Trouble in Paradise: “Coral Crusader” Concerned About Mysterious Marine Killer

Is the Navy and RIMPAC –Rim of the Pacific Exercise: world’s biggest global ocean warfare exercise and experimentation   polluting ocean life with an invisible but deadly carcinogen, adversely affecting human life in coastal communities? One concerned citizen explains how electromagnetic radiation may be corroding coral and damaging DNA, resulting in tumors and other debilitating effects for animals and humans off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.


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Terry Lilley as a child

Akin to a tropical Tarzan, Terry Lilley was fluent in fish, falcon, snake, and lizard language before English.

After graduating with a biology degree at the California Polytechnic State University, he returned to his Mother Tongue and founded the first captive breeding center for endangered reptiles in 1981 with over 125 species in his zoo. He received further schooling at the University of California, studying endangered species management and biology in 1994.

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Terry Lilley with a reptile

Acclimating to a more human-inspired dialect, Lilley built relationships with other folks sharing similarly exotic passions. He supplied Steve Irwin with reptiles for his show, The Crocodile Hunter, and assisted the King of Pop with a similar acquisition. Many of Lilley’s reptiles were rehomed to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Lilley spent 20 years studying reptiles, surfing professionally on the side. After selling his zoo, Lilley returned to his primary passion: underwater studies.

“My dad taught me to spearfish when I was four… I still catch 90% of my own food today,” said Terry Lilley, who is now 63. “When I sold the zoo, I thought ‘okay, this is great!’ I’m going to go around the planet now and I’m going to do an underwater educational series for schools – not-for-profit.” His goal was to have footage from all the globe’s oceans and “have every critter I could possibly get documented.”

         Image courtesy of Terry Lilley

Since then, Lilley’s visited a dozen countries, completed over 300 scuba dives, and most recently wrapped-up a documentary-style, reality mini-series for television. He’ll soon be travelling to the Great Barrier Reef, but usually he’s at his home base: a small research trailer covered in brush. It’s just a quick muddy walk away from the picturesque Hanalei Bay pier and the Hanalei River, situated amidst the lushly botanical, postcard-worthy sea cliffs and exotic landscapes of “the Garden Isle.”

The North Shore of the Kauai island of the Hawaiian archipelago—with panoramic views of the 14-mile-long Waimea Canyon, cascading waterfalls along the Na Pali coast, and a stomach dropping sea cliff overlook, 4,120 feet above sea level along the Awa’awaphi trail—is truly an adventurer’s dream destination. One of the best spots for snorkeling and scuba diving, though, is Tunnels Beach. The reef is so massive there, it can be seen from space.

But there’s trouble in paradise. After five years worth of underwater movies filmed

dying coral
Image courtesy of Terry Lilley

up and down the coast of Kauai, Lilley spotted something ominous lurking below those tranquil teal waters. Some sort of pathogenic growth began to kill his beloved coral reefs. Known by some of the locals – like travel blogger, Steve Andrews – as the “Coral Crusader”, Terry Lilley became obsessed with the origin of this cyanobacteria which was eating coral at a rate of 3-4 inches per week. These numbers were staggering to Mr. Lilley, as corals only naturally grow about 3-4 inches a year.

Image courtesy of Terry Lilley

“Starting in 2012, what happened is about a third of the entire coral reef got infected with this. And since then, over 60% of the entire coral reef’s been killed by it – all dead since 2012,” explained Lilley. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) documented the growth rate of the disease, how much of it was on the coast, how quickly it was killing the reef, and the DNA of it. No one had any idea where the disease originated. USGS Wildlife Disease Specialist Thierry Work declared it a coastline epidemic.

Searching for a culprit, Lilley was particularly suspicious of two entities that were two of his biggest clients while he taught a class on the Endangered Species Act: the U.S. government – the Navy, in particular – and Monsanto. “I know, legally, how these people act. They try to get around the laws and they don’t do their homework,” he said.

Toxic Test Results 

Equally skeptical, Mike Sheehan – former police officer and member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary on Kauai – works for the Hanalei River Heritage Foundation “to improve the health of the ocean and rivers of Hanalei and Kauai.” He founded the non-profit in 2012 to teach children “ocean skills and things of that nature to get them off the streets.” He pulled back from those plans after he and Lilley tested the sediment near the river, first in 2012 and again in 2014.

Analytical Chemical Testing Laboratory, Inc’s Analytical Chemist, Mr. Robert M. Naman reviewed those results, which included 10 locations surrounding Hanalei Bay, Hanalei River, Sealodge Reef, Anini Creek, and Anini Bay. The substantial amounts of unknown


Image courtesy of Terry Lilley

organic compounds in the sediment concerned Mr. Naman because, “no research exists for these unknown compounds and therefore causes much speculation… At these levels a great concern exists for the marine life subjected to these compounds and any person consuming these compounds may be affected in ways that are yet to be understood.” Significant levels of arsenic, chromium, nickel, cadmium cobalt, copper, selenium, vanadium were found in all 10 locations.

