A security officer stands next to a Long Range Acoustic Device.
So reports have been circulating this week quoting a Merchant Navy Officer who claims that her vessel’s shipboard security team used Britney Spears music to successfully ward off approaching Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
The story was sent in to us probably 20 times, but I was able to shrug it off as just another viral satire I would chose to ignore. That is, until my wife finally came to me and said: “Did you hear about the Somali pirates who hate Britney Spears so much that they stopped robbing ships?”
Ok, I admit this story is hilarious and I wish deterring a pirate attack was really this easy. But I think there may be some confusion amongst the general public about what was, mostly likely, really scaring off the pirates.
For many years now, ships have been using a sonic weapon known as the LRAD, short for a Long Range Acoustic Device, to essentially blast approaching skiffs with a high intensity, pain inducing noise beam that would bring even the toughest pirate to his knees. While not 100% pirate proof (for example one device won’t work well against two skiffs approaching from opposite directions), the devices have been considered by many to be an essential tool in any good anti-piracy arsenal.
CLASSIC POST: Top 10 Anti-Piracy Weapons for Future Use in Somalia
Now, since the device is programmable, the LRAD can play essentially any audio from sirens to high-pitched sounds to warning messages. In fact, I met up with the guys from LRAD at a conference in Long Beach and they played me a “baby crying backwards”. It was a debilitating noise, and the volume was probably not even close to being turned up. I will never forget that noise.
So, as is the case with the security team reportedly warding off Somali pirates by the use of Britney Spears music: I don’t doubt it. Technically I’m sure it IS possible. But I believe that, if this really did happen, the reason for the pirates’ retreat was probably because the song would have been played at a volume of about 150dB, well beyond the human body pain threshold, and not due to their hatred for American pop culture.
Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble. And you’re welcome, Britney.
Update: Although… perhaps there’s some truth to all this… and by some we mean, a very tiny bit. And in this case it would seem that the barrage of gunfire is doing most of the scaring. Watch this video and decide for yourself:
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