Back in 2001, as published by Acoustic Ecology, Kenneth Balcomb corresponded with the military about an environmental impact statement covering sonar.
I have had the unique opportunity to witness and study a mass stranding of whales and a dolphin caused by a US Naval Sonar Exercise in the Bahamas (Pirie, ltr. June 15, 2000). That incident unequivocally demonstrated the lethality of high-powered sonars, and it provided the opportunity to understand how sonar has been inadvertently killing whales in vast expanses of ocean around the world.
The killing is largely due to resonance phenomena in the whales cranial airspaces that are tearing apart delicate tissues around the brains and ears.
This is an entirely separate issue from auditory thresholds and traumas that the Navy has fixated upon.
There are basically two ways that an industry, agency, or government can respond to a situation like the navy encountered, when beaked whales beached and later died, in association with military sonar exercises.
Truth, or Consequences?
One response would be to scientifically investigate the inadequacy of the auditory threshold theory, and to determine the mechanisms of harm to the whales, which might also inform the science of human health protection and environmental stewardship.
Another response is to deny harm, for example, in a subsequent report published in 2007, and to keep bombarding the ocean inhabitants.
Twenty years ago, whale expert Kenneth Balcomb attempted to steer the science towards integrity and an evolution of our understanding of biology.
We need more steering towards integrity.
In my earlier comments, I questioned whether there might be a problem with injurious resonance phenomena created by the sonar system described in your OEIS/EIS; but, now I have seen the problem and can attest to the fact that there is massive injury to whales caused by sonar. This is not an exaggerated statement. [ ]
Resonance, as engineers well know, can dramatically contribute to shear forces that can be quite damaging — wings tear off airplanes, bridges gallop, and buildings collapse, etc. due to unanticipated resonance phenomena which can afterwards be explained by simple physics and mechanics. I wondered about tissue damage caused by resonance, and I specifically asked what the Navy calculations for lung resonance frequencies of a beaked whale were at various depths. [You sidestepped my question].
Subsequent to my asking you about specific resonant frequencies and depths, I found that in 1998 NATO and the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center had already calculated the resonance frequency of airspaces in Cuvier beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) to be about 290 Hz at 500 meters depth (), which is almost precisely the middle frequency of LFA (100-500 Hz) described in your OEIS/EIS!
That information is quite important, [ ] , there are several citations of Navy sponsored studies that clearly demonstrated vestibular dysfunction (eg. dizziness, vertigo) and lung hemorrhage, etc. in laboratory animals exposed to LFA at their lung resonance frequency. In other words, the Navy has sufficient information available to know there is at least theoretically a very serious problem to whales from LFA for even brief periods of time.
The scientific and medical literature contains numerous examples of hemorrhagic injuries and death occurring in humans when they are inadvertently exposed to loud sound, particularly at their lung (airspace) resonance frequency. Undoubtedly such damage could also be demonstrated as occurring to whales if they could be tested and did not sink to the bottom of the ocean when they die.
The NATO report I referred to for resonance calculations was concerning the mass stranding of at least twelve Cuviers beaked whales in Greece on 12 May, 1996 coincident with a NATO acoustic trial employing both LFA (450-700 Hz) and mid-frequency sonar (2.8-3.3 kHz). Superficially, in reading that report one might wonder whether either frequency range caused the whales to strand in Greece, since neither matched the reported resonance frequency in that instance for Cuviers beaked whales airspaces at an arbitrarily chosen 500 meters depth.
However, also in that NATO report there were formulae [ ] presented that indicated the resonance frequency of airspaces can be calculated, within acceptable limits, from their volumes. Lung (airspace) volumes vary individually, and they also vary with depth, hence their resonance will vary accordingly. Nonetheless, the Navy used the formulae, and so did I. You could, too.
In order to perform these airspace resonance calculations correctly, one must know or take into account the following:
- Boyle’s Law PV constant; therefore, lung (airspace) volume will decrease with increasing depth due to increasing pressure.
