In the darkness of the sea, whales and other marine life depend upon sound to survive, but that is being threatened, thanks to humanity. Airing as part of Discovery Channel’s Discovery Impact, the documentary film Sonic Sea travels below the ocean’s surface to uncover the damaging consequences that increased noise pollution is having on wildlife. Actress Rachel McAdams narrates the film, which also features an interview with musical artist Sting, along with various experts in the fields of ocean ecology and wildlife activism.
Over the last century, extremely loud noise from commercial ships, oil and gas exploration, naval sonar exercises and other sources has transformed the ocean¹s delicate acoustic habitat, challenging the ability of whales and other marine life to prosper and ultimately to survive.
“March 15, 2000: The day of infamy as far as I’m concerned,” explains Kenneth C. Balcomb, a whale researcher and a former U.S Navy officer who was living in Bahamas, in the film.
On this day, Balcomb and his team discovered whales swimming dangerously close to the shore. “They’re supposed to be in deep water. So I pushed it back out to sea,” says Balcomb. As the day progressed more and more were discovered off the coast and ultimately various groups of whales were found on the shore. Sonic Sea shines a light on the findings of those incidents which led to a new understanding of the detrimental impact of ocean noise on marine life.
In the film, we learn that there are different ways that sounds can affect animals: the underlying ambient noise level that’s rising that interferes with communication and their movement patterns; and the more acute kind of traumatic impact of sound, that’s causing physical damage or a really strong behavioral, fight-or-flight response among the creatures.
Sonic Sea won the Jury Award and the John de Graff Environmental Filmmaking award when it premiered at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January, and it sounds like an important film to watch.
Sonic Sea premieres May 19 at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel.
Whale illustration as seen in “Sonic Sea”: Discovery Communications/Natural Resources Defense Council