind farm locations in the area, where surveying may have been carried out when the whales were nearby.
Whether wind farms in their operating phase could be causing whales to beach is a different kettle of fish. However, I know what infrasound emitted by land wind turbines can do to animals: http://wcfn.org/2014/06/07/windfarms-1600-miscarriages/
http://wcfn.org/2014/03/31/windfarms-vertebrates-and-reproduction/
And I know what they can do to people: I co-founded Victimes des Éoliennes (Victims of Wind Turbines) http://fr.friends-against-wind.org/victims about a year ago, and I am in daily contact with people who can’t sleep in their homes, and suffer all kinds of tortures because they belong to a minority of people who are hyper-sensitive to very low frequencies. It’s not the noise that’s a problem: it’s infrasound, which travels 50 km without losing much amplitude, goes through walls, and makes organs resonate inside the body. Imagining that it would affect whales underwater, where vibrations are magnified, is no difficult for me.
I need to take a break now. I have found the article mentioning the seven-fold increase in beachings in the North Sea. I´ll get back soon. Please bear with me.
Regards
Mark

nofixedaddress
March 8, 2016 12:37 pm

I figure beached whales are merely expressing a collective desire to claim their ancestral homelands.
Land Rights for Whales NOW.
Plus they are fed up with swimming around in seas and oceans.

The Original Mike M
Reply to  nofixedaddress
March 9, 2016 1:23 pm

Makes me wonder if seals are on a similar evolutionary path today that whales traversed ~45 million years ago?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 9, 2016 9:47 pm

Hi Willis. First let’s talk about the 7-fold increase:
“Sperm-whale strandings around Britain increased in the 1980s from an average of one a year to about seven. ”
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2016/jan/25/why-are-so-many-whales-getting-washed-up
My comments:
it says: “around Britain”, but then “pushing juvenile males further north into the North Sea”…”into the area” (North Sea again). So, here we are: more sperm whales in the North Sea accounts for 7 times more strandings, says the pro-wind Guardian. But we don’t know that the population increased 7 times as well, do we?
You’re arguing that the increased strandings are caused by increased naval traffic, particularly warships. How many? We don’t know. Now that the Cold War is over, the reverse may be true. Anyway, you say yourself that ” in most situations they (whales) just move away from the loud sound source”.
This leaves us with an unexplained 7-fold increase in strandings in the past 35 years. I tend to put the blame on oil, gas, and windfarm surveying and pile driving. If an air gun goes off near a whale, it has no time to move away: its ear and sonar system may get hurt badly, depending on how close it was to the gun.
to be continued…

March 9, 2016 9:48 pm

Question to all: how does one indent a quote in a comment?

March 9, 2016 10:17 pm

cont’d…
You wrote:
“My objection to that line of reasoning can be stated in one word: Aristotle. If we accept your idea that something is so objectionable that they ” NEED to get their ears and brains out of the water” … then what has that objectionable something been for two thousand years and more? ”
Answer: sudden events like sound and infrasound from seaquakes, volcanic eruptions, lightning, and meteorites crashing into the sea.
“1. Whale strandings have occurred throughout recorded history, and for the overwhelming majority of incidents, we know no more than Aristotle knew about the question. The number of proposed causes is quite large, and include things both inside and outside the whales.”
Answer: You recognize that the possible causes are numerous. But you don’t explain why you exclude wind farms from the list. Yet wind farm construction causes very loud noises from pile driving and from air guns (seismic surveying), much like the sound of powerful navy sonars which are known to be dangerous to whales. The wind industry itself recognizes this, and promoters respond to criticism by saying they WILL warn whales before any of these loud noises are made. But who will control this is done?
“3. Curiously, strandings are much more common among the toothed whales”
Answer: Probably because of physiological differences in their ears and sonar systems, in the frequencies they use, whatever.
“Nobody has ever shown that whale strandings are from confusion, from parasites, from infrasound, from predators, we simply don’t know. ”
Answer: That doesn’t prevent us all from suggesting answers. As you said, it’s the scientific method.
“I doubt greatly that a being that can accomplish that feat will get confused by a wind farm going thwoop, thwoop, thwoop, whether that sound might affect humans or not … “
Answer: The noise wouldn’t bother them much more than that of a boat, perhaps, but what about infrasound, what about seismic vibrations from wind turbines into the bedrock? No one has studied that. The wind industry would certainly not finance such a study. They didn’t do it for onshore turbines, because they know only too well since 1985 that wind turbines produce harmful infrasound (Neil Kelley et al. 1985).

