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Where When How March/April 2017 : Page 64

literally. The longest recorded distance of sound was captured in the north west of the Pacific, made by a noise-emitting device in the middle of the Indian Ocean. That’s halfway around the world. The sensitivity of sound underwater is easi-ly experienced while snorkelling for example, where you can often hear a vessel far sooner than you can see it. The underwater world is a world of sound and the ocean is the domain of the great leviathans. Sound is the tool they use to see each other, to see other species and to very likely see the sea floor. It is also the tool they use to hear each other. Highly evolved internal navigation systems manifest themselves through songs and all manner of sounds, both bizarre and beautiful. Sailors, in the olden days, would lie below deck listening, either paralysed through fear or capti-vated by these haunting songs, oblivious to their source. Once upon a time the ocean blue was a myriad of sounds and songs, as whales crisscrossed the seas in search of food and mates while calling out dangers. Only occasional deep-water eruptions perhaps punctuated this world. A good voice requires a good ear and no doubt whales rely on their ears to hear the information being passed. Today, however, as our cities and country succumb to light pollution, so to in the ocean new sound is polluting the world beneath the ocean waves. Ships, drilling rigs and seismic testing, just to name a few, have littered the waters with uninterrupted sound of all types of volume and frequencies. For navigators, relying on acoustic clues and information, the relentless ocean noise they can’t turn off must be seriously intense, more so in places of concentrated activity, like shipping lanes, ports and oil fields. Arrival to the Turks and Caicos then, as well as other island civilisations like Tonga and Hawaii, must be a welcome relief to the whales, posing somewhat of a chance to relax and perhaps escape a little of the noise. The return of our Humpbacks between January and March is indeed special. If you’re lucky enough to be in the right place and the right time, you might get to see them as they pass through. It is their song, however, that often first marks their return, gratefully listened to by scuba divers suspended on the edge of our coral reefs. The closer they are the louder it gets. Get close enough, and you’ll not hear them any more. You will feel them; with vibrations so strong they reverberate through your chest, shaking one to the very core. It is truly awesome. Choose wisely. Very few guides and captains know how to approach these mammals safely and properly, even fewer can get you in the water with them. Expect nothing . The whales are not here for us. Anticipate. Be ready for anything. I Philip Shearer is an underwater photographer and head whale guide at Big Blue Unlimited | Website: bigblueunlimited.com | Instagram: @philipshearer @bigblueunlimited 64 • • • • • MARCH/APRIL 2017 “Where When How -Turks & Caicos Islands”

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