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Blackfish and mind control

The powerful documentary Blackfish is discussed in this previous post.

That post noted that Blackfish is an important film on many levels.  One of those levels, of course, is the question of the treatment of the orcas shown in the movie, especially in light of the evidence that these amazing and intelligent creatures are highly social, highly emotional, and -- by almost any definition of the word -- sentient.

But -- as important as that question is -- another very profound aspect of the film is the question of how this kind of treatment could have gone on for so long and been not only tolerated but bathed in a kind of wholesome glow by the public at large.  After watching the film, one asks oneself how it is possible for almost all of us to have collectively failed to see through the glamorous spectacle to the foundation of captivity and exploitation that propped it all up?

While there has always been a vocal but relatively tiny minority trying to bring attention to the moral issues surrounding the keeping of orcas and other intelligent sea mammals in captivity, most of us (and I include myself in that group) did not really think too much on the issue until the movie Blackfish came out.  So, one really important question that this fact raises, it seems, is the question of how something that (in retrospect) is so wrong could have gone largely unnoticed and unremarked-upon by so many for so long.  How could we all have been so collectively "hypnotized" that we didn't really "snap out of it" until the movie Blackfish snapped us out?

This question is related to the question of "mind control," which this previous post asserted can be thought of as the opposite of "consciousness" -- the kind consciousness which John Anthony West described as that thing whose acquisition the ancients believed was the goal of our existence in this life, during an important 2008 interview.  What techniques of hypnosis so clouded our judgment that it basically hid the question of captive orca shows behind a smokescreen and kept us from paying serious attention to it, until the film Blackfish blew the smoke away?

The question has important ramifications for other areas of our lives, especially if we suspect that there are other areas where we are collectively hypnotized and where the shouting of a vocal but relatively tiny minority seems to be having no effect.  Remember that in the previous post on mind control, master pickpocket and "gentleman thief" Apollo Robbins told us that "Actually, it's often the things that are right in front of us that are the hardest things to see -- the things that you look at every day, that you're blinded to."

One of the most powerful aspects of the Blackfish movie is the courageous testimony of the former trainers who, as young men and women, were employed to perform in the orca shows and who now have reached the conclusion that what they were participating in was wrong.  Their testimony about the experience is not one-sided, either: they talk about the remarkable experience of bonding with the animals, the excitement of participating in amazing shows in front of crowds.

I can very much relate to their mixed emotions as they reminisce about the good aspects of their time in an industry they now see as including a very dark underside, because I myself spent a large portion of my young adult years in the US Army, and can testify to the very same kinds of memories of camaraderie and amazing experiences, even though I now have a completely different perspective regarding the bigger picture of what the young men and women in the military are being used for.

Very early in the film (near the 2-minute mark, in fact) there are several interview clips in which trainers reflect on the circumstances that attracted them to the idea of becoming a trainer in the first place.

More than one of them mentions the spectacle of seeing a show themselves, when they were young (perhaps as a child, or as a teen).  One of them specifically tells about seeing "the night show at Shamu Stadium" and describes it as being "very emotional, you know, popular music, and I was very driven to want to do that."

The footage of the shows themselves gives the viewer a chance to see some of the components that he is talking about, and they are the same as those that surround the public face of the military in many countries (certainly in the US): there is music, there is costume (with all the trainers typically dressed in distinctive wetsuits, which are all the same), there is the attractiveness of youth (young men and women in their 20s or early 30s, fit and active and fearless in the face of danger).

What is it about this kind of pageantry that turns us from critically-thinking, analyzing, conscious human beings into a roaring crowd?  There is certainly something going on with these components of pageantry that are used by the producers of orca shows, or by the military in its parades.  Maybe it is related in some way to the concept Apollo Robbins discussed in his talk on "misdirection" and pickpocketing -- getting the part of our minds that he calls "Frank" to turn around, to access our memory bank, during which time "Frank" cannot monitor the incoming signals in the same way that he normally does.

This is not to say that spectacle, pageantry, or being part of a cheering crowd is inherently wrong -- it's not.  But seeing the way it can be used to throw up a sort of "smokescreen" to our analytical reasoning, it might be a good thing to be aware of its power as a potential tool for "mind control." If you happen to be watching Blackfish with teenaged children, for example, you might point out the fact that more than one trainer mentions such shows as having a very powerful impact on their career choice, and you might discuss together other areas where these elements might be used to turn off the critical judgment that seems to have been so sadly lacking in the analysis of the orca captivity question for so long.

Another mind control tool mentioned by a trainer in a powerful piece of testimony (shown in the clip above) is the use of ridicule to quell dissent and to shut someone up who is raising questions about the morality of behavior that they perceive to be wrong.

In the clip, which begins around the 36-minute mark in the film itself, former trainer Carol Ray is describing the heartbreaking story of the decision made by the park management to permanently separate the young whale Kalina (the first orca successfully born in captivity, on September 26, 1984) from her mother Katina, and the grief that Katina exhibited after they took her child from her.

Speaking of the young whale Kalina, Ms Ray ruefully relates:
It was decided by the higher-ups that she would be moved to another park when she was four, four-and-a-half years old -- and that was news to us as trainers that were working with her.  To me it had never crossed my mind that they might be moving the baby from her mom.  The supervisor was basically kind of mocking me: "Oh, you're saying 'Poor Kalina'?" You know: "What's she gonna do without her Mommy?"  And, you know, that of course just shut me up.
How many of us can relate to Carol's experience of having someone else shame them into going along with something that we knew was wrong, or not continuing to speak out against it?  The mocking that she is describing can be very powerful.  Again, this is the kind of thing that -- if you're watching Blackfish with your children, for example -- you might point out to them afterwards, so that they can be forewarned and forearmed when they come up against that sort of pressure in their own lives (and they most certainly will).  Children of even a fairly early age will probably already be able to relate to this subject from personal experience.

Radio show host and teacher Mark Passio has a lot to say about the subject of mind control in all of its various forms, and he discusses the subject extensively on his radio programs and videos.  His podcast archive contains hundreds of his previous broadcasts, and he gets into this subject almost right away in some of the very first episodes in the series.  If you go to his website and go back to the very beginning of his podcast archive, you will find that he gets into this subject right away, and that at around podcast number 12 he launches into a formal investigation of fourteen of the most common techniques of mass mind control -- fourteen!

