Title: Australian Navy Divers Injured by Chinese Navy Sonar Pulses in International Waters
Australian navy divers suffered minor injuries when they were exposed to sonar pulses from a Chinese navy vessel while clearing fishing nets from the propellers of HMAS Toowoomba. The incident took place in international waters off the coast of Japan, highlighting the tense encounters between the two maritime powers.
According to reports, HMAS Toowoomba was adhering to internationally recognized signals during its operation. However, the situation turned dangerous when the Chinese vessel approached and activated its powerful sonar, forcing the Australian divers to quickly exit the water for their own safety.
The Australian government swiftly described the incident as both unsafe and unprofessional, raising concerns over the behavior of the Chinese navy. Sonar technology has been used worldwide to navigate through the ocean and explore the underwater environment. By emitting sound waves and analyzing the echoes, ships can detect various underwater objects, including the seafloor, canyon walls, coral, fish, and even vessels.
Naval sonars are significantly stronger compared to off-the-shelf sonars used for commercial fishing purposes. Divers exposed to sonar have reported experiencing a range of effects, from unpleasant sensations to more severe symptoms. Human tolerance limits for underwater sound are generally around 180dB, beyond which individuals may experience dizziness, disorientation, temporary memory and concentration issues, or temporary hearing loss.
Although the levels of sonar exposure faced by the Australian divers remain unidentified, their injuries were fortunately classified as minor. It is worth noting, however, that higher sonar received levels, closer proximity, or longer exposure times can lead to more severe physiological and health impacts, potentially causing damage to tissues and organs.
Sonar pulses not only affect humans but also pose risks to marine animals, especially marine mammals that rely heavily on sound and hearing for navigation, hunting, communication, and finding mates. The disruption caused by sonar can interfere with critical behaviors and biological echo sounders or biosonar of these creatures.
It is important to acknowledge that non-mammalian fauna, such as fish, which rely on acoustics for life functions, can also be impacted by underwater sound disturbances. The incident between the Australian and Chinese navy vessels serves as a reminder of the potential consequences of sonar activity on both human and marine life.
As investigations continue, the incident has raised questions about the responsible use of sonar technology and the need for further cooperation and communication among naval forces to avoid such unsafe incidents in the future.
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