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No. 38: Mar-Apr 1985

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Whales And Dolphins Trapped Magnetically

Joseph L. Kirschvink, of the California Institute of Technology, has plotted the hundreds of beachings of whales and dolphins along the U.S. east coast. He finds that these cetaceans tend to run aground at spots where the earth's magnetic field is diminished by the local magnetic fields of rocks. These coastal magnetic lows are at the ends of long, continuous channels of magnetic minima that run for great distances along the ocean floors. Kirschvink believes that the stranded whales and dolphins were using these magnetic troughs for navigation and failed to see the stop sign at the beaches and ran aground. The mag-netic troughs in this view are superhighways for animals equipped with a magnetic sense.

If Kirschvink's theory is correct, the magnetic sensors of the whales and dolphins are extremely sensitive, because the deepest magnetic troughs are only about 4% weaker than the background magnetic field. Magnetite crystals have been found in birds, fish, and insects, where they are thought to contribute to a magnetic sense of some sort. So far, no magnetite has shown up in whales and dolphins.

(Weisburd, S.; "Whales and Dolphins Use Magnetic 'Roads,' Science News, 126:389, 1984.)

From Science Frontiers #38, MAR-APR 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987