New hope for stranded whales in Florida

Rescuers have been successful in coaxing some of the stranded pilot whales to deeper waters in the Everglades National Park (Florida). However this success is still marred by tragedy as eleven animals are now confirmed dead.

It is currently unclear why the whales beached themselves. Researchers are exploring many potential reasons including changing ocean currents and water temperatures as well as possible infections with Morbillivirus.

The situation remains tense as the animals that were led to deeper waters may return and end up stranded once again.

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To understand the relationship between sonar and whales, dolphins, or porpoises, one has to know that these marine animals have quite a good vision (depending on the species you're looking at). However, beneath the surface of water, their vision does become slightly impaired due to light rays being refracted by the waves on the surface. This is where sonar comes into play...a whale in this case, emits its own sound waves -sonar- at a certain frequency. the sound waves are then reflected off an object and return to a receptive organ in the whale, thus, the whale is able to visualise prey, and its surrounding environment from a further distance.

How does the sonar affect the whales? Well, basically the sound waves emitted by the ships are at a higher frequency than the sound waves emitted by the whales. These sonar waves produced from the ships interfere with the sonar waves of the whales, and hence, the whales are unable to detect their surroundings before it's too late. For example, in March 2009, 200 whales were beached on one of the beaches in Australia whereas on the odd occasion you would get one beached whale. Many people were left baffled about the drastic occurrence, and some had even believed that this was a symbol of "doomsday" approaching. After much research, scientists had discovered that these whales were migrating as a pod, when a ship nearby emitting sound waves had interrupted with the whales' sonar. The whales were then lost from their normal travelling field and before they could realise it, they were already too close to the shore to turn back, and as a result, they had become beached.

By Fabian Henley … (not verified) on 03 May 2014 #permalink

Rescuers are doing a really good job in trying to coax the whales further into sea even though it is a difficult task because non of the whales want to leave the other behind. Its quite fascinating how these whales stick together even in near death experiences, humans could clearly learn a lot from the bound of the whales. it would be so much more convenient to find an alternative method of coaxing the whales into sea, because we've lost quite a lot of whales already. It would be really sad if whales had to be extinct.

By u14108161 (not verified) on 03 May 2014 #permalink