They’re Not Protests — They’re “Seismic Escape” Behavior

“Sorry, I have to go. Our horses are acting up. They keep running off. Apologies — talk later…”

It’s not the kind of emergency you’d expect to interrupt a meeting with mining executives.

But hardly anything in America is going as expected these days.

Consider this year’s tradition-free Fourth of July. No parades, no fireworks, no picnics.

It wasn’t just Independence Day without the independence — it was a missed opportunity.

The nation really needs a reminder that we’re supposed to be the United States — emphasis on the word “United.”

Let’s face it, though. This is not the same country we lived in just a few months ago, let alone 10 years ago and certainly not from 20, 30 and more years back.

Only this time, it feels like we’re closer to a breaking point than ever before.

And the mining exec’s skittish horses might just offer a reason why.

Let’s dig into this…

My recent meeting with the mining guys was virtual, of course.

Everyone is still social distancing, so we used Zoom, a software platform that allows you to see each other as you speak.

Things began with the usual pleasantries, like how everyone is holding up with the virus still making front page news.

We had just gotten down to business — discussing the latest maps and models, drilling plans, etc. — when one of the participants suddenly stood up and excused himself to wrangle his runaway horses.

The dramatic break just added to my disappointment that I couldn’t fly out and meet everyone in person.

The company runs a precious metals mining play in southwest Idaho, abutting the Oregon border. I’ve followed it for several years.

In fact, long before anyone had heard of coronavirus, I visited the company’s project site and spent two days driving and hiking across spectacular, mountainous terrain.

After months of being stuck in the house, I’d love to be under that wide-open sky again.

Idaho mining country

Idaho mining country. Delamar/Florida Mountain area.

The area’s geology is great, too.

The rocks built up over millions of years via deep magma intrusion, uplift, volcanism and faulting, And they’ve all been shaped by “recent” glaciation, meaning ice and erosion during the past million years or so.

There’s extensive mineralization, too. People have mined gold and silver out of this area since the 1880s.1 There’s still plenty left…

Interestingly enough, the geology of the region may also explain the exec’s skittish horses.

And while we’re on the subject, I think a related phenomenon — a mix of geology and evolutionary biology — is affecting many American citizens.

Here’s what I mean…

On March 31, an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 rolled through Idaho’s Sawtooth mountain range, near Boise. It was the second largest earthquake to strike Idaho since 1983.

Since then, southern Idaho has been shaken by a series of aftershocks.2

An earthquake occurs because stress builds up in the earth’s crust, often along pre-existing fault lines. At some point, the stress overcomes rock strength and/or friction, and two masses of the earth move relative to each other.

Some earthquakes are small; you can’t even feel them. Some are quite large…

After significant earthquakes, there’s commonly a series of smaller seismic events called aftershocks. Geology differs from place to place, but aftershocks often affect the same fault system as the original earth movement.

Aftershocks can last for days, weeks, months and even years following the main shock.

As a rule, the larger the earthquake, the longer it’ll take the fault to get all that shaking — meaning all that stored energy — out of its system.

And there’s a good chance that animals can sense that earthquake energy too.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake.”3

The USGS adds:

“We can easily explain the cause of unusual animal behavior seconds before humans feel an earthquake. Very few humans notice the smaller P-wave [a type of seismic wave] that travels the fastest from the earthquake source and arrives before the larger S-wave [another form of seismic energy]. But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel the P-wave seconds before the S wave arrives.”

In fact, many animals “hear” — or in some way feel and detect — a wide range of vibrational energy, with frequencies ranging from ultra- to infrasound (kilohertz to Hertz).

Large animals like elephants use infrasound (under 20 Hz) for long-range communication. That is, they can sense things from quite some distance.

Indeed, you may recall the that a gigantic earthquake — magnitude 9.0 — occurred in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2005.

It created a massive tsunami that caused immense destruction across south Asia, killing over 750,000 people.

Astonishingly, however, and per numerous accounts, elephants in Thailand and Sri Lanka, up to 1,000 kilometers from the epicenter detected the threat and moved to higher ground.4

As it turns out, there were zero elephant deaths from the tsunami. The sensitive pachyderms somehow knew something was coming and got out of the way, unlike so many unfortunate people.

Other animals also seem to react to shifts in the Earth’s crust.

We hear stories of rodents and reptiles exiting their burrows before an earthquake.

In instances of longer-range forecasting, birds might build odd nests and spiders spin strange webs before an earthquake.

Horses, of course, are known to avoid barns and corrals as seismic energy bleeds out.

Indeed, this is likely what interrupted my call with the mining guys the other day — the horses sensed that things still weren’t all right with the earth’s crust.

In other words, those ponies may have been reacting to an aftershock of the March 31 earthquake.

