Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsSpoelstra, J. L.
JournalAquatic Mammals
Start Page425
Type of ArticleScientific
Keywordsacoustic, anthropogenic noise, beaked whale, man-made noise, sonar, strandings

As a very junior officer on a conventional submarine, it did not take me long to find my favorite spot on board: the Sonar Room, the interface wih the outside world. Side by side with the sonar operator, I would listen for long periods to the sounds around us. It was not difficult to distinguish between the "human-made" noise, like ships' propellers or the occasional seismological survey, and the mysterious and fascinating sounds in the impenetrable blue and black waterworld around us, like whalesong or the chattering of dolphins. We felt a lot of sympathy for the creatures that produced these sounds; after all, it was their environment and we were uninvited guests. Furthermore, the designers of our boats had done their best to resemble their shapes. We even borrowed their names: Dolphin, Finwhale, Cachalot, and many varieties of the same in different languages. What were they trying to say to each other? Or to us? Would we ever be smart enough to understand their language? Would it be worth the effort?