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UK Navy Tests Airguns as Alternative to Explosions for Shock Trials

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In the wake of the Falmouth Bay strandings, the UK Navy has announced that it has been testing a new approach to “shock trials,” meant to be less dangerous for marine life. Shock trials test the resilience of ships to mines and torpedoes, typically accomplished by setting off large explosions near the ships. The new technique uses airguns, which release blasts of compressed air, in place of explosives. A Ministry of Defense spokesman said that the resulting pressure waves are less intense, adding that “the new approach reduces the risks to the environment as the only by-product is hot air bubbles.” This statement neglects to mention that another by-product is intense noise, and that, to fulfill its purpose in testing the resilience of ships, there is also a strong pressure wave created. Likely the airgun pulse is less sudden (i.e., the sound wave has a longer rise time), which may help reduce hearing-related damage, but it, like all airguns, will create a startling sound at close range (up to a km or so), and be audible for tens of kilometers at least. The brief press mention of this new “dolphin-friendly weapon” did not clarify whether the system was being used around Falmouth Bay at the time of the strandings; local reports indicate unusual explosive sounds were heard. Source: London Sunday Mirror, 6/15/08 [READ ARTICLE]

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