- Lung (airspace) volume at the surface.
- Functional anatomy of deep-diving beaked whales.
It is the volume of air in the individual pterygoid sacs and the laryngeal airspace, not the lungs, for which resonance should be calculated.
[ ] At least seven beaked whales died in the Bahamas stranding that I witnessed; and, I had opportunity to examine four of the carcasses by necropsy. All of these whales that were examined evidenced similar lesions, i.e. hemorrhage in the acoustic regions of the cranium and mandible and in tissues adjacent to airspaces around the earbones (NMFS ltr. June 14, 2000). One fresh specimen that was examined by ultra high-resolution computerized tomography (UHR-CT) evidenced a subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain hemorrhage) with a direct path to the ear hemorrhage. This same specimen evidenced lung hemorrhage and laryngeal hemorrhage upon dissection. These hemorrhages are of the type of damage reported in laboratory animals exposed to LFA at lung resonance frequency, and they strongly corroborate the theoretical explanation of such injuries in these whales. [ ]
Therefore, based on two significant mass mortality events (Greece and the Bahamas) the body of evidence indicates that not only is resonance with LFA and sonar frequencies a problem for beaked whales, the sound pressure level of 180 dB RL is demonstrably not safe, and it is probably not safe for other cetaceans (two minke whales and a dolphin also stranded in the Bahamas incident).
Aversion and/or physiological damage evidently and repeatedly occurs in beaked whales at levels of somewhere between 150 and 180 dB RL (probably nearer the former) of either low frequency or mid-frequency sonar signals in the whales=92 normal habitat. Clearly, the impact of high-powered rapid-rise acoustic energy (such as sonar), particularly at airspace resonance frequency, on these animals is occurring at significant distances well beyond the current mitigation distance (1-2.2 km) used by the Navy. These impact distances can be easily calculated, and they are more like 20 to 100 kilometers, and more well over the horizon of shipboard observers.
Cuvier=92s beaked whales were reasonably common in our field study area prior to the Bahamas incident; we had photo-identified about thirty-five of them, many repeatedly. We typically sighted small groups of these whales a dozen or more times per year in any month of the year. But since the Bahamas sonar incident we have seen this species only once in an entire year, and that was a sighting of two previously unidentified whales (i.e., new arrivals to our study area) about two months after the sonar exercise. None of the whales that were rescued have been seen again.
In retrospect, it is probable that all Cuvier’s beaked whales in the region when the naval exercise commenced were killed by the sonar, and not only 94
In retrospect, it is probable that all Cuvier’s beaked whales in the region when the naval exercise commenced were killed by the sonar, whether or not they were returned to sea by well-wishers pushing them off the shore. Considering the observed damage to the whales that stranded and died, and the short time period between stranding and death, the NMFS statement that the whales died from stranding=94 is patently absurd. The whales that were observed swimming toward shore and stranding were only temporary survivors of an acoustic holocaust that can be likened to fishing with dynamite.
[ ] the Navy cannot reasonably mitigate the problem using visual, active acoustic or passive acoustic monitoring, nor can the Navy redesign the whales; [ ] I cannot legally or morally support any recommendation to deploy SURTASS/LFA as proposed.
Aversion and Physiological Damage is Occurring in Humans
What is so alarming to individuals concerned about the planned expansion of the Internet of Underwater Things is that we haven’t been able to manage telecommunications technologies skillfully and ethically on Earth.
We have humans, on land, who can accurately describe the impact of radio frequencies on their physiology.
We are not investigating civilian harm, despite attention to diplomatic personnel.
Did the whales tell us, decades ago, that resonance between an organ and a wavelength would render life intolerable for a portion of the population, even without a deep dive? As noted by microwave weapons expert Barrie Trower?
The Dangers of Microwave Technology – Microwave expert Barrie Trower
The smart meter rollout, like the naval exercises, created carnage.
Why are we still using sonar? Skewed science.
We cannot extend these cognitive errors, entitlement, and exploitation to the seas.
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