Author: Kim Fulton-Bennett, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
For centuries poets and writers have imagined the depths of the ocean as eerily quiet. But scientists now know that the oceans, and especially coastal areas, are full of sound from both natural and human activities. Starting this week, anyone can eavesdrop on sounds in the deep sea via a continuous streaming YouTube video that carries live sound from 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the surface of Monterey Bay.
The sounds on this stream come from an underwater microphone (hydrophone) that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute placed on the seafloor in 2015. The hydrophone is located about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from shore, just west of Monterey Bay. It is attached to the MARS undersea cabled observatory, which carries data from the hydrophone back to shore.
For over two years MBARI researchers have been fascinated by the variety of sounds captured by this hydrophone. “When we first listened to these recordings we thought they were wonderful,” said lead scientist John Ryan, “and we wanted to share them with the public. I’m excited that we’ll finally have a chance to do this.”
Although the MARS hydrophone is located on the deep seafloor, most of the sounds it picks up are from animals and activities higher up in the water or even at the sea surface. For example, it is common for the hydrophone to pick up the calls of sea lions, dolphins, and other near-surface animals, as well as the sounds of rain, waves, and wind blowing over the sea surface.
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