One very attractive aspect of Mark Passio's talks is his willingness to utter what he calls "three of the most powerful words in any language: I WAS WRONG." They are words that I myself have had to admit about a lot of beliefs I have held in the past. The courage of the former trainers interviewed in the Blackfish video who, by their participation in the documentary, are effectively saying the same thing is to be commended, and cannot be overstated.

The very first mind control technique that Mark Passio discusses in his list of the fourteen most common is the technique of obfuscation -- making a subject seem complicated when it is really very simple.  Again, the Blackfish documentary provides an outstanding opportunity to study this very concept.

It might seem that the question of whether keeping orcas in captivity and forcing them to perform for their meals of frozen fish is a complicated subject, one with many nuances and not something that can be turned into a black-and-white, cut-and-dry issue.  After all, as some people bring up in the film, seeing orca shows at marine parks can inspire millions with a love of the oceans and of the magnificent marine life that they see at the marine parks but might otherwise never see.  In response to the film the major participants in the marine park industry have put forward some of these arguments, which you can read for yourself here and here.  You can also read about some other responses they have sent out through publicity agencies, and you can read some counter-arguments or rebuttals to their arguments here, and here, and here.

A great example of cutting through the obfuscation to get to the very heart of the issue can be seen in an interview that comes in the Blackfish film just after the Carol Ray discussion of Katina and Kalina shown above.  In that interview, which is found around the 38-minute mark in the film, former trainer John Hargrove is discussing another incident in which a young orca was separated from its mother, and the heartrending cries that the mother made when her baby was taken from her.  The whales in question were Kasatka (the mother) and Takara (her daughter):
When they separated Kasatka and Takara, it was to take Takara to Florida.  Once Takara had already been stretchered out of the pool, put on the truck, driven to the airport, Kasatka continued to make vocals that had never been heard before.  They brought in the senior research scientists, to analyze the vocals.  They were long-range vocals.  She was trying something that no one had even heard before, looking for Takara.  That's heartbreaking.  How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?  It's not.  It is not OK.
John Hargrove is right.  The issue is just as clear and as simple as that.  And, by extension, the whole issue of keeping sentient, intelligent orcas whose natural habitat is the entire ocean for years and years in small constricted tanks (Katina has been in captivity since October of 1978) for our amusement is not morally acceptable -- it is wrong.  To say that some good outcome, whether it is "greater awareness" or "scientific research" justifies such long-term captivity and mental torture of the whales is reprehensible. In fact, to claim that the best way to foster widespread love of the oceans and of ocean life is to do the things to the whales that are revealed in the film Blackfish, and to imprison them for life, is grotesque.

These questions about the orca question are pretty well settled by the documentary.  But the questions that it raises about us, about our ability to be asleep to things about which we should be outraged, those questions are not settled by the movie at all.  They are stirred up and left for us to ponder.

About what other things going on right in front of our very eyes, day in and day out, can we ask with former trainer John Hargrove, "How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?"

Exposing the for-profit prison industry -- of orcas

Blackfish (2013) is a powerful and deeply disturbing documentary about the amazing whales known as orcas or killer whales, and the story of orcas in captivity.

The documentary centers around the life of a captive male orca named Tilikum, who was taken from the wild at a young age and turned into a performance whale.  The film explores the impact that decades of captivity and confinement have on the whale, and the tragic consequences.

The story of the capture of killer whales in the wild is heartbreaking, especially when the film documents the extraordinary loyalty and affection that orcas demonstrate within their family units (pods).  The scenes of the capture of baby orcas shown during the film is particularly disturbing in light of the descriptions given by Howard Garrett, an orca researcher and the co-founder and director of the Orca Network (bio on this page), beginning at about the 24:00 mark into the film (he can also be seen in the trailer clip above at about 1:09).  He explains:
They live in these big families.  And they have lifespans very similar to human lifespans.  The females can live to about a hundred, maybe more; males to about fifty or sixty.  But -- the adult offspring never leave their mother's side.  
Each community has a completely different set of behaviors.  Each has a complete repertoire of vocalizations -- with no overlap.  You could call them 'languages.'  The scientific community is reluctant to say any other animal but humans uses languages, but -- there's every indication that they use languages. 
Note that these aspects of orca society correlate very strongly with scientific research discussed in this earlier blog post entitled "Dolphins and Consciousness," in which dolphins appear to call to one another using specific "names" -- indicating that dolphins are aware of the individual identities of other dolphins, and that they are aware of their own identity as well.

Several scenes in Blackfish seem to demonstrate the same thing in killer whales -- only instead of the cries of joy and recognition which were recorded in the dolphin study, these orcas are seen issuing plaintive cries of bereavement and grief when their children or their mothers are taken from them.

The behavior of the orcas when being rounded up for capture indicates highly intelligent awareness and even levels of tactics which seem to indicate conscious thought -- and to indicate that the whales had learned from previous encounters with humans and formed plans that might be effective based on what they had seen before (Herman Melville described the same sort of deliberate tactical planning in Moby Dick):

Blackfish also centers its focus on the tragic loss of life of two young trainers when Tilikum deliberately seizes them and drags them under the waters of the tank -- incidents which took place at two different theme parks in two different countries, twenty years apart.  Another young person was apparently killed  when he snuck into the park and stayed overnight, and decided to enter Tilikum's tank.  It also focuses on the horrible death of another young trainer in a similar incident with a killer whale at a park in the Canary Islands, as well as other non-fatal attacks which are shown in horrifying video footage.  

The poignant reflections of former trainers who participated in performances with those whales and who now regret the treatment of these intelligent mammals by the theme-park industry is juxtaposed with callous and blatantly false statements and court testimony from the theme park's corporate representatives and executives, who are seen changing their story several times to try to cover up the systemic problems inherent in keeping orcas in captivity for decades and making them perform for handfuls of fish.  One of the park's representatives goes so far as to speak for the deceased trainer and say that if she were speaking today she would insist that the attack was her fault.

Blackfish is an important film on many levels.  

The film's ability to convey the absolutely eye-opening information about the sentience and level of individual care and affection which seems to characterize the relationships that these majestic animals form with one another is a tremendous achievement in and of itself.  

The bravery of the former trainers (and former whale-hunters) who told their stories, and who were big enough to admit in front of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people that what they did in the past, which at the time they thought was right, they now see as being wrong, is also profoundly moving.  

The expose of the cruelty of an industry which places animals in captivity for its own profit, and which forces the most intelligent of those animals to perform for audiences, and then tries to argue that the life these sentient beings have is better than what they would have in the wild, should ignite a firestorm of outrage and lead to people demanding change, as well as a lot of self-reflection as to how we (each of us) could ignore and even support such inhumanity without so much as a second thought.

