Dead Humpback Whale Found in Amazon Jungle Baffles Scientists
Scientists are baffled by the discovery of a 26-foot-long humpback whale in the middle of the Amazon jungle, on Marajó Island in northern Brazil. The 10-ton male calf was found some 50 feet from the ocean shore, lying in the middle of a tropical mangrove where it will decompose as experts have no way of reaching it with heavy machinery.
The juvenile whale was estimated to be about a year old and is believed to have been separated from its mother during a migration, before washing up on shore in a storm. But how it landed in the middle of the thick jungle growth that far inland is still a bit of a mystery.
Scientists’ only guess is that a storm may have somehow flung the creature into the forest, though the details don’t quite add up. The animal’s carcass is relatively unscathed, and researchers are unable to reach it with bulldozers. So, how did a storm toss this behemoth of an animal that far, or push it into the jungle without leaving a clear path of destruction?
Renata Emin, project leader at the Bicho D’agua Institute, told Brazilian news publication O Liberal, “We’re still not sure how it landed here, but we’re guessing that the creature was floating close to the shore and the tide, which has been pretty considerable over the past few days, picked it up and threw it inland, into the mangrove.”
Adding to the mystery is the fact that humpback whales are almost never seen in this particular region at this time of year. According to Emin, it’s common to see them on the country’s southern coast from August through November, but rarely do they travel the hundreds of miles north to the mouth of the Amazon in February. Something strange certainly caused the not-so-little guy to get lost.
Scientists were alerted to the animal’s presence when they noticed flocking birds of prey scavenging on its carcass. And because of the animal’s peculiar and confined location they will allow it to decompose before eventually removing the bones to be displayed at a local museum.
In the past there have been bizarre meteorological phenomena that cause fish and other animals to rain from the sky during intense storms or tornadic waterspouts, though animals as large as whales have never been reported.
And while it’s more likely that a storm led to the animal being violently pushed inland, fans of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, might instantly harken back to the scene when a sperm whale is suddenly called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet, questioning the point of its existence – and body parts – as it plummets to the ground.
Maybe scientists on the ground in Brazil should also be on the lookout for a shattered bowl of petunias.
For more on the mystery of animals raining from the sky watch Out of the Blue from Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World:
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Earth's Magnetic Field is Shifting and Geologists Don't Know Why
Something strange is happening with the Earth’s magnetic field and scientists are unsure why, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nature. A consortium of geologists in charge of the World Magnetic Model is having trouble keeping track of the planet’s magnetic north pole as it rapidly shifts from Canada to Northern Siberia.
Scientists updated Earth’s magnetic model in 2015, which is used for some pretty important things, including shipping navigation and GPS on smartphones. Their model was intended to last for at least five years, but due to the recent unexpected swing, it became outdated at some point in early 2018 and is now in need of adjustment.
“The error is increasing all the time,” said Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Scientists say this shift is being driven by liquid iron sloshing around in the planet’s core, a natural process, but one that can vary as the flow changes. Over the past 20 million years, Earth’s magnetic field has consistently experienced a complete pole reversal – usually every 200-300,000 years.
At the moment, we’re long overdue for one of these events, with the last reversal having occurred 781,000 years ago. No one is quite sure what the consequences will be on modern infrastructure when and if that reversal happens. Many take ease in the fact that pole reversals have occurred hundreds of times in the planet’s history without catastrophe, but again, the effect on modern technology remains unknown.
Some scientists have pointed to this shift as a potential culprit in a slew of recent dolphin and whale beachings as well as other unexpected animal die-offs. It’s believed the planet’s natural magnetic field is necessary to some of these animals’ navigation when traveling and communicating over great distances underwater. One NASA scientist is currently looking into this potential connection.
In 2016, a larger-than-usual magnetic pulse shot up from South America, which scientists believe played a role in furthering the recent shift. However, they’re still unsure whether it will continue on this course, or even what will happen at all.
Could we be on the precipice of a massive geomagnetic reversal, or is this just due to slightly-more-anomalous-than-usual activity in the Earth’s core? And what’s even more pressing – what kind of effects is this having on us?
For more on our brain’s relationship with Earth’s magnetic field, check out this Gaia Original short: