Cruise ship attacked by pirates off Somalian coast used sonic weapon

The crew of a luxury cruise ship used a sonic weapon that blasts earsplitting noise in a directed beam, as it tried to ward off an attack by a gang of pirates off the Somalian coast this weekend, the cruise line said Monday.

The Seabourn Spirit was about 100 miles (161 kilometers) off the coast of Somalia when pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as they tried to get onboard.

The ship had a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, installed as a part of its defense systems, said Bruce Good, a spokesman for Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.

The LRAD is a so-called "non-lethal weapon" developed for the U.S. military after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen as a way to keep operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships.

The cruise line was investigating whether the weapon was successful in warding off the pirates, Good said. The ship's captain also changed its course, shifted into high speed and headed out into the open sea to elude the pirates, who were in two small boats, he added. He had no further details.

The military version is a 45-pound (20 kilos), dish-shaped device that can direct a high-pitched, piercing tone with a tight beam. Neither the LRAD's operators or others in the immediate area are affected.

Makers of the LRAD compare its shrill tone to that of smoke detectors, only much louder. It can be as loud as about 150 decibels, while smoke alarms are about 80 to 90 decibels, AP reported. V.A.

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