But the film raises questions that go even beyond these.  The more we reflect on it, the more doors it seems to open onto other aspects of modern life which should elicit some soul-searching.  

The film's up-close profile of orcas might cause us to examine our whole relationship with animals, and the world-view which sees their exploitation for entertainment or a host of other purposes as completely acceptable simply because of their position in the "food chain."  For other posts which touch on some of these issues, see here and here.

The evidence presented in the film of callous attempts by corporate representatives to cover-up and sugar-coat the full truth surrounding the tragic deaths of the young trainers who were working for their company "on the front lines" (so to speak) invokes uncomfortable parallels with other hierarchical structures in which those at the top display little or no loyalty to those at the bottom of the pyramid.  The company's willingness to blame the trainers who lost their lives, saying it was their mistake alone and in no way indicates any kind of a systemic problem, is despicable -- but it is sadly not unfamiliar.  Readers of Tom Wolfe's classic nonfiction examination of the test pilot programs of the 1950s and 1960s, The Right Stuff, will find the automatic institutional blame of the deceased victim to be eerily familiar (and more recent examples could be mentioned, but viewers of Blackfish can probably come up with several on their own).

Finally, for all of us who have enjoyed killer whale shows -- either as children growing up or as parents taking our children to see them -- the film causes some very uncomfortable reactions.  Those shows cannot be all bad, can they?  There is something very magical about the interaction of human beings with wild animals, especially wild animals who are as beautiful and intelligent as orcas (or dolphins, or elephants).  But the revelation that these shows are built on a foundation of absolute imprisonment and exploitation of those majestic creatures is unavoidable after watching Blackfish.  

The cognitive dissonance that this realization generates should cause us to question what else in our world we accept uncritically -- hypnotized perhaps by the glamorous costumes, the thrilling music, the grandiose spectacle -- but which is actually built upon a foundation of absolute imprisonment and exploitation?

Surfing and Herman Melville's Moby Dick

In surfing, as in almost every other human endeavor, situations often arise in which there are a limited number of resources (in this case, ridable waves) which are seen as desirable by a large number of people (in this case, surfers who wish to ride those waves).

Even though there are no official government policemen sitting in the lineup to keep "law and order," surfers do not erupt into violence every time they are faced with crowded conditions, fighting over every wave that arrives.  Instead, a simple and effective informal "code" arose among surfers many decades ago, which enables surfers to peaceably cooperate so that everyone has an opportunity to catch waves.  

The etiquette basically dictates that when two or more surfers want to catch the same wave, it belongs to the surfer who takes off on the wave first and "deepest" -- that is to say, closest to the point at which the wave begins to break (the "curl" of the wave, where the blue or green water breaks and turns white and foamy).

In the image below, for example, two surfers have caught the same wave.  Surfer A, to the right as we look at the picture from our perspective, has caught the wave slightly before another surfer, Surfer B, seen to our left as we look at the picture.  Surfer A has caught the wave first, but even more importantly, he is closer to the curl of the wave, which can be seen fanning out to the right (as we look at the image -- the curl is really to the left of Surfer A as he rides the wave, because the wave is "a right" from his perspective: he is riding to his right, and Surfer B is to his right down the line of the unbroken wave).

In this case, the wave rightfully belongs to Surfer A and Surfer B is "dropping in" on Surfer A by taking off along the line that Surfer A wishes to follow, a line which proceeds down the still-unbroken  (green) barrel of the wave, away from the breaking curl of the wave.

This code is so well-known and so widely-used that it has been written about many times.  It is explained quite clearly on the world-renowned Surfline website, in a web page entitled "Don't drop in on or snake your fellow surfer." However, it is important to note that this widely-followed piece of surfing etiquette did not arise because it was first written down as a rule or passed as a "law" somewhere: it arose naturally among surfers as an effective way to govern the allocation of relatively scarce resources (waves) among relatively crowded conditions (in the image above, you can see that there are quite a few surfers at this particular break -- you can see several in the water to the left of the letter "B" as you look at the picture).

In fact, the situation in the image above had a happy ending: Surfer B realized he was about to drop-in on Surfer A, and he rapidly turned back over the wave to get out of Surfer A's way.  You can see this taking place in the images below.  In image 1, on the left, Surfer B is dropping in, and then in image 2, a split-second later, Surfer B turns and disappears back over the lip, leaving the wave to Surfer A:

This example of a natural code of etiquette arising among individuals who operate in an environment where there are no actual policemen or lawyers or other representatives of government, and yet who are able to peaceably allocate scarce resources amongst themselves, brings to mind the chapter in Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851) entitled "Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish."  There, Melville writes:
Perhaps the only formal whaling code authorized by legislative enactment, was that of Holland.  It was decreed by the States-General in A.D. 1695.  But though no other nation has ever had any written whaling law, yet the American fishermen have been their own legislators and lawyers in this matter.  They have provided a system which for terse comprehensiveness surpasses Justinian's Pandects and the Bylaws of the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other People's Business.  Yes; these laws might be engraven on a Queen Anne's farthing, or the barb of a harpoon, and worn round the neck, so small are they.
I.  A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it.
II.  A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.
In fact, it is remarkable that the code here articulated by Melville is precisely the same code which arose among surfers, it requiring only the substitution of the word "wave" for "fish" to admirably summarize the code of wave-catching etiquette just described.

Many philosophers have advocated the need for a political state -- often defined as an entity which maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force -- by arguing that in the absence of a state, mankind would fall into a state of complete violent chaos.  This view was most famously and influentially argued by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan, published in 1651.  There, Hobbes argued that in the state of nature life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."  The last three words of this phrase have become almost universally known and cited.

However, the examples of the surfer's code and the whale fishery tend to refute this view of mankind's inherent brutishness.  Both activities (surfing and whaling) are conducted outside the reach of normal laws and legislators, and in both cases the participants "have been their own legislators and lawyers."

Proponents of voluntaryism and some forms of libertarianism (among others) argue that the institution of states actually leads to greater levels of violence and more "brutishness" than would occur in their absence.  While they don't generally cite either surfing or Moby Dick as evidence in favor of their arguments, it seems possible that they could.

