Gitga’at students use acoustic mapping to fight Enbridge

RAVEN is proud to have supported this educational research! Thanks to the National Observer for their great coverage:

One sound the citizens of Hartley Bay aren’t keen to hear is the rumble of oil tankers making their way up the Douglas Channel.

So over the last 14 months, members of the Gitga’at Nation have paid close attention to the sounds in their territory. With the help of a geographer – Max Ritts from the University of British Columbia – the Gitga’at have acoustically mapped the region.

Charting the sounds of an area might sound arcane, but it is part of a growing science known as soundscape ecology.

“The idea was we wanted to collect patterns of activity, of ecological diversity, in the territory to better understand the acoustical ecological profile of the territory at a time when things are changing very quickly,” Ritts says.

The ‘changes’ on Ritt’s mind are increased tanker traffic in the channel. Enbridge wants 220 tankers annually carrying diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands through its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project to traverse the narrow route. The tankers would leave from Kitimat and travel through the narrow Douglas Channel, past Hartley Bay — on their way to Asia.

Nor would Enbridge’s tankers be the only ships on the route. Vessels from future LNG projects and other industrial projects could potentially mean a major increase in traffic through the channel.

The massive tankers emit a persistent low frequency throb, which as much as any impact on animals could also take its toll on people as well. Ritts believes the sound, that would be around the clock, would bring with it a “sense of unease and anxiety.”

But as much as audio unease might unnerve the residents of the tiny British Columbia village, what they really fret over is the possibility of an oil spill and the impact to both their way of life and the area’s burgeoning wildlife.

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