I'm Sure They'll Find a Way to Blame the US Navy

Written by budiyanto on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:00 AM

While working on a highway-widening project in the middle of South America's Atacama Desert, Chilean workers unearthed an eerie scene that had no business being more than a kilometer away from the ocean: a mass fossil graveyard containing more than 75 ancient whales, reports MSNBC.

Finding whale bones in the middle of the desert is strange enough, but scientists were quick to notice a deeper mystery. The fossils ended up right next to one another — some mere meters apart — as if to suggest that the whales all died at once, possibly during some cataclysmic tragedy. What could have happened? "That's the top question," said Mario Suarez, director of the Paleontological Museum in the nearby town of Caldera.

According to Nicholas Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the whales probably died between 2 million and 7 million years ago, during a time when the area would have been a "lagoon-like environment," much different than the desert landscape it is today. The real mystery, then, has less to do with how the whales got there, and more to do with why they died.

Could they have beached themselves after becoming disoriented in the shallows? Perhaps the lagoon had become separated from the sea by a landslide, earthquake or storm, trapping the whales within? Maybe there was something else about this lagoon that made it a whale trap. Right now, scientists aren't sure. "There are many ways that whales could die, and we're still testing all those different hypotheses," said Pyenson. But, he added: "I think they died more or less at the same time."
It's customary to blame mass whale strandings on Navy sonar use.

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