EVERETT, Wash. - Tour boat captains Carl Williams and Michael Colahan were preparing for the arrival of California Gray Whales last week when they heard a very loud and persistent noise.
"Definitely the first round was just a full on ping," said Williams, who said it went on for hours and then began again a few days later.
They weren't the only ones hearing it. Washington State Ferry officials confirm workers on a Clinton to Mukilteo run also heard it and complained. The Navy has confirmed it was conducting pier side sonar testing at the Everett Naval Station.
Marine researchers, including John Calambokidis of Olympia-based Cascadia Research, say sonar testing is always a concern around whales. Gray whales almost always stop in to Puget Sound during their annual migration from the California to the Arctic.
Whale boat operators and others said testing during the arrival of the whales threatens to interrupt the migration and chase off the whales along with the tourism business and educational opportunities they attract.
Sonar has been blamed for causing damage to whale hearing and even fatal strandings.
The Navy issued a statement, saying "The Navy was conducting pierside testing of mid-frequency active sonar at Naval Station Everett yesterday. This is routine testing that is a longstanding and ongoing requirement, and is an essential process in preparing a Navy ship to get underway.
Pierside testing is not continuous, but consists of very brief transmissions of acoustic energy interspersed with longer silent periods. "