This video from England says about itself:
A sperm whale died on Hunstanton beach on Friday January 22 2016 after becoming stranded in shallow water. Video: Peter Naylor, Schoolhouse Digital Ltd.
Today, another sperm whale beached near Hunstanton. People are trying to save its life, but is uncertain whether they will succed.
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Friday 15th September 2017
PETER FROST considers whether the 29 whales beached around the North Sea recently were dazzled by the Northern Lights
IN JANUARy 2016 I reported in these pages large numbers of young but large sperm whales beaching of around the North Sea coast of Britain. The 29 strandings across Europe generated many diverse theories among scientists.
Sperm whales live in deep, warm-to-temperate waters all around the world. Were these strandings due to global warming, hungry young whales venturing after food or any of another dozen theories?
Now German research scientists have come up with a new theory which, when I first heard it, had all the appearance of a very hippy-sounding tall tale.
The whales, it seems, had been lured ashore following the Northern Lights — the Auroras Borealis.
Coincidentally there had been some remarkable sightings of the northern lights last week all across Britain, very unusually as far south as my home in the Midlands. Could those beautiful shimmering green curtains of light really be the cause of the sad deaths of some of our rare whale visitors?
Digging a little deeper I wasn’t too surprised discovered that that some of the whale stranding story was overimaginative interpretation by the tabloid science and environmental correspondents — but buried deep in their copy were, it seemed, some nuggets of truth.
In fact the theory turns out to be based on some very interesting research published by Dr Klaus Vanselow, from the University of Kiel in Germany, in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
Vanselow and his colleagues believe the multiple strandings could have been triggered by solar storms in December 2015. The geomagnetic disruptions may have confused the whales’ ability to navigate, diverting them into the shallow waters as Northern Lights are a visual manifestation of those solar storms.
Sperm whale strandings in the North Sea are rare, but younger bulls are more likely to be misled by solar storms because they have not yet learnt how to adapt to magnetic disturbances.
The Earth’s magnetic field can be stronger in some places and weaker in others and whales are generally able to read these anomalies.
The Kiel university theory is backed by the fact the animals spend their early years in the lower latitudes — the southern hemisphere — where disruptions by the sun are weak, hence the lack of experience of this phenomenon.
In less than a month in early 2016, 29 sperm whales were found stranded on the coasts of Germany, the Netherlands and France as well as Britain.
It seems these young inexperienced whales may have become lost in the southern Norwegian Sea and become stranded in the shallow North Sea.
Solar storm disturbances to the magnetic field only last about one day — but that was all that was needed to cause these whales to take a wrong turn.
We have had, last year and the present, many good sightings of the Northern Lights, including good sighting from Wales and East Anglia and even more southerly locations.
These solar storms are known to damage communication systems and satellites and some scientists have observed interference with animal, bird and marine mammal navigation in the past.
Many of last years beached whales normally live around the Azores in the eastern Atlantic as they are attracted by the deep and warmer waters.
As the young males reach between 10-15 years old (an average lifespan will be 70 years) they head north towards the Arctic, attracted by masses of squid — a favourite food.
As we get more and more sun spot activity and thus more and better Northern Lights shows, will we get more whales ending up on Europe’s beaches? We can’t be sure but it still means these giants of the ocean need all the help they can get in the fight to survive.
While we do all we can to protect these threatened behemoths of our blue planet, other countries behave differently.
Here is a bit of a round-up of those doing what they can to reduce the reign of these monarchs of the sea.
Norway: Despite the International Whaling Commission moratorium on whaling as far back as 1986, Norway continue the bloody slaughter.
Japan: Japan continues to hunt Antarctic minke whales under a misnamed scientific whaling program, disregarding a 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice. During the 2015-16 season Japanese whalers killed 333 whales, including more than 200 hundred pregnant females.
Iceland: Just like Norway, Iceland continues the killing of whales and ignores world opinion and the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium.
Denmark: The Faroe Islands, part of Denmark, still carry out their traditional and bloody slaughter of whales and other marine mammals. Small boats round up schools of whales and drive them into traditional bay sites for the killings. Men and young boys jump into the water and cut the whale’s throats using long knives.
South Korea: National and international laws prohibit whaling in South Korea but if fishermen accidentally catch a whale, they’re allowed to sell it. Authorities recently raided a cold storage unit and found more than 27 tons — about 40 whales’ worth — of so-called accidental whale meat worth £2.5 million.
Greenland’s Inuit: Hunters in Greenland hunt the rare narwhal and he who spears the animal gets the privilege of eating it. Known as the unicorn of the sea, narwhals were prized during the Middle Ages. Today hunters in Canada and Greenland hunt them for food, skin and their tusks, which are often turned into expensive souvenirs.
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (Russia): A curious international arrangement allows indigenous hunters in both the Chukotka region of the Russian Far East and in Washington state in the US to hunt the grey whale under special permission from the International Whaling Commission. These indigenous people are allowed hunt up to 744 eastern north Pacific grey whales from 2013 until 2018.