The use of an example from the immortal Moby Dick is not meant to imply that the author of this blog in any way condones the killing of whales.  To the contrary, several previous posts have discussed arguments against the regular slaughter of animals for food or any other purpose -- see for instance:

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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In the previous post, we looked at evidence which indicates that bottlenose dolphins give themselves distinctive individual names, and the implications of that startling revelation.  In particular, the recent studies indicating individual self-awareness in dolphins may cause us to consider in a new light the violence done to animals every day:
Thinking about the fact that dolphins appear to "give themselves names," it seems that doing violence against dolphins really highlights what Simone Weil wrote in her treatise against violence, that it "turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing."  It turns, as she says, a "somebody" into "nobody" -- it robs its victims (and ultimately its perpetrators as well) of their personhood -- the very thing that an individual name represents!  
This subject appears to resonate strongly with the themes explored in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (first published in 1798 and revised slightly by Coleridge throughout his life -- here is an online edition of the 1834 version).  The poem describes the aftermath of the mariner's unthinking and callous killing of an albatross, which has reverberations which reach into the supernatural world.

Readers who are unfamiliar with the poem should read it in its entirety -- it really deserves several close readings in order to perceive the layers of detail and meaning woven into the poem by the artist.

The first appearance of the Albatross is framed in the poem in a manner which hints at the theme at hand:
At length did cross an Albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hailed it in God's name.

In light of the fact that we now have scientific evidence of animals giving themselves personal names, this is a very interesting commentary by Coleridge.  He has the Mariner describe the Albatross "As if it had been a Christian soul," a phrase which hints at the truth and yet -- by the inclusion of the framing words "as if" -- shows that the Mariner and his fellows deny that level of "personhood" to the bird.

Note that in English culture, individual names are linked to the possession of an immortal soul, and in previous generations were often referred to as one's "Christian name." 

In an act of senseless violence, of which he repents later, the Mariner shoots and kills the Albatross.  The act itself is not described at all -- the Mariner only blurts out the confession that he did it, without giving any description of his motives or frame of mind.  Prior to his confession of guilt, the listener in the poem (the Wedding-Guest) elicits the confession by noting the visibly evident anguish that comes over the Mariner as he describes the daily visits of the cheerful bird, which visits the ship "for food or play," forming a close bond with the crew:
'God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—

Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow

I shot the ALBATROSS.

Just prior to this, the Mariner was describing the role the bird seemed to play in guiding the ship through the ice at the South Pole (more on this in a moment), and in bringing "a good south wind" to propel the voyagers past the pole and into the Pacific Ocean on the other side.  By detailing these images, and giving no extended description of the shooting itself, the reader receives an even more powerful impression of the thoughtlessness of the killing of the friendly Albatross.

The deed, of course, has fateful consequences.  As Simone Weil wrote in her famous 1940 essay, "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force" (available in its entirety online here, translated into English from the original French by Mary McCarthy) the use of force reduces both its object and its perpetrator from a being possessed of a soul into "a thing":
Such is the nature of force.  Its power of converting a man into a thing is a double one, and in its application double-edged.  To the same degree, though in different fashions, those who use it and those who endure it are turned to stone.  22.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem extends this concept to the animals around us and, by extension, to the natural world and in fact the entire universe.  This idea is a hallmark theme of the Romantic movement, of which The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is often considered an opening work of art.

The extension of the pain inflicted by the Mariner's thoughtless shooting of the Albatross to the extended universe, by the way, is present in the poem.  In a "waking dream" state (described by the Mariner as a "fit" he has fallen into), the Mariner hears two spirits discussing his guilty deed:
'Is it he?' quoth one, 'Is this the man?

By him who died on cross,

With his cruel bow he laid full low

The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself

In the land of mist and snow,

He loved the bird that loved the man

Who shot him with his bow.'
The "spirit who bideth by himself" had been perceived by the crew earlier as the being who "nine fathom deep beneath the keel" was impelling the ship along the seas on its strange journey.  Thus, the Mariner eventually grows to understand the full import of his deed -- not only was he wrong in denying a "soul" to the bird, but his senseless destruction of the friendly creature brought pain not only to the bird but to the Spirit of the world of ice who also delighted in the Albatross.

Later, the Mariner receives an absolution of sorts when he, without even knowing why he does so, perceives the beauty in the sea creatures swimming in the wake of the vessel, and blesses them:
Within the shadow of the ship

I watched their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

They coiled and swam; and every track

Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessèd them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.
This marks a major change from his initial description of the Albatross (marked by the words "as if") and shows us that he now believes the animals around him -- and the natural world that they inhabit -- are worthy of being blessed (a word, of course, which carries obvious spiritual implications).  To underscore the significance of this change in the Mariner, he tells us that at that moment he is able to pray again, and the body of the Albatross, which had been hung around his neck like "a cross" falls off of him:
The self-same moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea.
Above is an illustration of an 1870 edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Gustave Dore, who provided 43 fantastic illustrations for the poem.  It depicts the Albatross leading the ship through the towering ice as it crosses through the southern regions.  The voyage is described as going south (the ship sails with the rising sun to the left) and then through the ice into the Pacific, after which the ship goes to the north (with the rising sun to the right).  In other words, on this amazing journey, the vessel appears to sail right through Antarctica as if it were all ocean and no land!

The reason the ship is able to pass through the pole without any mention of land, only mighty bergs, is significant.   The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was first written in 1798.  As Graham Hancock demonstrates in Fingerprints of the Gods, the continent was only "discovered" again in 1818, although it had clearly been known in previous ages and appeared on some Renaissance maps.  Thus, it is not surprising that a poem first penned in 1798 would treat the ocean at the South Pole as if it were essentially like the ice-bound ocean we find at the North Pole.

Interestingly enough, Professor Charles H. Hapgood proves in his landmark work Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age (first published in 1966) that ancient maps, following cartographic conventions of some lost civilization, depict extremely accurate renditions of Antarctica, some even appearing to demonstrate knowledge of the Antarctic coastline before it was bound in ice as it is today.  This information actually appears to support the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown (see discussion in this previous blog post on the topic).

Finally, it is also noteworthy that the evocative illustration by Gustave Dore depicted above appears to incorporate clear parallels to the images of the Orion Nebula which scientific instruments would not be capable of recording for another hundred years!  Readers of Danny Wilten's amazing work on the Orion Nebula and art (including the frescoes of Michelangelo) will immediately recognize in the Gustave Dore illustration above many of the elements that these works have in common with each other and with the Orion Nebula.  For a previous blog post on the subject, see "Danny Wilten and the Orion Nebula."  

