Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Whales of Summer

by: Nancy Qualls-Collins

This blog is far from my usual book reviews. But I was watching my favorite television station, Animal Planet, and became engrossed in their research of how the Navy's new, high powered sonar affects schools of whales.  That being said, I hope you will take a few minutes of your busy life to think of something that is so far fetched that it would never cross our minds. I am watching the examination of several whales that beached themselved in Washington state and Tasmania, AU. Being from Florida this is not an uncommon thing.  But in these cases the etiology of the beaching is what caught my attention.

During the course of everyday life we have little time to think of the effects of our technology on the wildlife of our world. But think of it, if you will, sonar technology is becoming more and more powerful. Imagine a school of whales all moving and comminicating using their God-given sonar. Suddenly, they are barraged with sonar from a Navy ship and their comminications are mixed up. It is feesible and now I know it has happened. It is felt the sonar scared the whales into shallow waters, that makes sense. But there was actual physical damage to the whale's tissues.

Pathological autopsy results negated the obvious cause of death which would be the collapse and failure of body organs as the weight of the whale crushes the lungs and heart. They found blood coming from their ears, never heard of before.  Tissue samples showed signs of blunt force trauma, and unlikely malady for all the whales in both locations. How could they all suffer blunt force, there were no signs of shark attack or being hit by a ship. Yet the pieces of tissue I saw had multiple holes. A NOAA biologist called it a high frequency blast that caused damage to the tissue. He calls it a 'sonic blasts'.

Not to worry dear friends, we are assured that the Navy, working with NOAA and the Jacques Cousteau Society, will study this and create a resolution to the problem. I certainly cannot blame the Navy for negligence because sonar has been used for decades. Personally, I would have thought the whales have their own frequencies and would not be disturbed by outsside interference. That is, if I were to have been aprised of the possibility and thought it through myself. I will now. As a matter of fact, being the OCD person that I am, now I wonder how fishermen's sonar affects fish, dolphins, squid, sharks. I love the show 'Deadliest Catch' so now I worry that the sonar of the crabbing vessels affects the crab.  I am always amazed at the little things we do not think of .


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