Mysterious noises that have haunted people in the Arctic recently may have a very simple explanation

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The theories range from UFOs operating under the ice to the release of methane gas to Russian or U.S. submarines lurking in Canadian waters.

But one possible explanation for the mysterious sounds seemingly coming from the ocean floor in Canada’s Arctic may be rather straightforward, suggests a U.S. scientist working on a project that generates low-frequency sound in the far North. It could be ice rubbing together.

Last week, acting on a request from the government of Nunavut, the Canadian military sent a CP-140 Aurora aircraft to conduct surveillance of Fury and Hecla Strait, northwest of the hamlet of Igloolik. Hunters in the area have reported hearing noises ranging from hums to pings to beeps. They say the noises are driving animals away.

“The sound that has been heard in the area seems to be emitted from the seabed and underwater,” Paul Quassa, a member of Nunavut’s legislative assembly, told lawmakers on Oct. 25.

According to Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier, the Aurora’s crew conducted “various multi-sensor searches in the area, including an acoustic search for 1.5 hours, without detecting any acoustic anomalies. The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts.”

The Aurora crew did observe two pods of whales and six walruses in the area of interest, Le Bouthillier added.

Residents have speculated about various theories for the sounds, including that a mining company may be conducting sonar surveys or that environmentalists may be using some kind of device to scare away animals so they can’t be hunted. Others have suggested the release of methane gases from the ocean floor or clandestine visits by Russian or U.S. submarines.

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One of the more prominent theories focused on the claim the sounds were being emitted by a science project in the Arctic funded by the Office of Naval Research in the U.S.

That project, called the Canada Basin Acoustic Propagation Experiment, or CANAPE, uses low-frequency sound to determine how the ongoing changes in sea ice affect acoustics. The project could produce data for use in tracking submarines in the far North.

But Peter Worcester of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California said the sounds being generated by CANAPE are very low and too far away to be heard in the Fury and Hecla Strait.

“The signals transmitted for CANAPE are only expected to be above the background ocean noise level out to a range of at most a few hundred kilometres, which is much less than the distance to Fury and Hecla Strait,” said Worcester, who heads the project.

“Even if the signals were louder, any underwater sound generated north of Alaska would be blocked from reaching Fury and Hecla Strait by the many islands in the Canadian Archipelago.”

Worcester said he didn’t know what would cause the mystery sounds and is loath to speculate since he hasn’t heard them himself. But he noted much of the acoustic noise in the Arctic is caused by ice rubbing together, cracking, and moving. Early Arctic explorers called the noises the “Devil’s Symphony” with descriptions ranging from buzzing to wheezing and loud bangs.

“You can even get things where the ice hums, where you get sounds that resonate almost like an organ pipe,” Worcester explained. “There was a paper written about the notion there are various melodies associated with the sounds generated by sea ice.”

A spokesman with the DND said the department considers the issue of the mystery noises closed and there are no plans to send more aircraft to investigate.

dpugliese@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/davidpugliese

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Kaynak: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/mysterious-noises-that-have-haunted-people-in-the-arctic-for-many-years-may-have-a-simple-explanation

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