André at sea pointing to a group of sperm whales Photo: Rolex / Eric Vandeville (Copyright)
An unlucky passenger who died when a high-speed ferry rammed into a sperm whale in the Canary islands was the world’s first known victim of a new form of pollution – ocean noise. In places where marine traffic is heavy, vessels fast and whale numbers expanding, violent encounters are increasingly common. The cause of the accident, says marine biologist and Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureate Michel André, most probably lay in damage to the whale’s sensitive hearing apparatus caused by the rising roar of man-made noise throughout the oceans. The whale was stone deaf – and simply didn’t hear the ferry coming in time to avoid it. Julian Cribb reports.