Reply to  WCFN
March 9, 2016 10:50 pm

cont’d…
Going back to older comments you made on March 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm, you present as proof that offshore wind turbines are not noisy the fact that a study from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, says so. I have three remarks to make in this respect:
1) As I said before, noise is not the main problem where wind turbines are concerned. Infrasound is, and that was not measured by the University. The wind industry won’t let them. This leads me to my remark #2…
2) Universities are not as independent as they seem. For instance, the Aarlborg University receive research money from Denmark’s wind industry. They work hand in hand with that industry. So much so that they fired their prestigious professor in acoustics Henrik Moeller, who had the audacity to disagree with the wind industry and the government regarding low frequency noise emitted by wind turbines.
http://waubrafoundation.org.au/2014/was-professor-moller-fired-because-he-told-truth-about-wind-turbine-low-frequency-noise/
3) generally speaking, all studies on wind turbines are being financed by the wind industry, sometimes the government, or both. The results are ALWAYS exonerating the wind turbines from any negative effects of significance. It’s like government-financed climate research: don’t trust any of it, let alone quote it.
In another post (March 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm) you wrote:
“My question is, pods of whales obviously traverse the North Sea on a regular basis … so why did this particular pod strand themselves, and not one other pod that has gone through the area?”
Answer: Quite simply because, when that particular pod came about, a seaquake occurred, or a seismic survey was started, or piles were being driven into the sea floor, or lightnings caused very loud noises in the water, or a meteorite crashed… etc.

Reply to  WCFN
March 9, 2016 11:18 pm

cont’d…
Coming back to your last post (March 9, 2016 at 1:45 pm), you wrote:
“So I find it very hard to believe that the rhythmic low-frequency (<1 kHz) low amplitude signal emitted by wind farms is confusing some poor whale. There are plenty of reasons to oppose offshore wind farms, from aesthetics to economics. But I fear that whales are not among them.”
Answer: I suppose surveying and pile driving are not included in this statement. You are only talking about the operating phase of wind farms, right?
Very low frequencies, particularly in the infrasound range (0 – 20 Hz) are what makes some wind farm neighbors on land very sick. Whether they make whales sick as well is an open question. The wind industry, and governments, refuse to finance studies about wind turbines and infrasound. – WHY? Because they KNOW wind turbines produce hamful infrasound (Kelley et al. 1985-87).
Your opinion, or intuition, is that whales are not bothered by wind farms. You haven't brought any proof of it, that is why I say "intuition", and that's fair enough. Scientists should have intuition. It's essential for research. However, when you assert: “ But I fear that whales are not among them”, you are shutting the door on research. You are saying: the science is settled, because I said so.
I beg to disagree with anyone saying such a thing. Anyway, I am tired, and you are probably tired as well. I will write a new article on whales and wind farms, and post it on wcfn.org – unless WUWT would like to have the exclusive for a couple of days.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 10, 2016 6:21 pm

Willis,
You wrote:
“But the sounds you’ve listed are one-offs. If a meteorite crashed into the sea, it might scare the whales up onto the beach … but it wouldn’t keep them from going back into the water one the sound and the fright were over.”
>> Answer: We don’t know that they ALWAYS refuse to go back into the ocean. In many cases, they are dead when found. In others, they are too heavy to move..
Besides, it could be a new behavior when, and only when, human-made blasts are being repeated.
>> It could also be that the pain in their damaged inner ears and brains is more acute underwater. In that case, even one-off events would make them not want to go back underwater.
“No, the scientific method is not to guess, it is to TEST the possibilities. ”
>> Answer: You put the cart before the horse. Without a guess, without a hypothesis to test, there is no testing. And the hypothesis I propose is this one: some or all cetaceans that beach may be doing it because the pain in their damaged ears and brains (sonar cavities) is lesser in the air than under water, particularly when the blasts are being repeated (air guns, sonars, pile-driving, lightnings…). Ear pain can be unbearable, so imagine that plus acute pain in a sonar cavity, inside the head…
“True … and no one has studied whether it is gamma rays either …”
Being facecious? Why not!?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 10, 2016 6:53 pm

