Thursday, November 3, 2016

RCAF sends surveillance aircraft to Arctic to investigate mysterious pinging sounds

By: David Pugliese, The National Post

The Canadian Forces has sent a surveillance aircraft to the Arctic to investigate a pinging sound that appears to be coming from the ocean floor, but the military is no closer to solving the mystery of what could be making the noise.

The government of Nunavut asked Ottawa to investigate the sounds, prompting the decision to send a CP-140 Aurora aircraft to conduct surveillance of Fury and Hecla Strait, northwest of the hamlet of Igloolik.

Descriptions of the noises range from pings to beeps or a hum. They have been reported by hunters in the region, who worry they are driving away animals.

Paul Quassa, a member of Nunavut’s legislative assembly, told lawmakers last month the sounds are coming from the sea floor. “The sound that has been heard in the area seems to be emitted from the seabed and underwater,” Quassa said in an Oct. 25 statement. “Our constituents as well as hunters and boaters have reported that the area in question is almost devoid of sea mammals and that hunting has been poor in the area for quite some time.”

According to Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier, the Aurora’s 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.”

Google Maps of Fury and Hecla Strait

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.

Nunavut’s government provided the Forces with information about the noises. “We appreciate the information provided by the government of Nunavut and will follow up with the premier’s office once the investigation has concluded,” Le Bouthillier said.

Over the years, there have been various reports of sightings of mysterious objects in Canada’s Arctic waters. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were at least a dozen sightings of unusual objects moving along or just below the surface of the water, mostly around Baffin Island, according to Canadian Forces records.

Inuit hunters and members of the Canadian Rangers reported what they believed were foreign submarines checking out Canada’s Arctic territories. Many of the sightings took place near Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.

One sighting in particular was well-documented: an RCMP officer and several area residents saw an object just below the surface, producing a three-metre bow wave as it moved through the water. Several weeks later, a group of hunters saw the object again.

The Canadian military conducted an investigation into the various sightings but concluded strong currents or the wind could have caused the unusual waves reported by the officer and Inuit. At the time, the Canadian military said it could not find any evidence of foreign submarines operating in the area.

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