Scientists who study the phenomenon call it “seismic escape” behavior.

According to one researcher from Cal Tech, “Virtually all animals possess instinctive responses to escape from predators and (for land animals) from fire.”5

It’s not just seismic stress or strain either. The Cal Tech researcher examined seismic waves as well as other potential signals like “ground tilting,” humidity changes, electrical currents and magnetic field variations.

These are all possible sources that animals could sense before an oncoming seismic event.

The overall scientific question of seismic escape remains wide open. It needs more research. There’s nothing fully settled here…

But one conclusion, per Cal Tech, is that, “if there are occasional precursors to earthquakes that animals could detect, behavioral patterns could evolve to minimize associated mortality.”

In other words, as a matter of evolutionary biology, it’s possible that some animals have an innate ability to sense oncoming danger from seismic events. So, they engage in seismic escape behavior.

That’s quite intriguing…

And now think about what’s happening across these formerly United States.

Consider the news headlines, from the virus and national-scale lockdowns to protests and cross-country statue pulldowns.

Think of how the economy has unwound. Many businesses are scaled back or closing. Unemployment is way up.

We see protests in the streets, along with long lines at food banks and gun stores.

It looks grim.

But it also seems analogous to animals’ “seismic escape” behavior.

That is, across the political spectrum people are trying — each in their own way — to escape the constraints of our current political and economic system.

Why? Because, of course, there’s no denying that modern politics have failed. It’s entirely obvious…

Heck, people routinely discuss the possibility of another Civil War, even in the highbrow New Yorker magazine.6

Political parties in the U.S. disagree on pretty much everything. There’s little cooperation; hence, almost nothing substantial gets done while spending is out of control.

Within the U.S. government — and many states — there’s no workable budget process, and no sense of spending priority. Vast levels of funds emit from either Federal Reserve “money creation” or more and more public debt in the form of unpayable bonds.

Meanwhile, the vast bulk of government spending goes mostly to entitlement payments and medical reimbursements, along with salaries and benefits to government employees.

At current rates of spending — and deficit spending at that — the U.S. dollar is on the fast-track to become little more than Monopoly money, backed only by government promises. We see the erosion of dollar value in the recent uptick in gold prices.

Meanwhile, innumerable institutions across the political and economic spectrum have failed… Political parties, bureaucracies, alphabet-soup agencies that don’t seem to work.

Even the legal system has become weaponized, with results often dependent on the political affiliations — if not petty whims — of prosecutors, judges and court staff.

What else doesn’t work? You name it…

  • Mainstream media is mostly non-stop political argument and agitprop, no longer conveying anything like traditional, informational “news.”
  • Big tech has become Big Brother in terms of censoring people’s ability to express themselves. Say the “wrong” thing and you are de-platformed from YouTube or Twitter, and even from comment sections of many sites.
  • Academe is an expensive and running joke, filled with kooky professors, intolerant students and power-mad administrators who, in far too many instances, brook no dissent from their own party line.
  • Big business has become a financialized handmaiden to Wall Street. Companies use funds to pay the top managers very handsomely while burning down the treasury with dividends and share buybacks, leaving a mess for the future. (Boeing comes to mind.)
  • Even Big Religion long ago slipped its moorings and has drifted with the current of new fads, headed towards irrelevance if not disdain. Empty pews, anyone?

I could go on, but you get the point…

Add it all up, and it’s as if broad society mirrors the behavior of those runaway horses in Idaho.

People sense the pent-up “seismic” energy of a failing society and incompetent institutions. It’s all precedent to that fateful point at which the break occurs and a political or economic earthquake happens.

Hence we have protests, counter-protests, riots, political dysfunction, people buying guns and ammo, and more people buying gold and silver.7

There’s an old saying, “Don’t scare the horses.”

Seems like it’s too late for that.

On that note, I rest my case.

That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.

Best wishes,

Byron King

Byron King
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

P.S. – Feel free to forward Whiskey & Gunpowder to friends, family and colleagues. If you received this article from someone and would like to subscribe, click here. Thank you.

1 It’s in the Delamar District, in southwest Idaho. Right up against the Oregon border.

2 Boise Shakes Again With One of the Strongest Aftershocks of the March Earthquake, Idaho Statesman

3 Animals & Earthquake Prediction, U.S. Geological Survey

4 Can Animals Tell an Earthquake is Coming?, Horsetalk

5 Earthquake Prediction by Animals: Evolution and Sensory Perception, Cal Tech

6 Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?, The New Yorker

7 US Mint Silver and Gold Sales Soar, Pacific Coin Exchange

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A Harvard-trained geologist and former aide to the United States Chief of Naval Operations, Byron King is our resident gold and mining expert, and we are proud to have him on board as the managing editor of Whiskey & Gunpowder.

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