You wrote:
“Again, this is uncited, unsupported speculation. Might be true, might not. ”
>> Nope! There is abundant, independant literature supporting the view that infrasound emitted by wind turbines make some people sick. Even government studies from 1985-87 (NASA’s Kelley et al) and a recent one financed by a honest wind promoter in Australia (truly an exception), by acoustician Steven Cooper.
>> Anyway, under the scientific method, speculation (ie hypothesis) is the first step to take. Then comes testing. There would be no science without the first step: speculation. (or second if you want, observation coming first, obviously).
“My evidence is that we have had offshore windfarms for some years now in areas that are regularly traversed by whales. If they did confuse whales, we would have them crashing into the coast all the time … but we don’t. That is evidence that the effect, if it exists, must be very weak, or we’d see whales beaching all the time. ”
>> You’re forgetting the wind farms’ construction phase, again. If no whales happened to pass near the construction site when air guns were being blasted or piles driven into the bedrock, there would be no beachings. Besides, beachings may have occurred that were not related by the media; or that were but that nobody linked to the blasts; or that occurred days later and many miles away. How long does it take before a whale is in such pain that it decides to beach itself? (assuming my hypothesis is correct).
>> Regarding the operational phase of wind farms: cetaceans can leave the area if they feel disconfort from infrasound. So the harm done would not be lasting. The wind farms would just be reducing their habitat. But it would also add to the stress that beleaguers them since man started to hunt them, then polluted the oceans with plastic, nets, lines and hooks, noise and infrasound.
>> “RESEARCHERS say an ocean experiment that was accidentally conducted amid the shipping silence after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks has shown the first link between underwater noise and stress in whales.
The analysis was led by a New England Aquarium researcher. It showed a drop in the stress-related hormone in right whales following the attacks.
>> “THE steady drone of motors along busy commercial shipping lanes not only alters whale behaviour, but can affect the giant sea mammals physically by causing chronic stress, a study published today has reported for the first time.
>> “But over the long haul, constant elevations of the hormone due to stressful situations becomes a detriment, leading to stunted growth, a weakened immune system and a compromised ability to reproduce.”
http://austlane.com.au/a430570/root_hrefSharePath
>> So I ask: what will be the long term effect of stress on cetacean populations, given their weakened immune system?
“Perhaps you have not noticed that although you think you have trashed the study I referred to, in fact you have not said one single word about the study, you’re just casting shade on the authors … and that means nothing about the validity of the study. ”
>> If someone hands you a study on climate by Michael Mann, will you spend your valuable time reading and analysing it? (unless you want to do a thorough hatchet job).
>> I have spent 14 years analysing wind-industry-financed-studies on bird and bat mortality, and found that all modern ones are biased and cannot be trusted.
I have no reason to believe their studies on whales are any different. Hence the comparison with a Michael Mann study.
Regards
Mark