In particular, in the Dore illustration from the poem, there is an arch, as well as a "glory."  In his e-book, Mr. Wilten demonstrates that a bird is sometimes present in the glory, such as in the Adoration of the Trinity from around 1647 - 1649, a work of art which Mr. Wilten discusses:

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We can also see parallels to the details of modern satellite telescope imagery of the Orion Nebula in other works by Gustave Dore.  Below is a comparison of Gustave Dore's Creation of Light (circa 1866) to the imagery of the Orion Nebula (taken in 2006 with the Hubble Telescope):

Readers of Mr. Wilten's e-book will notice the obvious presence of the "crescent moon" motif in the correct position of Dore's engraving (the "9-o'clock" position), found in all of the art discussed in Mr. Wilten's e-book (beginning on page 27; he does not discuss Gustave Dore specifically but gives so many other very clear examples that this phenomenon cannot be dismissed as coincidence).

This resonance between art and universe is really quite incredible.  In conjunction with the theme of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, it can perhaps only be interpreted as further confirmation of the message of the poem.  In other words, not only are the animals and birds around us, and even the icy waters of the Antarctic infused with "spirit," but the rest of the universe as well!

Dolphins and consciousness

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Here is a link to an amazing new report on research that has been ongoing since 1984, recording the vocalizations of individual bottlenose dolphins (and including recordings going back to 1975).  Published on February 20, 2013 in the online Proceedings of the Royal Society B [Biology] and entitled "Vocal copying of individually distinctive signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins,"  the report demonstrates that bottlenose dolphins appear to develop their own signature whistle patterns, and that the animals will call out to other bottlenose dolphins with whom they have close relationships using the signature pattern of the other dolphin!

This is an astonishing discovery.

The report states:
Bottlenose dolphins produce a large variety of narrow-band frequency-modulated whistles and pulsed sounds for communication [12]. As part of their repertoire, each individual also develops an individually distinctive signature whistle [13,14] that develops under the influence of vocal learning [1517]. Individuals listen to their acoustic environment early in life and then develop their own novel frequency modulation pattern or contour for their signature whistle [15]. The result is a novel and unique modulation pattern that identifies the individual even in the absence of general voice cues [18].
The report goes on to explain that, while rare, instances in which other dolphins "copied" the signature whistle pattern of another dolphin have been observed in enough instances to suggest that it is not caused by chance. The researchers explain, "It has been argued that copying of signature whistle types is equivalent to addressing other individuals."  

The authors studied the dolphins extensively to try to determine whether the whistle copying was for affiliative (what we might call "friendly" or "bonding") purposes, aggressive, or deceptive purposes.  The research strongly suggests that this whistle-copying is affiliative.  For example, the researchers write, "The results of a permutation test clearly showed that signature whistle copying occurred between closely affiliated pairs of animals (p = 0.0006)."  They also state, "Frequent copying of signature whistles would therefore render the identity information of the whistle unreliable. The rare copying of signature whistles may, however, be particularly suited to addressing close associates [2325]."

Here is a Discovery News article which discusses the report, entitled "Dolphins call each other by name."

The implications of this report are profound.  It clearly indicates individual consciousness among these dolphins.  Not only are the dolphins aware of their own identity, crafting "their own novel frequency modulation pattern," but they are also aware of the specific identity of their fellow dolphins, sometimes calling out the name of another with whom they are closely bonded.  In one case, the report describes two bonding dolphins calling out one another's whistle patterns in a back-and-forth manner, with one dolphin doing so 13 times and the other 11 times!

While the report's authors declare that this self-naming behavior and bonding behavior is the result of Darwinian natural selection, that is complete conjecture on their part (based, of course, upon their assumptions about the origin of dolphins).  No evidence is presented in the report that dolphin species were observed before they evolved this behavior, and then were watched as they did develop this behavior (with those that did not develop it being killed off by natural selection prior to passing on their DNA).  Thus, the report's author's are engaging in conjecture when they write:
Bottlenose dolphins live in fluid fission–fusion societies with animals forming a variety of different social relationships [20]. This social organization, coupled with restrictions in underwater vision and olfaction, has led to natural selection favouring designed individual signature whistles [12,14] instead of relying on the by-product distinctiveness of voice features [19].
It is possible that there are other explanations for this behavior besides "natural selection favouring" it.   For example, it is possible that consciousness originates somewhere outside of physical beings, and that our brains transmit consciousness, in a way analogous in some manner to a radio or television which transmits a signal that originates elsewhere.  This possibility has been discussed in earlier posts such as this one, which also pointed to a fascinating examination of the topic by Chris Carter entitled "Does Consciousness Depend on the Brain?"  

In that case, as some have suggested, animals have varying capacities of transmitting consciousness, some possessing brains that are more capable of rendering a "clear transmission," and some less capable of doing so.  Dolphins may possess brain structures that are capable of channeling a very high level of consciousness, such that they actually give themselves names and know the names of their loved ones.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that consciousness does exist outside of the brain, and that it does continue on even after the physical death of the body, just as the destruction of an individual television or an individual radio does not destroy the radio or television broadcast that was being received by that device.  Other posts that have explored this subject include "One of the most famous NDEs ever caught on film," "The ideology of materialism," and "A heartfelt portrait of John Blofeld from Daniel P. Reid."  

In fact, it is probably safe to say that there is at least as much evidence for this hypothesis than for the natural selection hypothesis, and that we have just as much right to conclude that dolphins vocalize the names of themselves and others because they are intelligent beings manifesting consciousness than because natural selection favored the survival of those who designed signature whistles.

Further, because dolphins have been known to surf, which is one of the highest activities that a conscious being can participate in, I think that we can argue that this hypothesis has a lot going for it.

I have surfed with dolphins before myself (or rather, I have been joined by dolphins while surfing), and had them playfully swim right under my board at high speeds in groups of three, and I can attest that they project a powerful sensation of their own consciousness (as do many other animals).  This study adds a whole new dimension to that evidence, and it should really cause all of us to reflect on the implications of this new information.

For example, in light of this new knowledge, is it really ethical to keep dolphins in captivity against their will?

How about training them to perform in live performances or play parts in television shows and movies?  Or conscripting them against their will to serve in the military?  Or killing them for food?

Thinking about the fact that dolphins appear to "give themselves names," it seems that doing violence against dolphins really highlights what Simone Weil wrote in her treatise against violence, that it "turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing."  It turns, as she says, a "somebody" into "nobody" -- it robs its victims (and ultimately its perpetrators as well) of their personhood -- the very thing that an individual name represents! 

