Around the globe, nations are testing and beginning to deploy "active sonar" technology, which uses extremely loud sound to detect submarines.
October 24, 2002 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Around the globe, nations are testing and beginning to deploy "active sonar" technology, which uses extremely loud sound to detect submarines. "The problem? Active sonar can injure and even kill marine mammals." Save the Whales!.
posted by Domain Master 666 (17 comments total)
Hasn't active sonar been in use for decades? According to this page, the first active sonar was constructed in 1918. I'm not contesting the premise that this can injure or kill marine animals. I just wanted to clarify that issue.
posted by Kikkoman at 9:32 AM on October 24, 2002

Essentially they've been steadily upping the volume of the pings and now they're making a quantum leap in volume with the combining of active sonar with towed arrays.
posted by badstone at 9:52 AM on October 24, 2002

"Give me a ping, one ping only please." If active sonar was good enough for Jack Ryan and Marco Ramius, it's good enough for me.
posted by pjgulliver at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2002

How does the noise compare with other loud noise sources such as volcanoes and underwater earthquakes?
posted by PenDevil at 10:52 AM on October 24, 2002

I think that the deal here is that the active sonar on subs and destroyers and such tend to be higher frequency sound waves, which give you great resolution (ability to pinpoint an object in the ocean) over a short range, but high-frequency waves tend to scatter and diffuse over a long range.

Low-frequency sonar doesn't have such good resolution, but it has a much greater effective range, and thus affects a much larger volume of ocean than a high-frequency sonar, especially if you pump a lot of power into your ping.
posted by ptermit at 10:52 AM on October 24, 2002

About a year ago, there were a string of news articles about the technology, the danger it posed to whales, etc.

I found this previous thread that touched on it, but nothing from when this tech was first announced.
posted by mathowie at 11:28 AM on October 24, 2002

PenDevil: A magnitude 4-5 earthquake is in the 200+ dB range, concentrated in the low frequencies, according to this abstract.
posted by ptermit at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2002

However, underwater volcanoes and earthquakes won't be happening CONTINUOUSLY, which is how the Navy intends to use this new sonar. Instead of passively listening with SOSUS, as they have done for years, they intend to ferret out superquiet subs with these massive sonar blasts that can cover huge areas of ocean in one ping.

Remember that corny Star Trek movie where all the whales were dead in the future? This is probably how it happened.
posted by BobFrapples at 12:13 PM on October 24, 2002

We expect a sensible approach to noise pollution from a species that builds its own homes next to airports, train tracks and interstate highways?
posted by rushmc at 12:27 PM on October 24, 2002

is this sortof like when they blasted music outside an embassy to ... make the whales give up? (this is just bad imho)
posted by dabitch at 1:22 PM on October 24, 2002

remember 'voyage to the bottom of the sea'? PING!
posted by quonsar at 1:47 PM on October 24, 2002

I remember Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and now I know why the Seaview got attacked by those giant squid.

BTW, reading a couple of the links, it seems the Navy is especially interested in using this in littoral warfare -- finding quiet diesel-electric submarines in comparatively shallow areas close to coastlines. I fear for any whales in the Persian Gulf.
posted by alumshubby at 3:01 PM on October 24, 2002

Some coverage from the less advocacy-oriented CS Monitor and FAS. The NRDC has been banging walls on this issue for some time. Also, a Navy environmental impact statement site on the programs. Among other things, they insist that the SURTASS LFA system in question had not been used for two years prior to the whale beaching in the Bahamas.
posted by dhartung at 6:10 PM on October 24, 2002

I fear for any whales in the Persian Gulf.

Collaborators. If they didn't want us to solve the problem of Hussein, they should have risen up and overthrown him themselves.
posted by rushmc at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2002

I think it's horrible. Just because we CAN get that much extra power out of sonar doesn't mean we should if it means the lives of countless whales and other sea creatures. I can see this completely upsetting the entire ecological balance of the oceans as whatever species of creatures that are harmed by this pinging are forced to change their migratiatory patterns from what's been established for eons to simply running from the terror noise all the time, always heading in the direction of least noise and pain, regardless of whether it's any good for hunting or mating or whatever.
Worst case scenario is that it sets off a chain reaction of extinctions in the ocean that upsets the balance on the surface enough to wipe out all life on earth. Thanks alot navy, you homos.
posted by Eyegore at 10:36 PM on October 24, 2002

About a month ago NATO (USA) was doing miltary excercises off the coast of the Canary Islands with suspicious results. Of course this technology has been around for a while .

Must everything our government do be evil?
posted by sic at 3:34 AM on October 25, 2002

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