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Etho-Geological Forecasting

rolling through microfilm collections of the San  Jose Mercury News, counting lost pet ads in an attempt to check out  Berkland’s claims. (Click here to read the scientific paper on this  topic, written by Rupert Sheldrake and myself.)

Gravitational variations due to the lunar cycles, he says, create  “seismic windows” of greater earthquake probability. When the number of  missing pets also suddenly rises, then-bingo-a quake is likely to  happen. Berkland said he thinks the USGS won’t accept unusual animal  data because it doesn’t jive with their current scientific paradigm and  hypotheses. (Researchers who attempt earthquake prediction are often  lumped into the same category as fortune tellers and scam artists by  traditional geologists.) It is not surprising then to hear that Berkland was suspended from his position as Santa Clara county geologist for  claiming to predict earthquakes-such as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in  Northern California, which was preceded by numerous reports of odd  animal behavior.

Unusual behavior is difficult to define, and determining if there is a  characteristic behavior is not a simple, clear-cut process, although  there are some distinct patterns which have emerged. For example, an  intense fear that appears to make some animals cry and bark for hours,  and others flee in panic has been reported often. Equally characteristic is the apparent opposite effect of wild animals appearing confused,  disoriented, and losing their usual fear of people. Some other common  observations are that animals appear agitated, excited, nervous, overly  aggressive, or seem to be trying to burrow or hide.

For example, after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Pacific  North-West in 2001, a woman from Washington state wrote me saying that  her goats were “running around frantically in circles. One goat was  simply running in a tight circle, as tightly as he could…which I have  never seen a goat do before. Then our indoor dog began barreling up and  down the stairs and barking wildly. As I stood to go out and see what  was going on, the earthquake hit.”

In 1996 I conducted a telephone survey of Santa Cruz County households  to find out how many people have observed unusual animal behavior prior  to earthquakes. Out of the 200 people randomly selected from the phone  book, 15% told me they had observed an animal acting oddly before an  earthquake. When I conducted a telephone survey of Los Angeles County  the following year I found precisely the same figure, 15% out of 200.  Some common observations were animals appearing frightened, agitated,  panic-stricken, excited, or confused.

A number of people found their ordinarily mellow cats suddenly darted  off and hid, or paced around crying for a few minutes before the quake.  I was told of goats and horses leaping around wildly, noisy birds  suddenly becoming silent, or a whole flock of seagulls taking off all at once just before an earthquake. A few people told me that they noticed  the number of roadkill increasing for several days before a quake. A lot of people mentioned dogs vanishing or barking uncontrollably.

One Santa Cruz woman told me their neighbor’s dog jumped a fence just  before the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in Northern California, then the dog  sat on her daughter through the quake, as though trying to protect her.  Other stories are just plain bizarre. One woman said that her cat did a  back-flip off her balcony. Another woman reported that her cat leaped  out of a two-story window shortly before a quake.

Although the majority of accounts pertain to dogs and cats, there are  also many stories about other types of animals In the wild, on farms,  and in zoos; including horses, cows, deer, goats, possums, rats,  chickens, and other birds. The behavior has been reported in many other  animal species as well, including fish, jellyfish, reptiles, and even  Insects. Deep sea fish, for example, have been caught close to the  surface of the ocean on numerous occasions around Japan prior to  earthquakes. (Tributsch, 1982)

Some fish-catfish in particular-are reputed to become agitated before  earthquakes, and at times have been reported to actually leap out of the water onto dry land. Snakes have been known to leave their underground  places of hibernation In the middle of the winter prior to quakes, only  to be found frozen on the surface of the snow. Mice are commonly  reported to appear dazed before quakes, and allow themselves to easily  be captured by hand. Homing pigeons are said to take much longer to  navigate to their destination prior to earthquakes.

Hens have been reported laying fewer eggs, or no eggs at all, and pigs  have been observed aggressively trying to bite one another before  earthquakes (Tributsch, 1982). Someone in Northern Iran, close to the  epicenter of a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that occurred on May 28, 2004,  wrote me to report that, “The Hens started to become extremely noisy  about a week before the earthquake and stayed extremely quiet on the day of the earthquake. They also laid no eggs that day.”

Bees have been seen evacuating their hive in a panic, minutes before an  earthquake, and then not returning until fifteen minutes after the quake ended. Even creatures such as millipedes, leeches, squid, and ants have  been reported to exhibit abnormal behavior prior to earthquakes (Miller, 1996).

These strange behaviors generally occur anywhere from moments to weeks  in advance of a quake. Most of the people I have spoken with who have  witnessed this phenomenon, observed the strange behavior within  twenty-four hours of a quake, although some observations occurred more  than a week before the quake struck. Berkland has suggested that there  are possibly two primary precursory earthquake signals-one several  weeks before, and the other one just moments before the quake. A lot of  reports appear to confirm this.

A number of theories have been proposed to explain why animals sometimes act in peculiar ways prior to earthquakes, and what the precursory  signals that the animals are picking up on might be. One of the earliest ideas on the subject comes from an ancient Japanese legend. During the  Middle Ages it was believed that earthquakes were caused by the rustling of giant catfish that lived underground. This mythological idea, which  has found artistic expression in numerous Japanese wood-print blocks,  probably arose from observations of catfish behaving in strange ways  prior to earthquakes.

Catfish normally lead a rather sluggish life. They live In muddy river  and lake bottoms, and usually don’t move around all that much. However,  catfish have been observed becoming so wildly excited and agitated prior to earthquakes, that they will sometimes actually leap out of the water  onto dry land. Numerous reports suggest that fish seem to be  particularly sensitive to whatever the precursory earthquake signals  might be.

The scientific theories that have been proposed to explain this  phenomenon generally fall into six major categories-ultrasound  vibrations, magnetic field fluctuations, electric field variations,  piezoelectric airborne Ions, brain changes, and precognition-which I  discuss in detail below.

Ultrasound Theory:

Because many animals possess auditory capacities beyond the human range,

it has been suggested that some animals may be reacting to ultrasound  emitted as microseisms from fracturing rock, or other subtle sounds,  vibrations, or movements of the earth. (Armstrong, 1969) Humans hear  within a frequency range between 16 and 20,000 Hz, while dogs and cats  can hear at least up to 60,000 Hz. However, one of the primary problems  with the ultrasound theory is that some of the animals that respond in  advance to earthquakes have hearing that is no more sensitive than our  own. For example, pigeons and songbirds hear less well than humans, or,  at best, only as well, so their unusual behavior prior to earthquakes  can not be traced to ultrasound vibrations.

Another problem arises from the fact that small earth tremors and minor  earthquakes are common in seismically active areas. For example, In  California there are generally hundreds of small earthquakes (magnitude  3 or less) every year. If animals were so sensitive to weak vibrations  then they would frequently give false alarms in these areas. Most  importantly, if so many species of animals can pick up characteristic  vibrations before major earthquakes, then seismologists should be able  to identify them with their sensitive instruments, yet they have failed  to do so, despite years of intensive research.

Earth-Leaking Gas Theory:

Some researchers have suggested that animals may be responding to radon  or other gases released by the earth prior to an earthquake. It Is  well-known that in the rhythm of lunar tides, and under certain  geological conditions, the above-ground concentration of swamp gases,  such as methane, can change slightly. The gases are also sometimes  released from the ground during earth tremors. Since almost all animals  (apes and most birds excluded) have a keener sense of smell

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