This subject really points to the violence that is perpetrated against many other animals under various excuses, all of which were condemned by many ancient philosophers, including Plutarch and Ovid.  There is evidence that many other species of animals manifest consciousness to varying degrees (see for instance "Moving report of elephants mourning . . . ").  In light of that thought, should we be disturbed by the horrendous treatment meted out to animals destined for slaughter and conversion into food products?

This new information about dolphins who give themselves individual names is truly amazing, and the researchers who brought it to our attention should be commended for doing so.  It also appears to have many important ramifications which are worth pondering deeply.

For sale: one ancient Whale Brain, fossilized

How's this for a want ad?
For sale: one ancient Whale Brain, fossilized (needs good home -- for a good cause).  Only one other remotely like it known to exist anywhere in the world.  Incredibly important, with enormous implications for geology, ancient history, and the entire historical-geological-biological paradigm.  Slightly used.
Here is the rest of the story.  As reported earlier this year in a story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, this amazing fossil was found by one of two twin sisters named Pepper and Peaches, in a streambed on their family's ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County (in California, near the Pacific Coast almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles).

Pepper discovered the skull about nine years ago, and did not realize that it was a fossilized whale brain at first.  Thinking it was a common coral fossil, it appears she used it as a doorstop for several years (see this writeup from the Beatrice Daily Sun -- Beatrice being a small town in Nebraska not far from the even smaller town of Burchard, where Pepper O'Shaughnessy lives [she found the fossil in San Luis Obispo on the family property]).

Then, in the fall of last year (2011), Pepper's sister Peaches Olson -- who still lives in San Luis Obispo County -- saw a photograph online of another fossilized whale brain which had also been found in the same county.  That one was found in 1940, and it too was unknown to the world until about four years ago, when its owner Bob McGillivray of Templeton (in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County) brought it to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where paleontologists examined it and determined that it is indeed the fossilized brain of a whale.  When Peaches saw that, she told her sister, who took the fossil (now located at her home in Nebraska, where it sat on the mantle when not being used to stop doors) to a local university paleontology professor.

He recommended that Pepper take it to the specialists in Los Angeles, so she put it in a sack and flew out to her home state.  According to the story in the Beatrice paper, both she and the paleontologists in LA were in for a surprise:
“When I went to California with this brain I was just carrying it in a sack and when they picked it up, they said, ‘lady, do you know what you have here?’ and I told them I’d been using it as a door stop for nine years,” Oshaughnessy said. “The jaws dropped at that point. Brain coral is worth about $20 so I thought I would keep it as a conversation piece and when they told me what it was I about fell over.”
As senior paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Los Angeles museum explains in the same article: “It’s an amazing specimen because brains don’t fossilize because of their soft tissue.  The first thing I said when I heard about this finding was that there’s just no way. They brought it in, and sure enough, it’s the second of two fossil whale brains.”  In the video above, Howell Thomas can scarcely conceal his delight upon showing the fossilized whale brain to marine biologist Chuck Rennie, who has not yet seen the fossil at the beginning of the video.

Prior to the opening of the box containing the fossil brain, Dr. Rennie explains how amazing it is that the brain could have been fossilized, since the heat of a decaying marine mammal usually liquifies the brain quite rapidly -- so rapidly that dead whales today are rarely found with their brains intact for very long.  In fact, as Dr. Rennie says beginning at about 0:30 in the above video, "It is not common to see a reasonably intact brain in a stranded or dead marine mammal."

As both articles cited above explain, Pepper hopes to use the fossil to raise money to fund a west coast branch of the Brucker Biofeedback Center, which uses new and innovative techniques and technologies to help those with serious neurological disabilities, including victims of spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, encephalitis, myelitis, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, and Bell's Palsy, among others.  Her niece, the daughter of her twin sister Peaches Olson, was a patient at the Brucker Center (located in Miami, Florida) after a car accident nine years ago.  They hope that by finding a philanthropic buyer for this extremely rare fossil, they can raise some money to "get the ball rolling" towards the creation of another Brucker Center to serve patients on the other side of the continent.

The first article cited above (from the San Luis Obispo Tribune) notes that a Tyrannosaur skeleton sold for $8.36 million in 1997, and that "There are lots of T-rex fossils, but there are only two known fossilized whale brains, and the Olsons’ specimen is the most complete."  It is hoped that the buyer would donate the fossil to a museum for further study.  The brain can enable biologists and paleontologists to study differences (and similarities) between the fossil brain and the brains of modern cetaceans.

The rarity of a soft-tissue fossil such as a brain makes this fossil incredibly valuable to science (for more on rare soft-tissue artifacts, see this previous post).  I sincerely hope that the family will find a generous philanthropic buyer who will donate it to science, and that funds will be raised for the worthy cause they are working on.

I also believe that this whale fossil may turn out to be even more valuable than anyone suspects right now!

Its value is certainly driven by its rarity, but it may be valuable in ways that go far beyond that, because this whale brain fossil may fit into a much larger picture involving other whale fossils, and point the way to a radical re-evaluation of geological theories and ancient history. 

Back in December of 2011, I wrote about the incredible plethora of fossilized whale skeletons found in the Atacama Desert of Chile, located some 20 or 25 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean (along the path of the Pan-American Highway aka Route 5), in one of the most arid deserts in the world.  I wrote then that these fossils may be best explained by the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown.  In that post, I noted that other fossil whale skeletons had been found in San Diego and also in Paso Robles, California.

While geologists operating under the conventional paradigm of gradual tectonic drift are at a loss to explain the fossil whales of the Atacama, they fit with the hydroplate theory explanation quite well.  That theory argues that the continents are not gently drifting at nearly constant rates for millions of years, but rather that they slid quite rapidly one time, in the events surrounding a catastrophic global flood.

Dr. Brown explains in his book (a version of which is available for reading online), the direction of motion was generally towards the Pacific basin.  When the sliding continents came to a halt in accordance with the principles of physics, there was violent upheaval, buckling, crumpling, and thickening of the continents, just as there would be in the hood of a truck driven into a wall, creating the terrain features we see around us on our planet today. According to that explanation, the mountains along the Pacific edge of North and South America would have been caused by this event, and as they rose up, water would have rushed violently off, generally towards the Pacific. 

At the same time that I was writing that, Dr. Brown was also writing about those amazing Atacama whale fossils in his annual Christmas letter to his readers, sent out that same month.  About the same time, he added some discussion of these important fossils in his book, which can be found in the inset box entitled "A Whale of a Tale" on this page of his online version, towards the very bottom of that particular page (scroll down almost to the end).

