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Canada forces investigate mysterious 'pinging' sound coming from sea floor

The Guardian The Guardian 4/11/2016 Olivia Solon in San Francisco

Sea ice in the Northwest Passage near Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. © Alamy Sea ice in the Northwest Passage near Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. The Canadian armed forces have sent a crew to investigate reports of a mysterious “pinging” sound that seemed to be coming from the sea floor.

Hunters in a remote community in the Canadian Arctic have become concerned about a pinging or beeping sound they say they’ve been hearing in the Fury and Hecla Strait, a channel of water that’s 120km (75 miles) north-west of the Inuit hamlet Igloolik. 

Paul Quassa, a local politician, told CBC that the sound seems to be coming from the sea floor, and is scaring animals away from a popular hunting area of open water surrounded by ice that is usually abundant with sea mammals. 

“And this time around, this summer, there were hardly any. And this became a suspicious thing,” he said.

Several reports were passed to the military, which sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate on Tuesday under the mandate of Operation Limpid, a domestic surveillance programme designed to “detect, deter, prevent, pre-empt and defeat threats aimed at Canada or Canadian interests”.

In a statement, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said: “The Canadian armed forces are aware of allegations of unusual sounds emanating from the seabed in the Fury and Hecla Strait in Nunavut. The air crew performed 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 crew did observe two pods of whales and six walruses in the area of interest.

“At this time the Department of National Defence does not intend to do any further investigations.”

That hasn’t stopped people from theorising about the source of the sounds, which have been variously attributed to the sonar surveys of local mining operations or to Greenpeace activists.

Sonar is used by mining companies to make detailed maps of the sea floor in their search for offshore oil and gas. The sonar is known to disturb marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. However, the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, which has conducted sonar surveys nearby, told CBC it has no equipment in the water at this time.

Others believe that Greenpeace is creating the sound on purpose to scare wildlife away from Inuit hunters – an allegation Greenpeace denies.

Mysterious sounds have a tendency to send people’s imaginations into overdrive. Earlier this year a high-pitched flute-like noise kept people in Portland, Oregon, awake. The steady whistling noise had also been heard by residents several decades previously.

Meanwhile in Ontario, a low rumbling sound known as the “Windsor Hum” has confounded residents for six years, with some describing it as like thunder or a subwoofer that can rattle windows.

The sound appears to come from an island surrounded by fences that’s home to a steel plant. The secrecy surrounding the plant has led to wild and unfounded speculation that the sound comes from an alien aircraft or from the construction of an underground tunnel by a billionaire.

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