Oil prospecting

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  • Le 29/08/2014
  • Dans Eco
Northern Right Whale mother & calf (Eubalaena glacialis) off Atlantic coast of Florida. Aerial views..

A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf swim in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. Only about 500 of this species remain.

Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic Creative

Doug Struck

for National Geographic

Published August 9, 2014

Whales talk. But what makes them stop talking?

Scientists have long known that the marine mammals use creaks, groans, growls, and buzzes to communicate with each other—often over long distances—to find food, and even for mothers to keep track of their calves.

But what happens when the watery echosphere of their communication is filled with a drumbeat of undersea booms?

To the dismay of some who study whales, they may soon find out. The Obama administration this month gave the go-ahead for oil and gas companies to seek permits to use seismic noise cannons to map the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast, to prepare for possible drilling after 2017.

Drilling companies already have carved up a target zone from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The permits will allow their ships to crisscross the area dragging an array of cannons that erupt with a shock wave of sound every 10 to 15 seconds. The sound travels to the seafloor, enters the substrate, and bounces back to receivers on the ships.

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