I have been at the mercy of a scientist these past couple days. Kelly Newman, pictured, is an acoustician, a scientist specializing in the study of sound, from the University of Alaska, and with hydrophones we’ve been out in an inflatable boat doing audio recordings for her Ph.D. research. Today we were recording along the ice edge here in the Chukchi Sea deep in the Arctic. We’re floating just a few miles from where Shell is planning to drill for oil this summer.
Before embarking on this journey to the Arctic we gave Kelly Newman a call. Kelly was on the Esperanza back in 2007 when we did our first submarine dives around the Pribilof and Zhemchug Canyon in the Bering Sea. (Here’s a peek on how we recover our submarines). We told her we wanted to facilitate her research and she could join us on board for round two.
Kelly is researching orcas and other marine mammals, and she recorded more than 2,400 hours near the Pribilof Islands. Kelly wants to see if she can find any matches on the call types she’s identified in the Bering Sea. Her goal is to find out if the orcas are moving into areas where sea ice has diminished over the years due to climate change. This phenomenon has been observed in the Hudson Bay on the east coast of Canada, but whether or not the same thing goes on here is still unknown. Previously, individual orcas from the Bering Sea have gone almost all the way south to Hawaii and some north to the Bering Strait.
Another of Kelley’s goals is gathering rich data on marine mammals living here. Shell will be moving their fleet in soon to start exploratory drillings for oil. That is, if they get the necessary permits, of course. Kelly is worried how the noise from the whole drilling operation will affect the animals in the nearby vicinity.
Today was a beautiful day in the Arctic. Let’s keep it like this and not let the oil and fishery industry wreck it. You can take action too.