Monday 10 June 2019

What is killing the grey whales? Dead gray whale radiation levels were higher than many of the salmon and halibut Bill Laughing-Bear has tested off the coast of Alaska

Bill testing the whale for a radiation reading

Dear Gary and Readers of The Big Wobble,

Greetings from Alaska once again. On the second of June, I had to make a road trip which took me along Turnagain Arm and rounding a bend on the Seward Highway, just right before a bridge on one of the tributaries, I noticed on my right, a gray whale that was lying dead on top of the silt. I had heard that several whales have recently died and people had asked if radiation was a possible cause. The “Authorities” had said, “absolutely NOT!”
Driving slowly by, I counted approximately two-dozen cars examining the whale. My first thought was, “I should test this thing for radiation.” But seeing all the people, I decided it would be best to do it when I would have more privacy. I just so happened to have with me my meter (a Quarta,  Radex, model RD 1503, made to test gamma radiation in homes, offices, food products, construction materials, soil and etc.).

A few hours later on my trip back home, I pulled over to test the whale. I had two major concerns. One is that the silt on Turnagain Arm has been the cause of death of many people over the years because they get stuck in it and drown. It seems like every year we lose at least one person. I could see the water was pretty much surrounding the bulk of the whale’s body and decided I would not be able to get good readings further down the body of the whale because I would need to wear my waders to stay dry and they can be difficult to get out of when stuck in the silt.

The second major concern I had was that the rotting whale reeked. Bears love dead meat. And I had heard rumours that bears had been down by the whale. A friend who was with me told me they would take a picture but I made sure we were prepared to defend ourselves, in the event we encountered an unwanted visitor while backing away from it with a 12-gauge shotgun with slugs and a sidearm.

Regrettably, as the picture shows, I could only – without getting my boots wet – take a scan of the whales tail. As I had suspected, the whale definitely read positive for radiation. The radiation levels were higher than many of the salmon and halibut levels I have tested. I pondered – since I am not a marine biologist – “would the readings be higher up toward the stomach area of the whale?” I could not go into the water that far to test it. I am planning to return in a few days when the tide is out and assuming the whale will still be there, for more in-depth readings along its length. I will also bring Vicks to shove up my nose because the stench will almost make a person vomit. I can positively state that this gray whale was radioactive and although I do not know if that was the cause of its death, I am highly suspicious it was a factor.

I do not believe this is the only whale that has recently died that was radioactive. As of today, I have not been able to find one salmon or halibut that was not radioactive. I guess I’m not eating any more Muktuk (whale blubber)!

I apologize it has taken me several days to get this article to you. As readers of The Big Wobble know, I am dependent on dictating over the phone to my Mum to write my articles and she has been unavailable. I have been made aware there are some readers of The Big Wobble who would like to help me obtain a computer that would not place me at high risk of having seizures, due to my Photo-sensitive Epilepsy, and would allow me to stay in direct contact with you, Gary, with my articles and research. Whether or not that ever becomes a reality, just the thought warms my heart greatly.

That’s it for now!

Bill Laughing-Bear

Alarmed by the high number of gray whales that have been washing up dead on West Coast beaches this spring, the federal government on Friday declared the troubling trend a wildlife emergency. The declaration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - technically, the agency dubbed the deaths an "unusual mortality event" - kicks in a provision of federal law that provides funding for scientists to figure out the cause when such die-offs of marine mammals occur, from whales and dolphins in the Pacific or Atlantic to manatees off Florida. 
So far this year, at least 70 gray whales have been found dead and stranded along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska - the most in nearly 20 years, scientists from NOAA said Friday. 
In recent weeks, whales have washed up in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. On average about 35 of the giant marine mammals wash up dead on the West Coast in a year, or around three per month. Last year, 45 were found. But the average number found dead for the first five months of the year on the West Coast is 15, so this year is seeing five times the average rate. "There have been juveniles but adults as well. There have been males and females. It's been all across the board at this point," said Justin Viezbicke, NOAA's California Stranding Coordinator. 
The last time this many gray whales were found dead off California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska was in 2000, when 83 had washed up by May 31. That year, 131 died. Scientists say they don't yet know why the whales are dying, although many have been found malnourished, leading to theories that warmer ocean waters from climate change might be disrupting their food supply, particularly in the Arctic. 
"We are seeing lots of live gray whales in unusual locations, clearly emaciated, trying to feed," said John Calambokidis, a research biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington. Among those unusual locations: San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles Harbor and Puget Sound, he said. Closer to shore, whales are more at risk from dying by being hit by freighters, oil tankers and other large commercial ships. 
The whales that wash up dead on the shore may represent only 10 per cent of the whales that are dying in the open ocean off the West Coast. "Most whales and especially emaciated whales will tend to sink when dead," said a NOAA expert. "So the numbers that wash up represent a fraction of the total. The vast majority go unreported."


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