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 12, 2016 12:53 am

Willis,
In the same manner, if you google “climate change”, you’ll find mostly studies that say climate change is caused by man, and only a few marginal ones saying it’s a load of nonsense. So, if you look at that with an “objective” mindset, you’ll conclude that “97% of scientists” endorse the AGW theory. And you’ll be wrong.
In a world where politics and money are corrupting science, you can’t go around googling for studies and give credit to the ones that are published by the most reputable scientific journals. These journals are bought, or didn’t you know?
The same thing that has happened with climate change is happening with wind farms. It’s one and the same gigantic fraud. Forget about official studies on infrasound emitted by wind turbines: the only ones that were truthful were the Kelley studies published by NASA in 1985-87. Those studies were shelved in 1987 because they would have stopped the wind industry in its tracks. They surfaced again in 2015 thanks to dedicated, unpaid sceptics who dug deep and unearthed them at long last. Yet, scientific journals continue to ignore the issue, the big media ignore it as well, and the studies are only being discussed in marginal sceptic media – as is happening for studies that rubbish climate change.
I don’t blame you for believing what you read in official studies on wind farms: “97%” of people do as you do. I am just saying: careful, what you see is not what you get.
One example: you quote the conclusions of the Journal of the Canadian Acoustic Association, which start with this nonsense:
“Infrasound from wind turbines is below the audible threshold and of no consequence.”
Of course infrasound is below the audible threshold! It’s the very definition of infrasound to be below the audible threshold! How inane is that argument!
Think of it for a minute. It’s like saying: ultra violet rays from the sun are not visible to the human eye, therefore they are of no consequence.
Go to a tropical beach and offer your bare skin to the sun for a couple of hours. Then come back and tell me that UVs are of no consequence…
See what I mean?
What I am saying is: be as skeptical of official wind industry science as you are of official climate science. Both are doctored.
Two last points, which will help you realize that what I am talking about is real.
1) Only a small minority of people living near wind farms feels the effects of infrasound. Generally speaking, these are the same people who suffer from motion sickness. Nobody denies that people who are seasick are really feeling sick to their stomachs; that’s because if you’re sitting next to one in a boat, you’ll see that unfortunate person throw up. But as you are unlikely to have spent 24 hours with a windfarm victim in his or her house, you’ll be tempted to say, like the wind industry: poppycock! It’s psychological! If they made money from the turbines near their homes, they would love them!
I, on the other hand, have stayed overnight in the house of two of these victims. I am in daily contact with them by email. I am also in contact with a dozen others. I talk to Dr Sarah Laurie frequently, and to physicians and other great people around the planet who are fighting tooth and nail to get the wind turbine syndrome officially recognized (remember how long it took to get the authorities to admit there was a problem with tobacco?). I have read a number of papers from those courageous physicians, acousticians and other health professionals who are blowing the whistle on this issue. I can tell you it’s not a joke. That’s why I am confident when I say that there IS a health problem associated with wind turbines.
Another thing: this minority of people who can actually hear infrasound are the canary in the mine. The majority, which can’t hear infrasound, and sleep normally in their homes near wind farms, will feel the effects down the line as their general health deteriorates. But they won’t realize what’s causing it.
It wasn’t so bad when wind turbines were generating 500 kW, 750 kW. 1 MW.
But the modern ones with a capacity of 2, 2,5, or 3MW are emitting pulsating infrasound of much greater amplitude, making more people sick. So, imagine how much infrasound emits an 8MW wind turbine – the kind they build for offshore wind farms.
2) We’re not talking about the seemingly gentle thwoop-thwoop-thwoop you describe. We’re talking about a strong acoustical signal of about 1 Hz that is emitted by a 15-ton blade as it passes in front of the mast at over 100 mph. Did you know that blade tips travel at speeds up to 180 mph? Birds and bats don’t know that either. Looking at a wind turbine, you’d think the blades turn slowly – thwoop-thwoop-thwoop. But if you take a piece of paper, and put the rotor diameter x 3,14 x rpm x 60 minutes, you’ll discover that the blade tips are moving as fast as a formula 1 car. Few people realize that.
Regards
Mark

JBJ
March 10, 2016 5:42 am

Willis – I have a bit of a problem with this comment: “Sometimes I think that there ought to be a law that you have to have crossed an ocean by boat before you are allowed to write about sea”
I know a lot of people who cross the ocean as part of their job – many of them have a very narrow field of experience. I also know a lot of fishermen who have never crossed the ocean but have worked in the industry all their lives – they probably know more about the ocean than most people!
Also, using your analogy – those who do not work with or study whales should not be writing about them 🙂

JBJ
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 11, 2016 4:34 pm

So what knowledge do you have about whales other than reading a few papers and seeing them at sea. I have been a marine mammal observer for a long time and would really like to test you in your knowledge base, including identification skills!

Pieter F.
March 10, 2016 8:34 am

Willis: You wrote, ““bubble screens”, and how they used powerfully loud sounds to herd the anchovies into a tight ball. They said the whale clicks were about 200 decibels … extremely loud,”
Clicks are for odontocetes (toothed whales). Humpbacks are mysticetes (baleen whales). The way sounds are produced by those two groups of whales are as different as their mouth structures. In odontocetes, the clicks are created by “tapping” the forehead and mysticetes create high decibel sounds by passing air in their larynx. Large odontocetes (such as sperm whales) will use loud clicks for “sonic debilitation” of prey, whereas, the loud “screams” of humpbacks is used to herd and confuse schooling fish within the “bubble nets.”
I caution all not to generalize an entire order of mammals. To suggest that all whales mass strand is the equivalent of saying that all primates live in trees. Mass standings tend to occur in large odontocetes, such as pilot whales and sperm whales. Mysticetes, not being so gregarious as odontocetes, tend not to mass strand. If several mysticetes strand in a region over a relatively short period of time, a UME (unusual mortality event) may be investigated, but usually turns out to be unrelated events.

