The other day we had news of a couple of whale strandings. The first of these occurred up north and, with the help of a huge team of volunteers, it was possible to save about two thirds of the pod. The second though occurred over on Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, a very remote location. The whole pod died, more than 100 Pilot Whales. There’s something about Farewell Spit that makes it a real death trap for whales, strandings are quite common. But is there something more sinister going on?
The reports reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago. It began when I was contacted by a reporter from Radio New Zealand, asking if I had seen a report in the morning newspaper about sewage from Sydney. I had not. She explained that a “scientist” opposed to the construction of a new ocean outfall to handle Sydney’s sewage was claiming that ocean currents would bring the waste all the way across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand was already feeling the effects of the present discharge from Sydney. It was causing whale strandings in Golden Bay and the country’s first ever toxic algae bloom. Both events were in the news at the time.
I referred her to an oceanographer friend, actually the director of the NZ Oceanographic Institute, asked for a copy of the story and assured her she could come back to me if she still needed help. Shortly afterwards a fax arrived. Shortly after that, she was on the line again. She didn’t get much from NZOI. The only quote she had was “Oh dear, I would really like to see the evidence for that statement!” I explained that was scientific speak. It meant “rubbish!” (or words to that effect).
But the story had reminded me of an incident which occurred a few months earlier. An earnest young man had visited the Cawthron Institute, urging us to begin some research into cetaceans. Eventually, no doubt a result of some effective empathetic listening on my part, he confided in me. He explained that there was a node in the Earth’s magnetic field directly above Farewell Spit. Aliens were using this on a regular basis to extract energy from the planet. However, the process interrupted the navigation systems of whales, hence the large number of whale strandings there. Any other possible causes for whale strandings put forward by me were dismissed as extremely unlikely.
I told the reporter that I was strongly reminded of this visit when I read the newspaper report. “That’s fantastic!” said the reporter. “Can I get that on tape?” “Why not?” I thought. So the next morning on national radio, the first item after the eight o’clock news, there was a clip of the Director of the Cawthron Institute talking about aliens. Unfortunately, the irony was lost on some listeners and I got quite a few letters on the topic.