As Dr. Brown explains:
The rapid continental drift phase ended with the compression event, the sudden compression, crushing, and buckling of crashing hydroplates. Mountains, such as the Andes, were pushed up within minutes. Evidence of that compression event can be seen in Figure 49 on page 112, in thousands of similar places on earth, and in all the "Seashells on Mountaintops" that are explained on page 49. Not only did part of the seafloor rapidly rise to become the Andes Mountains, the overlying water rose as well. It then drained down the rising slopes and back into the sea, sweeping with it stranded sea creatures and drowned land animals. Larger animals (whales, etc.) tended to become lodged in these streams, while smaller animals (fish, etc.) were swept into and out of ponds created by large animals damming up the flow. Sediments (especially diatomaceous earth easily swept off the rising sea floor) filled these ponds, fossilizing the larger animals.  Mystery solved. 
Now, these two fossil whale brains from San Luis Obispo County -- both found many years ago but only recently coming to widespread awareness -- may fit in to this important "whale fossil pattern" that stretches all the way from the California coast to the Atacama!

Below is a Google map of San Luis Obispo County, where these two extremely improbable (from a conventional framework) fossils were discovered, showing the terrain features using Google's "terrain" option. 
ad more here:

The county is informally divided into "North County" and "South County" based on terrain, separated by the raised "cuesta" geological feature and connected by Highway 101, which runs through a gap in the cuesta known as the "Cuesta Grade" (marked by a yellow arrow in the map below).  While much of South County is nearly at sea level (or up to about 300 feet above sea level), North County is much higher, with Paso Robles sitting at about 750 feet above sea level, and the uplifted ranges in between reaching elevations of about 1,100 feet or a little higher.

You can click on the map to enlarge the image.

Note that the ranges in several places do appear to display the characteristics of a cuesta, in which the sedimentary strata have been tilted upwards, often creating long parallel ridge lines sometimes known as "hogbacks."  The hogbacks of the California coast and their relationship to the hydroplate theory were discussed extensively in this previous post.  There are also long hogbacks under the water just off the coast running all the way up the California coast, from San Luis Obispo County to Half Moon Bay and also north of San Francisco as well (these hogbacks create patterns that appear to be part of the bathymetry that makes the famous big waves at Mavericks break the way they do).  

The first fossil whale brain, found in the 1940s and now in the possession of Mr. McGillivray (he has generously placed it on loan to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for study), is from a toothed whale (perhaps a sperm whale) and was found in the North County, in the region marked with a black oval at the top of the map above.  The second fossil whale brain, sometimes called the "Olson specimen," was found in South County (probably South of the city of San Luis Obispo itself).  

The fact that these two incredibly rare soft-tissue fossils were found in relatively close proximity to one another seems very significant.  It also appears significant that there are other fossil whale skeletons found in this same county -- as mentioned in my previous post, there is even a winery called Whalebone Winery in North County's famous wine region, very close in fact to the area where the first whale brain fossil was found, so named because of the fossil whale bones found on the property.

However, the "authorities" will probably not piece together all these pieces of evidence to come up with a compelling explanation for this mystery, because they are operating under a geological paradigm which may in fact be completely incorrect.  Just as in a Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo mystery, that will require someone coming from "outside the box" and looking at the evidence from a different perspective.

Here is how I would piece together the clues in this case to form a possible narrative to explain the fossilized whale brains:

Just as described by Dr. Brown in the passage above regarding the fossil whales of the Atacama, the coastline where these brains were found experienced extreme forces that created rapid buckling and uplift.  Along much of the California coast, this buckling created long parallel "hogbacks," and in San Luis Obispo County, the Cuesta Grade runs right through a cuesta formation that is evidence of this violent upheaval.  A cuesta or hogback is formed by the sheared-off layers of tipped-up sedimentary layers -- see the drawing entitled "Monocline with hogbacks" that is the second image down in this post on hogbacks.  That drawing fits the terrain at Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay in California, but it is also applicable to the geology found in the San Luis Obispo area as well.

You can see some evidence of hogbacks in the terrain imagery of this close up of San Luis Obispo County and south, below:

Going just a bit further south along the coast from this image, there is even more evidence of exposed sedimentary layers.  According to the hydroplate theory, these geological features are evidence of violent forces present at the end of the sliding of the continents, rather than evidence of very slow geological processes acting over millions of years the way the conventional theories currently teach.  Note that in other posts (and in the Mathisen Corollary book itself) it is shown that the ongoing alignments of very ancient human constructions such as Stonehenge, Newgrange, the megalithic temples on Malta and the Giza Pyramids provide additional evidence that the current theories of ongoing gradual tectonic drift are incorrect.

Below is one more map showing evidence of the violent buckling experienced by this leading edge of North America (according to the hydroplate theory), geological evidence that is germane to our investigation of the cause of the fossilized skulls:

The uplifted terrain caused sediment-rich water to pour violently towards the Pacific Ocean, carrying the unfortunate sea life along with it.  As Dr. Brown explains in the passage cited above, smaller fishes and sea creatures washed all the way out to the Pacific, but many large creatures including whales would not have been so successful, getting trapped along the way by their huge bulk, particularly among the maze-like patterns that are evident in the terrain of San Luis Obispo County.

In the North County, where the first fossil skull was found, there are numerous little valleys and microclimes that create a superlative wine-growing region.  The soil is also very calcareous (there is in fact a winery called Calcareous not far from the location of Whalebone Winery and not far from the North County skull fossil's discovery), conducive to growing wine grapes.  The whales that now make up the fossils in that area were probably trapped (along with tons of sediments) in this "washboard" of nooks and crannies.  The map below is a close-up of the area where the North County skull was found in the 1940s.  The San Luis Obispo Tribune story states that it was found where Halter Ranch (now a winery as well) is located today.  All three points are marked on the map below (Halter Ranch, Calcareous, and Whalebone):

Looking at the map (click to enlarge, or better yet go to Google Maps and look up Paso Robles, CA and turn on the "terrain" button and explore the wine-producing area all around it), one can easily see how whales carried along with torrents of water might have gotten trapped in the maze-like terrain and been buried in the sediments that still form much of the soil there today.  In fact, if you look at the terrain in the area of the arrows above (and zoom in on those areas using Google Maps for yourself), you may get the feeling that the entire area looks a bit like a fossilized brain, or many little fossilized brains!

