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Canada Is Sending Acousticians to Investigate a Mystery Ping in the Arctic Ocean

It’s scaring animals away from an important hunting ground.

Icy ocean in Nunavut, near where the ping is causing problems.
Icy ocean in Nunavut, near where the ping is causing problems. Doc Searls/CC BY-SA 2.0

For months, hunters in the Canadian territory of Nunavut have had to deal with a mysterious foe—a pinging sound coming from deep beneath the Arctic Ocean. The noise, which can be heard through the hulls of boats, may be scaring away the sea mammals the hunters rely on for food, the CBC reported in November.

The noise is most prevalent in a narrow channel called Fury and Hecla Strait. Normally teeming with seals and bowhead whales, it has been strangely empty this past year, area representatives told the outlet.

Although many theories have been raised—sonar surveys, construction, a Greenpeace conspiracy to keep seals out of hunting grounds—none have been borne out. A military plane, sent to investigate in early November, turned up only “two pods of whales and six walruses,” and zero unusual sounds.

But Canada isn’t giving up. According to the CBC, the Canadian Forces will send two acoustic specialists north to the nearby town of Igloolik, where, aided by their own ranger patrol, they will talk to locals to learn more about the tricky sound. 

What they do after that remains to be seen. Best of luck, acousticians, and beware Cthulthu.

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