Do whales hear earthquakes long before humans? As tsunami warnings hit the Indonesian and Sri Lankan coasts last week, observers at sea watched as every species of cetacean — from massive blue whales to diminutive spinner dolphins — disappeared within five minutes. British photographer and film-maker Andrew Sutton reports that he and his crew were mystified as the whales they were watching vanished in the space of a few minutes. The humans on the boat were unaware that the quake had happened, but the animals had evidently sensed the subsea seismic shocks, and fled.

Could cetaceans act as canaries in the sea, as advance alarms of potentially dangerous seismic activity? Both the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes of last year were preceded by mass cetacean strandings on beaches in these respective islands. And a recent scientific report from Mexico appears to prove that a fin whale accelerated sharply away from the site of an underwater earthquake. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012