Indeed. And in comparison to other species, we are not even particularly sensitive in terms of sound. We can tolerate sounds up to 130 decibels (dB) in loudness, although lower volumes will make us deaf sooner or later. 130 dB is called the threshold of pain. The decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that adding 10dB to the loudness indicates a TEN TIMES increase in the power of the sound. 140dB indicates a power level TEN TIMES louder than 130dB.
We know that marine animals rely a great deal on their hearing. We know that whales can communicate over tremendous distances by using sound.
Now consider an innocent-sounding little blurb published recently in the Washington Post:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to allow oil and gas companies to conduct seismic mapping surveys of the ocean floor along the Atlantic coast, a significant step toward allowing offshore oil drilling.Seismic mapping is a technique that employs such equipment as air guns, water guns, and "boomers" to create sound waves loud enough to vibrate the ocean floor. This means creating sound waves that measure 250 dB. 250! That is 1,000,000,000,000 times greater than the "threshold of pain"! (That's ONE TRILLION times the sound power.)
Illustration of seismic mapping from the EPA web site.
A seismic survey takes about two or three weeks and can span hundreds of miles of ocean. Imagine being caught in an onslaught like that. Your entire body is vibrating beyond belief. Your eyes and ears explode. The ocean has become a hell-like environment.
Beaching yourself is the only escape from the torture.
Even at a distance from the source of the sounds, it has been observed that it is much more difficult for the animals to find food. They may even abandon their traditional habitats.
The BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should have been our wake-up call to move away from oil. Instead, we're engaging in more destruction. Why? Because it's only animal life that we're torturing.