In April, as tsunami warnings hit the Indonesian and Sri Lankan coasts, sea-watching photographer and filmmaker Andrew Sutton of Britain was off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. He and his crew were watching and photographing whales who suddenly and completely vanished. The humans on the boat were not aware of why and were not aware that anything such as an earthquake had happened. The sea life, though, apparently sensed the subsea seismic shocks and disappeared to safer waters.
Suddenly and Completely Vanished
A recent Guardian article, Can Whales Predict Tsunamis, poses the question: “Could cetaceans act as canaries in the sea, as advance alarms of potentially dangerous seismic activity?”
Of course, it seems that they could.
Have you listened to a CD of whale sounds? Their sounds are healing, nourishing, educating to the spirit. Whale communication seems all-knowing, as if they chant about their work, recording the accounts of the world. If only there were more humans protecting, knowing, and engaging with these creatures — there would be more synchronicity with their ways.
“Both the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes of last year were preceded by mass cetacean strandings on beaches in these respective islands,” Philip Hoare of the Guardian writes. “And a recent scientific report from Mexico appears to prove that a fin whale accelerated sharply away from the site of an underwater earthquake.”
Although there has been too much exploitation and ongoing abuse of whales, there is also the clear relationship of love between humans and whales. They are greatly appreciated among scientists, naturalists, shamans (as we found in Whale Rider), and activists. Perhaps we will someday find a way to use their guidance, their instincts, for earlier natural disaster prediction. Instead of hunters, bringers of death, we will find a way to develop a kind and earnest scientist/naturalist awareness and relationship with the whales.
While the whales above made off like a flash into another part of the sea, their gentle, large kindred spirit — the elephant — might also have been instinctively aware of the natural disasters way before us humans.
Do Elephants and Whales Predict Tsunamis?
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne’s story in the Sunday Times takes quite a different approach to deciphering how much whales, and also land animals, are aware of natural disasters before us humans. His story, Do elephants and whales predict tsunamis?, remains a bit more skeptical but all the while inquiring.
Silva Wijeyeratne is an interesting storyteller in regards to the whole inquiry. “It was 7.20 am, several hours before a tsunami alert was issued at 2.30 p.m. on April 11, 2012 by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. I was on a game drive with my family as guests of Mahoora who operate luxury tented safaris. The Mahoora driver Priyantha and I had never seen anything like this before. The agitated tusker emerged mysteriously from a grassy plain onto the road and solemnly marched in front of the vehicle leading us along Meda Para, away from the low lying Gonalabbe Plain and the sea beyond it. The task completed, it disappeared into the thorn scrub.”
Silva Wijeryeratne wonders, however, if we are hoping for these predictive qualities in elephants more than it is actually found in them. Nonetheless, he wonders in a very good storytelling style, so read more via the link above if you are interested in that.
Leaning back on the Guardian story, some facts do remain. I think that, as we find in the story Whale Rider, the whales who heal with their sounds have more to offer: “Both the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes of last year were preceded by mass cetacean strandings on beaches in these respective islands. And a recent scientific report from Mexico appears to prove that a fin whale accelerated sharply away from the site of an underwater earthquake.”