The observations by naturalists of some fauna shows that some of the sub-terranean animals come out of their burrows just prior to an earthquake. Also, some terrestrial animals show uneasiness and strange behaviour during this period.
The earthquake of Indonesia, which triggered tsunami and destroyed vast inland area once again, brought urgency in efforts to find ways of an early warning system for earthquakes, which subsequently cause huge tides. The behaviour of animals during tsunami indicates towards a possible explanation to their warning system. The devastating effect of tsunami killed several thousand people but there was no report of any casualty of wild animals. The only exception on the eastern coast of India was of an ailing boar.
One of the most publicised reports from Sri Lanka was about the tourists who were watching elephants in Yala National Park there. Without any provocation from the tourists or any untoward happening, the group of elephants raised their tails and fled away. The tourists followed the fleeing elephants too. Later, tsunami engulfed the area where the elephants were and consequently the tourists were also saved as they had followed the elephants.
It has been proved that elephants communicate with their different groups by producing infrasonic sounds, which man cannot.
From these observations we can safely infer that when the pressure between the faults beneath the crust of earth reaches breaking point, it produces some infrasonic sound, which is interpreted by the animals. The burrowing animals come out for safety. Some terrestrial animals also detect this infrasonic sound and start behaving erratically.
The behaviour of elephants in Yala National Park is a substantial indication. When the energy from the quake in Indonesia was moving beneath the sea surface, it might be producing infrasonic sound. As the speed of the sound was greater than the energy, the elephants caught it and sensing danger they fled to safer area.
Evidence that might have supported this inference was lost as no autopsy was done on the ailing boar, the only wildlife casualty on the eastern coast of India. It would have revealed that the ailing animal might be having impaired hearing.
An observation by the villagers of K. Panjinkuppam in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu about the stray dogs recorded by a volunteer also supports the inference. Panjinkuppam is around 1.5km from Pudupettai and Pudukuppam, the villages near the shore. According to the villagers of Panjinkuppam, on the fateful morning, dogs from the two villages near the shore started barking and withdrawing from the shore. As they reached near Panjinkuppam, the dogs of this village too joined them. They were not barking on each other but were looking towards the sea and barking. The villagers were unable to decode this. More than one hundred fifty casualties were recorded in the two villages.
We need to hear the infrasonic frequencies, which the animals are capable of decoding. Sensitive equipments that can detect all infrasonic sounds should be placed deep into the crust of the earth. Recording, analysing and corroborating infrasonic sound waves may lead to development of some early warning system for earthquakes.
Published in: The Sunday Times, August 2005. Republished in UdaipurTimes with permission from the Author