Discovery’s Sonic Sea Dives Into How Noise Pollution Increasingly Threatens Sea Creatures

Jeff Pfeiffer

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.

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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.

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Whale illustration as seen in “Sonic Sea”: Discovery Communications/Natural Resources Defense Council

18 Comments

  1. I gather the reported event occurred in 2000. I don’t think I have heard of more than perhaps 2 or 3 other such events since then. What percentage of the whale population has lost due to SONAR induced “beachings”? Does anyone here have documented numbers?

  2. The anger expressed by you idiots only proves my point…..Liberals can’t handle the truth. Global warmin is false, yet you steeple all buy it.

    We murder tens of thousands of unborn children every year, but you idiots cry over whales. Get a life jerks and wake up.

  3. I caught part of this tonight and found it riveting. I plead ignorance to most of the facts presented, but I can’t deny how much more peaceful my life is in the absence of sound and light. I can’t imagine what it mast be like for sea creatures who can’t use their flippers to cover their ears against the cacophony of noise they witness. It would drive me insane!
    But what struck me most, was a desire to become a sonic researcher and watch orcas all day long. That looks like a pretty relaxing and non-stressful life!

  4. Some people just feel more comfortable when their heads are stuck in the sand. Unfortunately, not much can be said or done to change that. This explains the “unexplained” beaching of whales. It makes sense and it’s very disturbing!!

  5. Some of these people don’t believe what we are doing to the world today but we are destroying it and it is the master of time we destroy it !! From the land to the sea years form now the generations later we find out what we did to the world and it will be too late for them to see how it once was because of our ignorance and they will have to pay the price of our ignorance !!!

  6. Unbeliavable that you do not think that this is happening, you are so ignorant calling this lies and propaganda. Every action has a reaction.

  7. And before I am called a sheeple… I grew up on the ocean my whole life living between California and Hawaii. I have seen the changes to the ocean and the surrounding environments.

  8. Bob unfortunately is a representation of the ignornant majority.. Hopefully our children and their children will be able to make the changes that our generations are trying to apply. When we kill the sea, we kill the world. I am no environazi.. I am guilty of complacency and ignorance as well. But I recognized the problems and make conscious decisions to do my part.

  9. No Mike, it makes you one of the Sheeple who will believe any garbage the lying media throw at you. You mindless idiots have no idea of what’s really happening in the world today. Enjoy!

    • Why do Trolls like you BOB hang out in places like this to pick fights ? Why does every Ignorant son of a bitch sound exactly like you ? Can’t you think up your own Hate routine ? Gotta use Sarah Palin quotes ? You’re a child ..And a fuckin’ Punk!

      • Hey Bob why don’t you a couple of sheep to have some fun with and leave this site !!

    • Bob is a lonely idiot that gets no attention at home and needs to act like a moron to get attention. Pity him.

  10. When and how can I see this if not on May 19 / Discovery channel ??
    Thanks. I guess that makes me an environazi !!

    • This is bs to me! I am now watching Sonic Sea I am crying I wanna do something about this situation! Please send me all the information that u have please! Thank u very much!

    • Hi, Michael. At this point we’re not seeing it listed as airing on Discovery again. This link from the film’s official site has a list of theatrical screenings; maybe one is near your area. I am not aware of the film being on DVD yet, unfortunately. http://www.sonicsea.org/screenings

  11. Noise pollution….ugh..please give me a break. More lies and propaganda dreamed up by the “environazis” to control our society.

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