Smart seals are hiding from killer whales in noisy fjords

Harbour seals are pretty cunning when it comes to hiding from their feared predator.

It’s thought that the seals take to the Alaskan fjords because it’s so noisy it keeps them protected from killer whales which hunt by sound.

In fact, a new study says fjords crammed with ice from tidewater glaciers are the noisiest places in the ocean.

The study was carried out by Alaska, Washington and Texas researchers who found that glacier ice in seawater releases pressurised bubbles which gush and fizz, making more noise than storms, fish or ships.

The sounds were recorded by underwater microphones at Icy Bay and Yakutat Bay in Alaska as well as Andvord Bay in Antarctica, said Glaciologist Erin Pettit.

And it’s that noise which may mean harbour seals flock to the Alaska fjords protecting them from killer whales.

The whales make a clicking noise which as a sound wave rebounds off an object helping them to identify its shape. That’s harder to do if there’s a lot of background noise.

And what does the noise of the fjords sound like? Pettit reckons the sound generated by the bubbles is akin to standing next to a busy road or river rapids.

The study was published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

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