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Don’t Bring The Noise: How An App Is Making Life Better For Whales In The North Atlantic
February 19, 2013
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If you've ever lived on a busy street, it's not always the most peaceful of places.

There's the traffic. Or the construction. Or that guy with the bass pounding out of his car. Or the late night rowdies, just out of the bar.

Whatever it is, it can be a real pain.

Well, that same kind of thing is happening to one of the most majestic animals on the planet - whales.

Except it's happening in the ocean, in the North Atlantic. And the noise is coming from all the ships that travel through there.

It's particularly bad in the waters off New England, as ships make their way into port in the Boston area.

Every time, a ship rolls in the whales hear a loud blare which makes it difficult for them to communicate with each other.

It also impacts their ability to find food and "hook up" with other whales, if you know what we mean.


Researchers say the level of noise has doubled every ten years since the early 1980s.

The BBC spoke with Dr. Mark Baumgartner of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In an audiotape, he played the sound of a whale communicating with another whale. And he played the sound of a ship, as a whale might hear it.

You can listen to that here. Off the top, you hear the whale. Around the 1:35 mark, you'll hear the ship noise.

The BBC report refers to it as "a thunderous, unchanging drone."

As Baumgartner says, "How would you like to have that in your bedroom, your kitchen, your work all the time?"

"That's what the acoustic environment for whales is like all the time."


Well, there might be something of a solution.

Scientists have developed an App that uses a real time digital map to tell ships where the whales are, along the entire east coast of the U.S.

The App takes information from underwater microphones to locate the whales and uses a GPS system to alert ships if they're getting too close to them.

That way, as the ships come in, they can slow down or change their route so the noise isn't as loud for the whales.

The port authorities in Boston are on board with the idea, and worked with the scientists to develop a new shipping route to avoid the whales.

The UN's International Maritime Organization approved the plan, and many companies are telling their captains to use the new route.

About 1,500 big container ships come in and out of the Boston area each month. Along with reducing noise, this plan could help prevent ships from colliding with whales.

Scientists say one or two North Atlantic Right Whales are accidentally hit by ships in the area each year.

As the BBC points out, "that does not sound like a lot," but it's significant when you consider there might only be "500 of these animals left in the wild."

via BBC

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