Gloateus Maximus
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 10, 2016 10:37 am

Gray whales also migrate in small groups and gather in large ones.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 13, 2016 6:40 pm

“It discusses all of the various theories which have been put forwards for the strandings”
>> New Zealand has no offshore oil and gas platforms, has it? What about offshore windfarms? Does its naval forces conduct loud sonar exercises?
I doubt it. Correct me if I am wrong.
>> So, its studies are only looking at natural strandings.
>> However, these include those associated with seaquakes, underwater volcanic explosions, meteorites and lightnings, which have the same effects as man made explosions and like noises (air guns, powerful sonars, pile driving).
Does the study talk about seaquakes, underwater volcanic explosions, meteorites and lightnings?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 13, 2016 7:07 pm

You wrote: “I suspect that you and the people in question are not talking about infrasound, but instead about the 1-2 Hz “thwop-thwop-thwop” sound made by the turbine blades.
>> You’re confusing sound and infrasound. “Thwop-thwop-thwop” is a sound. Its frequency is not 1 – 2 Hz, but higher, above 20 Hz because everybody can hear it.
>> Infrasound is a different animal. It travels through walls and insulated windows up to 20 or more miles, and it cannot be heard. It can be “felt” by a super sensitive minority of people, though. They feel it as a pressure in the ear, in the brain, a headache, a nausea, a fast heart-beat, a tinnitus, a difficulty to concentrate, etc. Above all, these vibrations that resonate inside their organs disrupt their sleep. They wake up in the middle of the night in a state of panic, and can’t get back to sleep. Forget about the “thwop-thwop-thwop”. I know you like the gentle sound of it. But make no mistake: “thwop-thwop-thwop” is a sound. Infrasound is something you don’t hear.
>> You don’t believe infrasound from wind turbines is hurting people because 1) you’ve never known some of the people that are affected, at Falmouth, Mass. for instance (look it up) – I mean talked to them, if not heard them cry. 2) all you’ve read when googling infrasound and wind farms are studies put up by the wind industry, all concluding that infrasound emitted by their wares is negligible.
What you actually need is an education on this complex matter. I can’t provide it to you. But if you go to http://waubrafoundation.org.au/ you’ll find all the stuff you need, including the OZ Senate hearings on the matter, and its conclusions, which are that infrasound IS a problem for residents.

March 14, 2016 10:58 pm

Willis,
There is some confusion resulting from what I believe is a site malfunction: 1) not all posts have a “reply” button, 2) some earlier posts appear as being the most recent ones. So what I´ll do is quote the date of the post I am replying to.
On March 12, 2016 at 2:14 am , you wrote:
“I have also given you two studies of underwater wind-farm infrasound,  along with a meta-analysis of all studies done on underwater wind-farm infrasound.”
>> Infrasound is not measured in these studies. Please correct me if I am wrong, quoting the words evidencing they do. It would be most surprising if they did, as the official position is that wind turbines don’t emit significant infrasound, therefore it does not need to be measured. Which is much like the position of the tobacco industry decades ago.
“So yes, infrasound (sound below 20 Hz) can indeed be audible if it is loud enough.”
>> Very loud infrasound may be heard further down the scale, possibly to 12-10 Hz. But some people who are hyper sensitive to low frequencies can hear it below that, even if not so loud. At some point they “feel” it more than they hear it. It becomes quite complex with the harmonics.
 “The issue is that the underwater infrasound is very weak, and they and a number of other scientists have measured just how weak it is.”
>> I believe you are confusing infrasound with sound. I refer you to my first reply above. Please quote the exact words that make you think they measured infrasound emitted by wind turbines underwater. It is MOST unlikely.
“If you’d like to convince people that you are right, you need to come up with:
1. A scientific study that shows that wind farm generated underwater infrasound is strong enough to be an issue, and
2. A scientific study that shows that infrasound of whatever power your scientific study says wind farms generate has an effect on whales, and
3. A study, article, or other serious analysis that provides some evidence for the giant wind-farm underwater infrasound conspiracy.”
>> You’re jumping over the phases of the scientific process. I only proposed a theory. Now it needs to be verified. Don’t ask me to do everyting at once, or give me a budget, say 40 million dollars, to hire a good team of independent scientists, the equipment etc.
>> As for point 3, I can prove (in fact I have proved) cover up and conflicts of interest regarding studies about bird mortality at wind farms. Friends of mine, who are working on the health angle, could prove to you the same corruption (call it conspiracy if you like, as in this world money creates thousands of “conspiracies” everyday) regarding infrasound emitted by wind turbines and its effect on people.
>> And as we all know here on WUWT, the biggest “conspiracy” of all is that of global warming, which is muting into climate change, and would mute into global cooling if temperatures suddenly dropped and kept dropping (which they will do, starting this year, when El Niño tapers off).
>> When scientists, whole universities, and the media can be bought, the biggest lies can be told thousands of times, and the public will believe them. Now don’t ask me to make a presentation on all these things. I haven’t got the time. I am busy enough fighting wind industry stooges all over the place.

