Kate Stafford gives an informative yet persuasive narration of how human noise affects the oceanic habitats.
The sound in the underworld
The underwater world is not quiet even though the sounds are actually inaudible above the waters depending on your location and the time of the year. The invertebrates use sounds to study their environment, to navigate, communicate with each other, as well as to detect preys and predators.
Artic embodies the disconnect between what is seen on the surface and what is happening underwater. The sounds are likely to amaze then delight whoever hears them. Ice too has a sound, screeches, cracks, pops and groans. However, it is hard to imagine that as humans tend to be visual animals.
Humans mainly use the sense of sight to navigate the world while for marine mammals; they use the sound to navigate theirs. Sounds transmit very well underwater that in air, thus the signals can be sensed from great distances.
In the Arctic, marine mammals have to hear each other as well as listen for cues indicating heavy ice ahead or even open water. They live in rich, varied underwater soundscape while in the spring it can be a cacophony of sound.
In the last 30 years, seasonal ice has continued to decrease from 6 to 4 months which is often referred to as open water season. This has led to the loss of habitat for the animals depending on sea ice including seals, polar bears, and walrus. It has also led to increased erosion in the coastal villages thus altering the prey availability for marine mammals and birds.
Climatic change has resulted in dramatic changes that affect the environment as well as the animals dependent on it. Air in the Artic cause wind but with climatic change, the Artic is open to wave noises and the storms are more and more intense. Hence the previously quite ocean is now quite noisy.
With less ice in the Artic, the animals are learning to adapt to more water and less of ice. This may mean there will be increased completion with the non-Artic marine animals. Land too has been affected. Human now has more access of the Artic for exploration and exploitation. All these noises are reducing the acoustic space over which the marine beings can communicate.
She concludes by urging people to return the ideal silent underwater by stopping the exploration to Artic and stop climatic changes.