Friday, April 10, 2009

4-7-09 Sonar in Haro Strait

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

(re-posting of what occurred and follow up over the next few days) 

Sonar in Haro Strait

What a strange evening with strange sounds coming over the hydrophones. This lasted for over 2 1/2 hours read on... Correction on that - see at the end of the blog - we're well into 6 hours now. correct that again...we're into over 8 hours.

Unfortunately for all those marine mammals nearby and their inner ears it seems that a vessel came through using its sonar several times as it passed by in the inland waters...I'm assuming it was the Navy as there was this electronic sounding voice ...sounded like it was counting down...I could hear the number 9 and the number 6 clearly within the 'counting' or whatever it was doing...
then there would be no more electronic sounding voice...then it would start was difficult to tell if it was repeating the same thing over and over or not...but several times I heard the 9 and the 6 clearly...
then...then...SONAR - THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE - it actually hurt my ears as I heard it over my computer speaker...I can't imagine what it was like to any marine mammal that may have been near.

The first sonar that I heard was on the Lime Kiln HPs - loud...the next sonar that I heard was softer and more like a drawn out ping again on the LK HPs...but then I heard from someone else that it was louder on Orca Sound HPs which are a few miles to the north. I switched to OS Hps. and the next sonar was loud.... then the next time it got I thought they were going north through Haro...but then...

...I thought I would check out Lime Kiln and it was the 'voice' and it was really loud...and then really loud sonar with a long long lasting ping......there were actually three long pings if I remember correctly - i was so surprised that it would be so loud and so long.

it is still going on as I am writing is now 10:16 p.m. I am calling the Pt. Townsend Coast Guard Group who monitors this and report this...didn't get a hold of them but did get a hold of the Bellingham Coast Guard. The Coast Guard called me back and said, "well, all I can tell you is that it is the Navy and it is a submarine." (This was added after my original post so I could clarify for anyone who might question what I said.)

I ALSO ADDED THIS After my original post: I looked back at the first email I sent about the strange sounds and it was at 6:55pm. because I immediately sent an email to Scott asking if someone was out there talking into the HPs.

It is now 24 minutes after midnight (so it's just now Wed.) and there were just now 3 loud high pitched beeps (each lasting a full second) on the LK hydrophones. I was ready to go to bed when I heard I will wait a while...(only took 6 minutes of waiting)...
..30 minutes after midnight and the talking has begun again.
..two sets of whatever they are saying/counting. beep.
..1 minute later another single beep.
..1 minute later more' count down'. two sets.
..2 minutes later 1 count down.
..1 minute later beep but this time I could hear an echo
(are these beeps a different frequency of sonar?)
..2 minutes later the count again.
..2 minutes later the count again. two sets. (sounding farther away.)
..2 minutes the count again - this time it sounded more like talk than a count down
..a minute later more talk
.. 00:43 minutes past midnight definite sonar and could hear it for a long time
(this was the hurt my ear kind of sonar again)
..00:46 talk this time
..00:47 more talk, didn't sound like a count down, 3 times.
..00:48 more talk, count down like this time
..00:48 sonar - the hurt my ear kind - could still hear it echo for a many seconds
..00:49 count down - 4 times
..00:51 count down - 2 times
..00:54 count down - 1 or 2 times ( I got side tracked)
..00:57 count down - 1 count down and then another that sounded much farther away.
..00:59 sonar - the hurt my ear kind - echoed for a long time
..01:07 heard something off in distance not counting not sonar...hum...

..01:11 sonar - loud again and then the echo - the hurt my ear kind.
..01:13 - talk again, then counting
..01:14 - counting - 2 times
..01:15 - counting - 2 times
..01:21 - sonar
..01:25 - there is a ship coming through that may mask the talk/counting
..01:31 - sonar - the hurt my ear kind - loud
..01:36 - talk, more talk
..01:38 - talk or maybe count - 2 times
..01:39 - one long beep several seconds then another long beep
..01:40 - long beep then another long beep
..01:40 - count - 2 times
..01:41 - sonar - the hurt my ear kind
..01:42 - talk and sounds like reply from a distance - then count - 3 times
..01:43 - count
..01:43 - long beep (maybe 2 seconds)
..01:44 - long beep " "
..01:52 - talk - 2 times
..01:53 - talk or command - 3 times - same thing repeated, I think
..01:54 - same thing again - 2 times

..01:55 - long beep - 3 times - these are beginning to hurt my ears too - they are getting longer
..01:56 - same long beep - okay now I know it's sonar I could hear it 'going the distance' if that
makes any sense.
..01:57 - repeated again 2 more times (these current 'beeps' as I have been calling them are like
between the first of the beeps I heard and the sonar, and these 'long beeps' are starting
to get ear piercing too.

