Monday, November 14, 2016

Wildlife spooked by mysterious noise in area in northern Canada

Hunters in a remote community in Nunavut, in northern Canada are concerned about a mysterious sound apparently coming from the sea floor. The sound described sometimes as a "pinging", a hum, or even a beep has been heard throughout the summer.

Fury and Hecla Strait, the area where the sounds are heard is about is about 120 kilometers northwest of the village of Iglooik. The area is north of the Arctic Circle. Paul Quassa a member of the Nunavut legislative assembly said that the noise is scaring animals away: "That's one of the major hunting areas in the summer and winter because it's a polynya." A polyna is an area of open water surrounded by ice usually containing many sea mammals. However, this summer that were very few. Qassa told members of the legislature that the noise was emanating from the sea floor.
Quassa says that Baffinland, owner of a mine at Mary River has been doing sonar surveys but the company says it has no equipment in the water. Another member of the legislature George Qulat also visited the sites but as he is nearly deaf he did not hear any sounds. However, he noticed the absence of wild life and said: "That passage is a migratory route for bowhead whales, and also bearded seals and ringed seals. There would be so many in that particular area. This summer there was none."
Others have heard the sound, including those aboard a private yacht that passed through the area. They described the mysterious sound during a community radio show after they arrived in Igloolik. Other people called in to claim they heard the sound.
While some suggest that the sound is created by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. the company claims it is not conducting sonar surveys in that area and has no equipment in the water. Qassa points out that no permits have been issued for any work in the area that could explain the noise. Another theory blames Greenpeace environmentalists who it is claimed are attempting to scare wildlife away from the rich hunting grounds. The local Inuit have had conflict with Greenpeace before over the issue of seal hunting. Qassa said: "We've heard in the past of groups like Greenpeace putting in some kinds of sonars in the seabed to get the sea mammals out of the way so Inuit won't be able to hunt them. Nobody has ever seen any type of ship or anything going through that area and putting something down." Farah Khan , a spokesperson for Greenpeace said that not only would they do nothing to harm marine life, they respected the right of the Inuit to hunt. Even the Russian news source Sputnik covers the story.
The reports are regarded as significant enough for further investigation by the Canadian military. The noise could be produced by submarines but were not considered a likely cause. A spokesperson for the military wrote in a statement: "The Department of National Defence has been informed of the strange noises emanating in the Fury and Hecla Strait area, and the Canadian Armed Forces are taking the appropriate steps to actively investigate the situation." Igloolik is about 70 kilometers north of Hall Beach a military site that is still active though it was part of the now closed DEW early warning line of radar stations active during the cold war. Qassa said that inhabitants of the area really had not a single clue as to what was causing the sound.
The military sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate last Tuesday. It was sent under the mandate of Operation Limpid, a domestic surveillance program meant to "detect, deter, prevent, pre-empts and defeat threats aimed at Canada or Canadian interests." Ashley Lemire, a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of National Defence said: “The Canadian armed forces are aware of allegations of unusual sounds emanating from the seabed in the Fury and Hecla Strait in Nunavut. The air crew performed various multi-sensor searches in the area, including an acoustic search for 1.5 hours, without detecting any acoustic anomalies. The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts." She said the crew did observe two pods of whales and six walruses in the area. She said that at the present the Department of National Defence did not intend to do any further investigation.

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