By on December 10, 2008

The quest for more oil and natural gas is turning the oceans into a cacophony, from the perspective of whales and dolphins. These are among the smartest creatures on the planet; a dolphin can recognize itself in the mirror, a hallmark of intelligence. (There are certain difficulties performing the experiment with whales.) Airguns used in seismic surveys for oil and gas, peak at up to 259 decibels and can be repeated every 10 seconds for months. The noise interferes with the animals’ feeding, communication, mating, and navigation, and may be involved in beachings. Furthermore, these sounds travel more than 2,000 miles from the source, according to an alliance of wildlife groups attending the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species conference in Rome. There are 90 seismic survey ships in the world, and one quarter are in use in any one day, according to a report released at the conference, “Ocean Noise: Turn it Down.”

Greenhouse gas emissions [ED: as in driving your car, allegedly] are aggravating the problem, causing a projected increase of the ocean’s acidity. This allows sound to travel further in water. By 2050, a projected 0.3 pH units of acidity– a conservative estimate by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change– will broadcast sound waves 70 percent further (as predicted in the Oct 1, 2008 Geophysical Research Letters by Keith Hester et al.).

Meanwhile, the retreat of the polar ice shelf is causing a scramble for drilling and oil and gas exploration in the arctic, which will expose species such as the beluga and the bowhead whales. Ship noise is also a problem for cetaceans. It’s doubled every decade for the past 40 years. An estimated 300 naval sonar systems can generate pressure sound waves >235 decibels, or 1,000,000,000 times louder than the 145 decibel upper limit deemed safe for humans.

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17 Comments on “Save the Whales! Park Your Car....”


  • avatar
    Dutchchris

    Never mind the whales, there’s automotive dinosaurs like GM and Chrysler to be saved and they cannot survive unless oil is abundant and cheap.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Well, if you’re christian and you take a good hard look at what humans are doing to each other, their environment, and the other species that populate it, you cannot fail to realize how many of us are heading straight to hell, if only because we’ve simply decided to ignore all those problems.

  • avatar
    ScottGSO

    I’ve always wondered why if dolphins are so damn smart they always get stuck in the tuna nets . . .

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    AKM :

    Well, if you’re christian and you take a good hard look at what humans are doing to each other, their environment, and the other species that populate it, you cannot fail to realize how many of us are heading straight to hell, if only because we’ve simply decided to ignore all those problems.

    Maybe Earth’s wonderful resources were put here for us to use. Maybe by God, maybe by Santa or the Easter Bunny. Or by benevolent governments. Depends on your religion…

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Noise pollution in the drink has been around since heat-cycle propulsion took to the water. I highly doubt a supertanker is just making a whisper as it plows the waves. Heck, Greenpeace’s own “protest boat” is a diesel blue-smoke emitting garbage scow painted green with a big rainbow decal. I doubt its got quiet tech on the props.

    If you want to make the oceans quiet for the cetaceans, you basically need to call it a day on active propulsion of ships, and stop pretty much all international trade. Ironically, the only boats that pass the quiet tests are the ones that hide from sonar, principally SSBN’s that sail around aimlessly waiting for the go-order to blow a continent’s worth of cities away. Ah, but the whales will hear WWIII from the safety of the quiet depths!

  • avatar

    259 decibels. That is just unthinkably loud.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Those whales used to make the best auto trans fluid additive, until the d*mn enviro whackos made it illegal.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “Maybe Earth’s wonderful resources were put here for us to use. Maybe by God, maybe by Santa or the Easter Bunny. Or by benevolent governments. Depends on your religion…”
    ZoomZoom / December 10th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    maybe? maybe not.

    these “wonderful resources” you allude to have been on the planet for eons – long before homo sapiens ever materialized. it is much more likely that the human species is just too damn greedy, aggressive and self-centered for it’s own good.

    it will be the cause of our demise.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    Ironically, the only boats that pass the quiet tests are the ones that hide from sonar, principally SSBN’s that sail around aimlessly waiting for the go-order to blow a continent’s worth of cities away.

    It’s never pointless. There are thousands of fake fires, fake flooding, fake missile emergencies, fake nuke casualties and all too real field days to address.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Save the humans.

  • avatar
    fisher72

    Are humans smarter than yeast?

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Why would Jesus care?

    He’s going to come back and kill everyone anyway right, so why not deafen some dolphins in the meantime?

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Couple of points. When you write 1e9 times louder you are comparing sound power, not pressure, and the reference pressure for dB in water is 0dB=1e-6 Pa, different to air where 0 dB =2e-5 Pa.

    So that really big number is really a lot smaller, just 10,000 I think.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I cannot begin to tell you how very little I care about this eco disaster. Every 2 days some enviro nut runs around screaming the sky is falling the sky is falling. They have lost most of their credibility. Frankly Scarlet, don’t give a damn.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    “Save the whales,
    Kill the seals,…”

    -Cheech and Chong

    Don’t change the oil, don’t wash it, wonder why your car in a POS in 3 years. Funny, the micro and macro have very similar outcomes…

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Robert Schwartz :

    I cannot begin to tell you how very little I care about this eco disaster. Every 2 days some enviro nut runs around screaming the sky is falling the sky is falling. They have lost most of their credibility. Frankly Scarlet, don’t give a damn.

    Out of curiosity, would you care if it was incontrovertibly true?

    It’s not like I’ve ever done anything to save the whales (aside from choosing a career path other than whale hunter), so it’s not a judgmental thing. I suppose I’m just curious if your opposition is because you don’t trust the veracity of the info or if you think we, as people, have bigger fish to fry.

  • avatar
    flomulgator

    It’s cuz he’s a grumpy old **** that can’t accept that the only constant is change.

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