Paying close attention to Mike and Terry’s work, Mary Lemes – she goes by her middle name, Jonna – has been a Hanalei River resident and surfer for nine years. In that time, she’s developed disconcerting neurological and cardiovascular oddities. Her blood and urine tests resulted similarly to others’ that had been over-exposed to toxins and metals. She and her physician speculated that sediment and river pollution could be to blame.

Jonna had a hunch Monsanto’s herbicide product Roundup, which is a glyphosate, may have played a role her indeterminate diagnosis. Pre-existing research by Caroline Cox, staff scientist for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, sited several lab tests showing that exposure to glyphoshate-based compounds can cause genetic damage to cells – in animals and humans – amongst many documented links to increased risks of cancer.

Locals worry their stories and concerns aren’t being addressed satisfactorily. “Clearly our government is in bed with Monsanto. Our mayor is. We voted to have boundaries with Monsanto and what it’s doing to our land and children, and our mayor vetoed our vote,” said Jonna. Although her symptoms may have another mysterious culprit, she’s convinced we live in a polluted world causing avoidable illness, far and wide.

I don’t have any desire to sue the state, or the county, or the government. I just want to get well. I don’t want anybody to go through what I’m going through. If it’s happening to me, it’s happening to somebody else… I would love to see the Hanalei River – and the world – get cleaned up.

– Mary Jonna Lemes

Lilley, though, could not prove these toxic chemicals were responsible for the cyanobacteria outbreak and rapid reef decay. He spent $75,000 on an inconclusive Monsanto study.

Microwave Emissions and Sonar Linked to Reef Decay?

Hypothesizing that whatever was causing the reef to physically dissolve so rapidly had to be a “large magnitude event,” Lilley compared Kauai’s extreme reef decomposition with that of reef decay around the world. Instead of attributing all the blame to the usual suspects like bleaching, ocean acidification, and climate change, Lilley theorized that military electronics and sonar were exacerbating Kauai’s reef disintegration. Other marine biologists on the island shared his concern about what he called “RIMPAC war games”: a multinational maritime activity that’s been taking place in the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian islands every two years since 1971.

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Images courtesy of Terry Lilley

Aside from known dangers of sonar effects on marine life – disabling injuries and death observed in whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures – Lilley identified evidence of new trauma in 2012.


Image courtesy of Terry Lilley 

“I was well aware that Kauai was to be a launching pad for the new testing for microwave warfare to replace nuclear warfare,” said Lilley. Kauai was home to 10 microwave towers, used in the past for surveillance and weather. Each emitted approximately 1,000 watts of microwaves. In 2012, another 12 towers were added and some of the towers amped up microwave output to six million watts, according to information Mr. Lilley said was provided by a defense contractor.

That’s when Lilley claimed the towers were weaponized as part of a five-year testing project: “massive amounts of microwaves would be sent down from these towers, down to warships, and directed at satellites and used as a weapon,” he explained. The idea was that microwaves would be used in an attempt to “de-arm computer systems on nuclear warheads or missiles,” Lilley added. A great deal of secrecy and skepticism surrounds these high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. Nonetheless, his researchers determined the antennas, ships, and towers in Kauai were emitting a total of 992 billion watts of electromagnetic radiation, pulsating 200 times per second. “That’s the largest amount of electromagnetic radiation produced on planet earth other than what comes from the sun in a solar flare,” said Lilley.

As part of a PhD study with University of Hawaii, researchers mapped every dead coral and concentration of dead corals surrounding the island in 2012. Over 1,000 hours of documentation – before and after 2012 – and 60 dive sites went into this project. Results showed that 100% of the coral reef systems had completely died at the military base area and areas neighboring those towers affected by increased microwave wattage output.

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Images courtesy of Terry Lilley

Stewart Simonson, a senior chemical engineer based in Atlanta, was one that surveyed Kauai’s reef in 2014, also concerned about the stunning rate of coral corrosion.  Simonson speculated that accelerated corrosion, caused by electrical currents in the ocean, dissolved the calcium carbonate  –the skeleton component of coral reefs– contributing to widespread coral disappearances.

Although corrosion is a natural process, and calcium is one of the minerals most susceptible to corrosion, these levels of accelerated dissolution appeared far from normal.