According to this thesis, then, the whales were rapidly buried and preserved (this is a requisite for almost any fossil, by the way -- for more discussion see also this previous post).  Because these whales met a rather violent death, it is possible that in some cases their bodies were torn apart in the process.  In the case of these two fossils, the power of the rushing water and the violent contact with whatever terrain they ended up lodging in may have ripped open their bodies, exposing the brain and skull (the force of the water being not quite powerful enough to rip their heads clean off).  As more calcareous sediments piled up over them, the limey chalky blanket preserved and fossilized the brains.

Although this thesis may sound shockingly different from anything expected under the conventional paradigm, note that the conventional paradigm has an exceedingly hard time explaining these fossils.  Note also that the hydroplate theory neatly connects the whale-fossil evidence found in the Atacama as well as in San Luis Obispo, and that in fact the fossils are about the same distance from the coast in both cases, and on elevated terrain that is thick with calcareous sediments.  The fact that the two brains are from different types of whales (the North County specimen being a toothed whale and the South County belonging to a baleen whale) is also consistent with the Atacama mass-whale graveyard site, which contains many whales of both types, and which may be another indication of a connection between the fossil evidence in Chile and in California.

Further, note that the geological terrain of San Luis Obispo County and surrounding regions fits the hydroplate theory explanation (with its evidence of powerful upheaval, which conventional theorists attribute to slow tectonic uplift but which the hydroplate theory attributes to the same violent circumstances that led to the death and burial of the whales).  Finally, note that when Dr. Brown was developing and publishing this theory, neither the fossil whales of the Atacama nor the fossil brains of San Luis Obispo County were known -- these whale-fossil clues were found later, and they fit the theory extremely well.

In other words, it may turn out that the discovery of this second whale brain proves that the first was not just some archaeological fluke (ha ha), but a critical piece of a continent-spanning series of whale-related clues.  This evidence powerfully supports the hydroplate theory, in addition to all the other varied evidence from around the globe (and indeed from around the solar system). 

With all that in mind, it appears that Pepper O'Shaughnessy's doorstop is actually an invaluable find -- one that might help rewrite the history of our planet, and of the human race.

We should all wish her and the Olson family the very best in finding a buyer for this incredible artifact, and continued recovery and health for Tara Olson as well.  

Please share their story as widely as you possibly can.

The fossil whales of the Atacama Desert

Scientists are at something of a loss to explain the recent discovery of beautifully preserved fossil skeletons of large whales and other ancient marine creatures in the Atacama Desert of Chile, one of the world's most arid locations.

In June of 2010, during a highway widening project that is now on hold, paleontologist Mario Suarez was called in to supervise and prevent damage to any fossils, which had long been known to be present in the area, according to this Associated Press article describing the site. However, he was astonished by what began to emerge: skeleton after skeleton, now totaling more than 75 whales, including at least 20 perfectly intact skeletons, most of them of baleen whales around 25 feet in length, plus at least one sperm whale.

"In the first week, about six or seven whales appeared," Suarez is quoted as saying. "We realized that it was a truly extraordinary site."

The location of so many fossilized marine skeletons in a single location -- let alone in the Atacama Desert -- has posed something of a challenge for scientists using conventional geological assumptions. Nick Pyenson, the curator of fossil marine mammals for the Smithsonian, says he believes that "they died more or less at the same time."

Some hypotheses that scientists have come up with so far to explain the massive graveyard include an ancient lagoon in which whales and other marine life gathered which was suddenly sealed off from the ocean by an earthquake or a storm, or a giant wave or tsunami which flung the whales onto the shore and well inland. Some have suggested that massive numbers of whales may have beached themselves for some reason and perished, although the location in the high desert more than a half mile from the current shoreline indicates major geological uplift since that time. Other scientists believe that the skeletons may have accumulated over a long period of time, although exactly how or why remains a mystery.

The first question which should be asked in considering these fossils (and all the other fossils around the world) is the question of how anything forms a fossil at all. Under normal conditions, whales which die in the ocean or on the beach do not form fossils -- their remains are completely decomposed by bacteria and chemical action.

The unusual conditions required to form fossils are discussed in this previous post, which notes that the vast majority of fossils around the world exhibit evidence of rapid burial under thick sediments, conditions which would have taken place during the events surrounding a catastrophic global flood as put forward in the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown.

Explanations which rely on gradual processes similar to those which we can see going on around us in "normal" non-catastrophic conditions (such as the idea that the whales were trapped in a lagoon which slowly evaporated and left a fossil graveyard) do not account for the fact that under such conditions no fossils would be expected to remain at all.

The hydroplate theory, however, accounts for massive flows of sediments, tons of which would have infused the floodwaters escaping at high velocity during the rupture event, sediments which would then have blanketed the earth and which would have become sorted by the process of liquefaction during the flood. This process would account for the geological strata found around the globe and the sedimentary rocks which hold the world's fossils, including the whales of the Atacama. It would also clear up the problem of human remains found in strata which conventional paradigms label as hundreds of millions of years old (which conventional researchers generally ignore but which have been found in great numbers in places around the world).

It is certainly possible that many great whales and other marine creatures were overwhelmed by the onslaught of sediment-infused water during such a catastrophic event, and that many of these fossil graveyards ended up at the forward edge of the sliding continental hydroplates which slid away from the original rupture towards the newly-created Pacific basin.

There are other indications of fossil whales along what was the leading edge of the continents sliding towards the Pacific, for instance in California. In September of 2010, for instance, crews contracted by the San Diego Zoo were in the process of digging a hole for a new water tank when they encountered the fossilized skeleton of an ancient baleen whale, which conventional archaeologists declare to be 3.5 million years ago (no doubt based upon assumptions that the sediments were laid down in successive layers over millions of years, rather than during a single catastrophic event). This video shows the San Diego whale skeleton being preserved and moved by paleontologists.

Further north in California, there are numerous fossilized whale remains in the wine country around Paso Robles. One winery, Whalebone Vineyard and Winery, takes its name from this fact, and features a fossilized whale skull near its tasting room.

The hydroplate theory explanation would fit with Dr. Pyenson's suspicion that the ancient whales of the Atacama died at the same time, although there is no indication that he is aware of or partial to the hydroplate theory. In fact, if the hydroplate theory is correct (and there is extensive geological evidence which appears to support it) then it would be accurate to say that almost all of the animals and plants which produced the world's existing fossils "died more or less at the same time."