..02:01 - sonar (When I say 'sonar' it is a shocking sound, it makes me jump, it hurts my ears
and I can tell it is traveling a distance and it is the most disturbing of the three types of
sounds I have been hearing.
..02:11 - sonar - this time 2 times
..02:21 - sonar - first heard over LK hps then it came through on OS Hps. so it is traveling up the strait. - I have two computers turned on each one tuned to a different HP location.
..02:24 - it's interesting to note that there hasn't been any talk since 1:54 a.m. just sonar and during that 30 minutes there have been 10 beeps/sonar 'hits'

..02:31 - sonar - 2 times
..02:41 - sonar - 2 times only coming from the OS Hps now, and the sonar is happening every 10 minutes.
..02:52 - sonar - 2 times
..03:02 - sonar - 1 time - this time coming from OS to LK Hps
..03:12 - sonar - 1 time - OS to LK

..03:30 - deep sea coming through - it is traveling south ( maybe another travel north too)
..03:45 - loud ship(s) no other talk or sonar so I stepped away

..03:55 - talking (I heard talking and ran back) don't know what else I missed.
..03:57 - there are 2 ships each now has its own HP to foul up until it passes
..04:15 - talking coming over OS - ??
..04:32 - all is quiet and I am exhausted, but it has sure been interesting

As the event was unfolding through the night and when there was silence for a while, I would think that maybe they had stopped but then another sonar blast would 'hit my ears and all my other senses'. It was at about midnight that I decided I needed to record it as I heard it until it stopped. I can't tell you why, but I was compelled to document what I was hearing until I heard it no more. I did know earlier in the evening that others were listening. I knew that one person at about 10:30 had signed off. But I didn't know for sure if anyone else was listening in or if anyone else was recording the sounds. It was at about 0330 that I got an was then that I learned another person had been blogging about what he was hearing and he was making audio recordings of the sounds being heard on the hydrophones

The Whale Museum put out a press release on 4-10-09:

"It is likely that the sound source was generally south of San Juan Island. Dr. Val Veirs, president of the The Whale Museum’s Board and professor of Physics (emeritus) at Colorado College, stated that “The received levels of the signals at Lime Kiln Lighthouse were about the most intense sounds that the hydrophones there have recorded in the past several years of continuous operation.”
The highest received levels came from SONAR pings. The highest received levels were approximately 140 dB re 1 microPascal. This is approximately the same as the most intense SONAR signals recorded in May 2003 when the US Navy Guided Missile “Shoup” transited the waters of Haro Strait.  The base frequency of the SONAR pings was about 3 kHz which suggests that the SONAR is the Navy’s mid-frequency sonar which was implicated in the death of multiple beaked whales in the Bahamas October 2003."  (I have added a link to the Center for Whale Research regarding the Shoup incident because the original link was no longer functioning.)

Southern Resident orca had not been seen in the inland waters for a while, but transient orca had been seen less than 2 hours prior to the sonar activity starting.
Many agencies both governmental and environmental were contacted to stop this from occurring in the future.

It was a big deal.  If you look at a map of the underwater terrain of the waters in the Salish Sea you will see how narrow it is compared to the open ocean, which causes sound to 'bounce around'- it goes...scary stuff.

I don't have much else to say, other than my blog is about my passion for the whales and sharing that passion with as many other people as I can. I will continue to do that, however sometimes something comes along that sets you on a course (even for a few days) to make sure things are not left silent.
I personally thank everyone who has taken the steps to speak up and make their voice heard. Whether you agree or disagree you are part of the dialogue and that is what is needed. Running silent and running deep just doesn't work in this world. We need to be on the surface and seen. (yes, all puns intended)

I too care about the safety of our country but that is not what this is about. This is about being accountable, being responsible and honoring and caring for the precious resources we have on this earth. And it's not just about the Southern Resident Community of Endangered orcas. It is about the entire ecosystem - the sea lions, elephant seals, harbor porpoise, Dall's porpoise, harbor seals and the birds who get food from them and on and on...oh yes, and us too.

...please try to extend your thinking out 7 generations, and if you just can't go seven generations how about for the next generation for starters. just think about it...

We are the stewards of this earth and in our zealousness to 'save' it we continue to destroy it, and some day I hope that enough people realize that because then real change can happen.


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