Electromagnetic Radiation and Radar Towers

Lilley was emphatically vocal about these findings and reached out to Captain Bruce Hay, Commanding Officer at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Mr. Lilley had meticulously documented calculations and imagery suggesting that the constant cloud coverage in the area was reflecting microwaves down towards the seafloor with exaggerated potency — this is to say that not all of the microwaves were reaching their intended destination. Lilley said that the military admitted a transmission error – 20-30% of the microwave transmissions weren’t being received back at the boats. Lilley saw this as a problem: his  research linked microwave emissions of that magnitude to the breaking down of cell walls, marine corrosion, cancer clusters, and possibly even cardiac seizures in humans.

Mr. Lilley scarcely survived his own massive heart seizure while diving too closely to a warship one day. He’s concerned a lightning-like dose of some sort of electromagnetic field force “arcing out” in light of increased microwave emissions nearby could have been a contributing culprit. “At microwave bases though, I’ve got a great article showing cancer clusters with cancer rates at 160 times higher around these military base microwave towers.” When I went back through my research, I could not confirm this bold claim anywhere else.

Nonetheless, Stewart Simonson’s work highlights how microwaves are connected to cancer. His articles illuminate studies and reports showing that under certain conditions, even irradiation by low intensity microwaves can cause cancer in animals and humans.  Usually, cancer only progresses after long-term exposure, but Simonson warned that living near powerful microwave transmitting towers –  like some cell phone towers – “reportedly resulted in a dramatic increase of cancer incidence among populations living nearby.”

Lilley prided himself on being in tune with the interconnectedness of all species. Thus, he speculated that the cause of this newfound corrosive-style destruction of reefs may be connected to newfound cancer clusters, and also the increase in sporadic cases of cardiac seizures. He was highly suspicious that increased microwave output could be a contributing culprit.

The EPA said there is no sufficient scientific evidence linking electromagnetic fields to any health affects. Perhaps these theories will be looked at more closely as these field experts continue to share what’s happening off the coast of Kauai.

Protecting Planet from Pollutants

Lilley has put his heart, soul, and savings into this investigative journey because the reef is a pivotal part of the planet’s entire ecosystem. They’ve persevered in spite of other major problems in Hawaii over the past several hundred years. Now they’re not. Undoubtedly, multiple stressors are at play. But if HPMs are changing the chemistry of the salt water and decomposing the calcium in the coral as he suspects, Terry thinks we should consider the cost-benefit analysis of modern warfare and adjust accordingly. Hawaii natives believe their appointed officials owe

Image courtesy of Terry Lilley

it to the land, its people, and its creatures to investigate Lilley’s theory more closely. Governments, corporations, and constituents should not turn a blind eye to any of these correlations if it could expose causation and, consequently, save lives: in the ocean and on land.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled an expansion proposal to create the world’s largest marine protected area – the national monument off the coast of Hawaii. Although Hawaiian leaders have nothing but praise for this legislative motion in efforts to restore our ocean’s health and biodiversity, Lilley wrote it off as “hollow” rhetoric and a “joke”, arguing that the U.S. Navy will still use these areas as “their private war testing grounds”. It seems counterintuitive to Lilley and his advocates to call these places marine sanctuaries if Navy testing activities are to continue, unchallenged.

“The planet is in a big change and the animals need a voice about this change, and I have an agreement with them to be their voice because they cannot speak the human language that is destroying their world,” Lilley said. “Maybe someday soon us humans can learn a little bit from our animal friends on how to be sustainable and live in harmony on this planet so we will not be the shortest lived species on planet Earth!”

©Brittany Stepniak, 2016

Cox, C. (1995, Fall). Glyphosate, Part 1: Toxicology. Journal of Pesticide Reform, 15(3). Retrieved June 12, 2016, from PubMed.

Lemes, M. J. (2016, June 10). Mary Lemes, Secondary Source for Profile [Telephone       interview].

Lilley, T. (2016, May 31).Terry Lilley: Profile Interview [Personal interview].

Sheehan, M. (2016, June 10). Mike Sheehan, Secondary Source for Profile [Telephone      interview].

Andrews, S (2016, May May 28). Steve Andrews: Travel Blogger and Island Local           [Personal conversation].

Documents, Videos, Spreadsheets, and Images Reviewed

Evidence for increased coral bleaching and disease from accelerated marine corrosion due to electromagnetic pollution and induced stray electrical currents in seawater
By: Steward D. Simonson (in PDF format)

Test America: Analytical Report
Client Project/Site: Hanalei Bay Sediments (PDF format)

Google Earth images Data from SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

Kauai Power Grid with Wattage and Latitudinal/Longitudinal data (image)

Amateur Radio RF Safety Calculator Documents (antenna power, frequency, wattage in controlled and uncontrolled environments)

Kauai Power Source (excel spreadsheet)

Some Effects of Weak Magnetic Fields on Biological Systems: RF fields can change radical cancer concentrations and cancer cell growth rates
By: Frank Barnes and Ben Greenebaum (PDF format)

American Medical Association articles about cancer clusters near cell phone towers and military base towers (PDF format)

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