|Dead Fin whale in Vancouver harbour - photo by Belle Puri
|Seven Seas Navigator
|Fin whale on the surface
|Fin whale under water
Perhaps the most logical answer is the unfortunate whale didn't even hear the ship coming and just happened to be in the wrong place while taking a nap. There's growing evidence the increase in ocean noise from modern shipping and naval activity is affecting the hearing of all marine mammals, particularly whales, and even affecting their ability to mate. Fin whales in particular transmit long, low frequency mating calls that in earlier times could be heard thousands of miles away under water but are now reduced to a much shorter distance due to all the background noise in the ocean.
Much more serious however is the effect of U.S.& NATO naval sonar testing which is causing death and mass strandings wherever this testing is being conducted. For humans any noise level over 85 decibels requires hearing protection, 140 decibels causes hearing damage, and at 150 decibels your eardrums would burst. Anything over 185 decibels could kill you, and for marine animals anything over 170 decibels can injure them. The low frequency active sonar being used by the Navy is 250 decibels and carries for hundreds of miles. The navy has acknowledged this sonar testing is responsible for the deaths of whales in the Bahamas, Canary Islands, Tasmania, Hawaii, New Zealand and other places where whales have turned up with massive haemorrhaging around the ears or stranded on beaches.
Marine animals rely on sound far more than sight, as it's their way of communicating, hunting and mating. Sound travels 12 times faster and much further through the water than the air and the combination of commercial marine traffic, seismic surveys, and naval activity is creating so much noise the animals can't hear themselves and it's changing their patterns of calling, foraging and migration. If we care about these animals we need to make a more conscious effort to avoid making noise where they live because they don't need to feel it as well.