Thursday, September 17, 2009

That Rumbling Noise

God Bless CBC Radio!
Ever hear a mysterious, rumbling sound when you’re on the water near Ten Mile Point? CBC Radio in Victoria has tracked down the source.
People from Oak Bay to Cordova Bay have been noticing a sound that has no obvious source. It’s an engine sound, low and rumbling, and it is HUGE. It shakes windows and vibrates the ground. Our paddle group has noticed it many times during the last two years, and lately we hear it every time we launch at Telegraph Bay. I’m half-deaf, especially in low frequency sounds, and this sound still makes a big impression on me. We’ve been wondering if it’s construction sounds, or a different engine on one of those big container ships. Very unsetlling when we’re on the water!
The staff at the local station for CBC Radio tried to find the source of this sound that local people were hearing. Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt knew nothing, neither did the Airport at Pat Bay. Eventually, the CBC reporter got hold of Kim Martin at the US Naval Air Base on Whidbey Island, in Washington State.
Until they reached her, Martin and the base had no idea we in Victoria were hearing that huge rumbling sound. But she knew what we were hearing. It’s a military aircraft taking off.
The aircraft is the Growler, a big, radar-jamming plane.

So, what we’ve been hearing is the Growler taking off, from time to time for the last couple of years. There's more than one of these aircraft at the base. The reason we’ve been hearing it more frequently lately is because the US Naval Air Base on Whidbey is doing runway repairs to two of their four runways. There are only two runways in use these days. Depending on the wind direction, it’s a lot more likely these days that they’ll be using the runway that points the planes in the direction that carries the sound forty-five kilometres across the strait of Juan de Fuca right to us.
If anybody ever wonders why the local resident pods of orcas aren’t increasing their numbers even though they’re not being hunted, this huge rumbling noise can only be one more stress factor in the lives of nearby killer whales. The strait of Juan de Fuca is the second-busiest waterway in the world. The traffic through here and past the islands is constant, and so many of these boats have noisy engines. Noisy enough, at any rate, for this half-deaf kayaker to hear the cruise ships and container ships that glide past, twenty and thirty klicks away. I cannot imagine what it sounds like to a whale, that low rumbling sound as the Growler takes off. But it is a creepifying sound that vibrates my body and my boat.

Addendum: The Victoria Times-Colonist has a story on that rumbling noise here.


  1. You just solved a mystery for me! Thanks.

  2. Good to know what that sound is, eh? And yeah, it feels right that such a creepy sound is made by a military jet that has no purpose other than the shooting/dangerous kind. I could always cope with the sound of Hercules/Buffalo planes, as they are multi-purpose practical machines. It is a real reminder for me that things which sound dangerous usually are.

  3. f*ck the war machine!

  4. I dont buy it, it happens more frequently now and for longer increments until as late as 2am!!! Sneeky Americans....

  5. I've been hearing something similar April 28 and 29th - 2014 - late evenings in Oak Bay. Is this what it is?

  6. I haven't heard it myself in a while, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's what you're hearing.

  7. Guess what folks! Actually this is a noise which is produced by an Inuit legend!!
    It's called TORNGARSUK and you have probably heard about it?? Yeah it's that monster bear which was extinct 20.000 years ago!! However the ghost is still there...and it appears from time to time! The show "MISSING IN ALASKA" can fill in all the details (one episode in particular from Hitchinbrook Island/Cordova Bay)