March 15, 2016 12:30 am

Willis,
On March 12, 2016 at 3:35 am you wrote:
“What I don’t believe is that people are affected by infrasound from wind turbines “
>> So, I directed you to the Waubra Foundation, which is at the cutting edge of the worldwide fight to help wind farm victims get recognized. But in another post on March 14, 2016 at 12:48 am , you evidenced a misunderstanding as you thought you would find on their site studies about whales. No, I am sorry if I did not explain myself clearly. What you will find on http://waubrafoundation.org.au/ is the best available proof that wind turbines emit infrasound that makes some neighbors sick, really sick. And as co-founder of a group of windfarm victims in France, I can vouch personally that their suffering is real.
Continuing with your post of March 14, 2016 at 12:48 am you wrote:
“If your sonar is blown out by loud noise, you’re more likely to run aground nearby.“
>> This is not self-evident. Your sonar could be just damaged, not “blown out”. And the pain may be going crescendo. Did you ever have severe ear-pain? After 24 – 36 hours, it becomes unbearable.
Hence the strandings, IMHO.
“Second, sound in the open ocean falls off as the square of the distance. “
>> I was led to believe the opposite. Aren’t whales supposed to communicate over many miles? Isn’t the New Navy sonar so powerful it can be heard across the ocean? (see the quote and reference in my article, the one you criticized).
>> Then you go on repeating your demand that I provide you with a study proving my point etc.
As I said, my theory is that air guns or pile-driving-bangs from wind farms under construction in the North Sea damaged the ears and/or sonars of the 29 sperm whales that stranded in Jan-Feb 2016, and those of the 20-odd whales that stranded in Scotland in 2012. Severe pain is what made them seek to get their heads out of the water, hence the beachings.
I don’t believe these intelligent animals would either willingly commit suicide, or unwittingly run aground on a beach. As you rightly pointed out, orcas catch seals on the beach, and if I may add, dolphins catch fish by corraling them up the mud banks of Chesapeake Bay, where they go snap them up, their bodies half way on land. By the way, whales never run aground on rocks. Always on beaches, sand bars or mud flats. I would say they choose a comfortable place where they can rest their heads out of the water, to ease the pain. But then comes a receding tide, and their body weight slowly suffocates them.
>> This is my theory, and this report comforts me in my thoughts:
https://iwc.int/2008-mass-stranding-in-madagascar
>> Regarding the operating phase of wind turbines, we’d need to measure underwater infrasound and seismic vibrations emitted by the new, giant 8 MW wind machines. It’s a daunting task that hasn’t been done. But it is clear to me that whales and dolphins don’t need more factors of stress where they live. BTW, have you seen the latest news? The US govt is funding research into a 2,200 feet tall, 50 MW wind turbine http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-cutting-edge-windmills-20160313-story.html
Best regards
Mark

