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    On the navigation of whales
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2008 Apr 2, 17:31 +1100

    From: Bonner N, 1993, "Whales of the World", Blandford, pp115/6:
    Live strandings ... show a distribution that is related to an
    important, but little known, geophysical pattern - the total
    geomagnetic field of the Earth. Margaret Klinowska has shown that all
    the British live strandings occur where geomagnetic contours cross the
    coastline at right angles. She suggests that the whales use the total
    geomagnetic field as a map, using not the directional differences (as
    we do with a compass), but the small relative differences in total
    The total geomagnetic field fluctuates in a fairly regular manner each
    day, and it is possible that whales use these fluctuations as a timer
    to tell how long they have been travelling, coupled with a learnt or
    instinctive tendency to follow a field of constant strength, that is,
    to follow a geomagnetic contour. This ability might be the basis of a
    system of whale navigation.
    Klinowska noticed that live strandings tended to occur on days on
    which the daily fluctuation had been obscured by solar activity or
    other irregular changes. On the south coast of Britain, strandings
    occurred two days after a magnetically disturbed morning, while on the
    north coast it was about a day and a half later. Looking at the
    geomagnetic map, she discovered that there were two major geomagnetic
    crossroads near the United Kingdom, one about a day and a half's swim
    from the Scottish coast, the other about two days from the south
    coast. This suggested to Klinowska that the doomed whales made their
    mistake while still some distance from land, but then swam on
    regardless, following a contour till it lead them, not past the coast,
    but straight onshore. This theory could account for the often observed
    fact that beached whales, when towed back out to sea, swim to the
    shore once more. They are, it seems, convinced that is the right
    direction in which to travel.
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