Sure, it may sound akin to the opening premise of a dodgy nineties science fiction film – but we’re serious: a strange “pinging” sound emanating from the sea bed in northern Canada is scaring off all local wildlife, and no one knows what’s causing it.
The noise, described as a “ping”, “hum” and “beep”, has been heard repeatedly by hunters of the remote Nunavut community operating in the Fury and Hecla Strait – a series of narrow waterways between northern Canada and the Arctic Circle. The region, usually teeming with life, is apparently experiencing a huge drop in animal activity, which is potentially disastrous for the local community who depend on hunting for food supplies.
Local news sources have received reports of the noise – from private yachts picking it up via sonar to hunters working in the area. These stories culminated in Canadian politician George Qulaut visiting the area to investigate matters further; while he was unable to hear the “ping”, he was able to observe the notable lack of wildlife.
“That passage is a migratory route for bowhead whales, and also bearded seals and ringed seals. There would be so many in that particular area,” he told CBC News. “This summer there was none.”
So what the heck is making the noise?
Everyone from the local government of Nunavut to Canada’s Department of National Defence has been looking into the noises, though a recent flyby mission by the Canadian Armed Forces returned no positive recording of the sound.
Some have pointed to local mining groups, though companies who have previously worked in the area have claimed they have no equipment in the water, while the local authorities have stated they’ve issued no territorial permits for work in the area. Others believe that Greenpeace might be placing a “pinger” device in the waters to scare wildlife off on purpose, to prevent the local community from hunting it.
“We've heard in the past of groups like Greenpeace putting in some kinds of sonars in the seabed to get the sea mammals out of the way so Inuit won't be able to hunt them,” Paul Quassa, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, told CBC news. Greenpeace has firmly denied the rumours, saying they respect the rights of the local Inuit community to hunt wildlife for food.
Another theory points toward military submarine activity – though the Canadian military says it has no knowledge of any subs operating in the area, neither their own nor foreign owned.
Any other ideas of what it could be? “As of today, we're still working on it,” said Qulaut. “We don't have a single clue.”