March 15, 2016 8:44 pm

Willis,
You wrote:
“I have asked you three times for the following: …” (studies proving that wind farms are dangerous for whales)
>> You’re being repetitive. Worse: as I have replied to your request at least twice, what you are telling us is that you don’t care if I reply or not, you’ll just keep repeating your mantra. That’s downright dishonest, intellectually speaking.
“We don’t know whether there was even pile driving in that area at that time. “
>> Being intellectually dishonest again! In the 2012 Scotland beachings quoted in my article*, we know that surveying had been going on in the Firth of Forth shortly before the beachings occurred. It was wind farm related, and air guns were used.
>> Dishonest too, your wriggling away from embarrassing errors you make, such as when you are confusing audible sound and infrasound. Or when you say that sound and infrasound (it’s the same to you) rapidly dissipate in water, when we know the contrary to be true, that whales communicate through many miles of water, and that potent Navy sonars can be heard hundreds, if not thousands of miles away (documented in my article). Heck, the wind industry itself acknowledged that their pile driving can be heard up to 50 miles underwater!
>> You are defending wind farms by quoting a study from windfarm-friendly Aarhus University, pretending that the said study has measured infrasound emitted by wind turbines underwater. When I reply that it hasn’t, you change the subject.
>> When I refer you to independent studies appearing on the Waubra Foundation website, you dismiss them by saying you only care about effects of wind turbines on whales, not on people. When I refer you to a well-studied mass stranding event that occurred in 2008 in Madagascar, and which offers clues about man made noise and possibly infrasound on whale beachings, you ignore it and choose to close the debate instead.
“It’s all just a brilliant theory,” you say of my article. (1)
>> Well yes, I did say it was only a theory, a hypothesis that needs to be verified. And thank you for calling it “brilliant”. But even as you recognized its quality, you are shooting the messenger, as if theories were not at the origin of progress in science.
It’s intellectual dishonesty at work, again.
Have a nice day
Mark
(1) the article I co-authored with Paul Driessen: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/03/03/are-vibrations-from-offshore-wind-turbine-farms-killing-whales/

March 16, 2016 6:36 pm

Willis,
In reply to your request, I said it would take a budget of, say, $40 million to verify my theory. At least I have the merit of proposing a novel hypothesis, ie that whales and dolphins beach themselves to rest their ears and brains out of the water, to ease the pain. Then, the low tide traps them, and they die.
Causes of the pain may be natural or man-made. Among the latter, the offshore wind industry (air guns and pile-driving).
Regards
Mark

March 17, 2016 7:46 pm

Willis,
You keep skirting the issue of air guns and pile-driving, which is central.
Regarding the operating phase of wind farms, you say “All of them (studies) came to the same conclusion—at its loudest, infrasound from wind farms barely makes it out of the background.!”
But these studies are about audible sound, not infrasound. How many times must I correct you on that?
You’re trying to kill the messenger of a new theory because it doesn’t square with existing studies commissioned by the climate-industrial complex. Hmm… !
BW
Mark

March 18, 2016 11:20 pm

Willis,
Sorry if I sounded patronizing, but you’re not innocent either in that respect.
Anyway, let’s get on…
You wrote: “You have not provided a scrap of data implicating either air guns or pile driving in whale beachings, so to date there is nothing to “skirt”.”
>> Incorrect. The article Paul and I quoted about the 2012 beachings in Scotland clearly mentions surveying with air guns for a wind farm project in the Firth of Forth, a couple of days before the beachings. Now, don’t ask me for more data than that at this stage of the game. I may, or may not, have more time to invest into the subject later on.
>> The Guardian aired a ridiculous theory to whitewash wind farms, one that isn’t supported by one iota of evidence. We denounced that in our article, proposing another theory. We are more than justified to do so, as we have at least some circumstantial evidence (the 2012 beachings). Our purpose was NOT to write a scientific paper, but a press article informing the public that there are different opinions as to why those whales beached in a huge wind farm zone. We quoted some studies and articles to support our opinion, but I repeat, we are NOT scientists, and this is NOT a scientific paper. It is in fact a rebuttal of the Guardian’s article.
“… you obviously haven’t even bothered to read what I quoted”
>> Wrong. YOU haven’t read my replies to what you quoted, eg:
you quote: “• Infrasound from wind turbines is below the audible threshold and of no consequence.”
>> This is given in the Conclusions. If you read the Methodology, you’ll find they did not bother to measure infrasound. And I told you before something along these lines: saying that infrasound is below the audible threshold is a tautology, and arguing that because of that it is of no consequence is like saying that Ultra Violet light can’t be seen therefore it isn’t harmful. Yet it can burn your skin to a toast.
>> The two other quotes from the other studies use the same inane argument. They only care for audible sound. It it’s not audible, they pretend, it’s not worth bothering about, let alone measure it. These silly arguments attract the same answer as above (the example of the UV’s)
Best wishes
Mark

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