Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Does This Seem Damning?

I've never taken any journalism classes, but I imagine that one thing they'd teach you is how to "grab" your audience by making the opening as spicy and enticing as possible, to make them want to read the rest of the article. If the actual facts buried later in the article happen to not support the promising beginning, well, at least they've read the article. Or, maybe they haven't, and miss the significance of the actual "facts".
This seems to be what the Miami Herald is going for today in their update to the USS Philadelphia / marine mammal beaching story. [Edit 0814 08 Mar: the above link seems to require registration, but if you link to it from the Google submarine news search page, it logs you in as a guest. Strange...] Here are the first two paragraphs:

"A nuclear-powered submarine used two different types of active sonar to navigate over several days as it trained off the Florida Keys last week, including the day of a massive dolphin stranding in Marathon, the U.S. Navy said late Monday.
"At the time, the submarine was approximately 39 nautical miles southwest of Marathon, where about 80 rough-toothed dolphins -- nearly 30 of which have since died -- beached suddenly late Wednesday."


Hmmm, this sounds pretty clear-cut; the dreaded submarine used not one, but two different types of sonar in a clear case of military overkill. But, if we read farther, we find some more information:

"After it surfaced last Monday [Feb. 28], the Philadelphia used mid-frequency active sonar on its bow in reduced visibility to ''provide for the submarine's ability to avoid potential contact with other vessels at sea'' for a period of 21 minutes, Sommer said.
"On three other days, Feb. 27, March 1 and March 2 -- the day the normally deep-water dolphins mysteriously beached on offshore flats -- the sub used high-frequency active sonar mounted on its sail while it was submerged to help it ''avoid other ships'' before it came to the surface, Sommer said. She did not know how long the high-frequency sonar was used, but said it was ''short duration'' and of low intensity.
High-frequency sonar is considered to have a shorter range than medium frequency or low frequency. Factors like water temperature and salinity can also affect how far the sound travels
."

So, now we learn that the only time the sub used it's MF (bow-mounted) sonar was two days before the grounding, on the two days before the grounding, used only short range sail-mounted HF sonar while clearing baffles to come to PD, several dozen miles from the grounding site. Of course, I suppose it's possible that the poor dolphins were right under the ship when it surfaced on Feb. 28th, and swam around disoriented for two days before beaching themselves; or, maybe they are more sensitive to the low power HF sonar (unlikely, but presented as a possibility anyway). The article in the Herald certainly doesn't go out of its way to try to spin it in the Navy's direction -- if fact, one could surmise that the spin is kind of anti-submarine, if you read the many paragraphs I didn't excerpt.

Also, from WillyShake, here's an op-ed that is so clearly one sided that I'm sure you'll have no problem figuring out if this person thinks the U.S. military is good or bad...

Staying at PD...

Update 1249 09 March: Here's an article from the CBS News Early Show that's actually fairly unbiased; even though they mention only sonar as a possible cause, they do say that it's only one of many possible causes, and notes that the Philly was quite a ways from the grounding:

"Pamela Sweeney, the Stranding Director for the Marine Animal Rescue Society, explained to The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that sonar is "just one of many theories about why animals strand. And from what I understand, that Navy ship was near Key West, which is quite a ways away from where these guys were.
"(Sonar signals can) cause these animals to rise to the surface sooner than they would normally. So, in essence they have what in humans would be the bends. And that can be fatal or cause hemorrhaging. So that definitely throws them off, and we can look for evidence of that. But right now, it's just one of many theories."

5 Comments:

Blogger ninme said...

No, they don't. They teach you to write in a sort of pyramid: The most important fact first, then decreasing in importance the farther down it goes. That way if it ends up on, say, an AP wire, if an editor at another paper needs to clip it from 500 words to 175, all he has to do is cut off the last 325 words for space, without having to rearrange any of it, which is time consuming and confusing.

So if this guy's article needed to be cut for space to just the first couple of paragraphs, that bit about the two days would be lost completely.

If you start trying to "grab" your audience, you start editorializing the news, which is supposed to be frowned upon. Supposed to be.

3/08/2005 12:16 PM

 
Anonymous will thomas said...

As a former STG3 on the USS Badger FF-1071, we Used high powered active sonar all the time,in many different areas, and I never noticed any ill effects on the local wildlife.Nor heard of any beachings of marine mammals around the times that we used active sonar. There would actually be dolphins riding the bow wave while we transmitted.

3/08/2005 8:26 PM

 
Anonymous will thomas said...

As a former STG3 on the USS Badger FF-1071, we Used high powered active sonar all the time,in many different areas, and I never noticed any ill effects on the local wildlife.Nor heard of any beachings of marine mammals around the times that we used active sonar. There would actually be dolphins riding the bow wave while we transmitted.

3/08/2005 8:26 PM

 
Anonymous William Thomas said...

sorry for the double post

3/08/2005 8:28 PM

 
Blogger Bubblehead said...

The thing that no one writing these articles talks about is that even if the sonar is causing this, it's probably something on the order of 1 of 10,000 uses of active sonar that causes these grounding incidents, if even that.

3/09/2005 12:48 PM

 

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