"A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See"

"Today -- to the dismay of whale lovers and friends of marine mammals, if not divers and submarine captains -- the ocean depths have become a noisy place."

"The causes are human: the sonar blasts of military exercises, the booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly crisscross the global seas. Nature has its own undersea noises. But the new ones are loud and ubiquitous.

Marine experts say the rising clamor is particularly dangerous to whales, which depend on their acute hearing to locate food and one another.

To fight the din, the federal government is completing the first phase of what could become one of the world’s largest efforts to curb the noise pollution and return the sprawling ecosystem to a quieter state.

The project, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeks to document human-made noises in the ocean and transform the results into the world’s first large sound maps. The ocean visualizations use bright colors to symbolize the sounds radiating out through the oceanic depths, frequently over distances of hundreds of miles."

William J. Broad reports for the New York Times December 10, 2012.
 

Source: NY Times, 12/12/2012