Our oceans are full of sounds. Human ears aren’t adapted to listening underwater but we can use special microphones called hydrophones to listen into this hidden world. By bringing this incredibly diverse sound-world to the surface I hope we can adopt an oceanic perspective that explores the richness of life just below the waterline and learn to understand it more fully.
Below you will find articles, video footage, partner information and audio snippets. Most of these recordings were made around the Inner and Outer Hebrides whilst participating in a citizen-science programme organised by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT). Other sounds come from an acoustic data-buoy situated in the North Sea, developed and designed by the Marine Engineering department at Newcastle University.
- What’s this all about?
- An immersive soundscape for headphones
- Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust
- Acoustic Network Gateway BuoY
- A video that took 17 years to capture…
- Grey seals: a quiz!
- Continue listening
What’s all this about?
30×30: A Blueprint For Ocean Protection
As well as raising awareness of sounds, the aim of this project is to raise donations towards the goal to safeguard 30% of the world’s oceans from destructive or extractive activities by 2030. You can read more on the Greenpeace and Ocean Unite websites. Governments are negotiating towards a Global Ocean Treaty at the UN that could pave the way for this network of ocean sanctuaries.
Pioneer Award – The Original Plan
The original plan was for an installation at Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle Upon Tyne. It would have centred around a uniquely constructed ‘sound dome’ fitted with an ambisonic sound reproduction system that immerses listeners in an underwater soundscape. There would also have been video footage and interactive elements. Like many projects, it has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
This isn’t a replacement. It’s an offering to share where the project is heading and inviting people to get involved online. This is a scrapbook of bits and pieces and largely centres on Grey Seals from the Hebrides and Northumberland coasts. The project is supported by the Pioneer Award.
Please do feel free to comment at the bottom of this page or send me and email from the Contact page.
An Immersive Soundscape – Listen Here
This short composition, made entirely from field-recordings, attempts to convey an upward journey from ocean depths to the cliffs far above. We pass various layers of underwater activity, using the calls and echolocation of dolphins as our guide until we eventually breach the water’s surface to hear a harem of seals howling on the shore and resident fulmars flying overhead.
It is a 3D binaural mix, so best listened with headphones!
Here’s a list of sounds and the locations sampled:
– grey seals underwater (Mingulay, Holy Island)
– tidal ambiences (Monarch Isles, Holy Island)
– snapping shrimp (Ob Chuaig)
– underwater ambiences (The Minch, Wizard Pool)
– grey seals howling (Monach Isles, Mingulay)
– dolphins (North Sea buoy, courtesy of ANGY)
– fulmars (Tiree)
THE HEBRIDEAN WHALE AND DOLPHIN TRUST
Citizen-science upon the research vessel ‘Silurian’
I joined Silurian and the crew for a 10 day survey in September 2019. The Trust was particularly exciting to me as in addition to visual surveying they monitor cetacean acoustics using a towed hydrophone. I had an absolutely amazing time alongside all the volunteers and couldn’t recommend it enough. Rebecca Dudley (Science Officer), Quentin Dimmer (Skipper) and Brian Condon (First Mate ) were excellent hosts and unbelievably sensitive to my additional recording needs, so huge thanks to them. We managed to travel 303 nautical miles over the ten days, racking up some serious time “on effort”. He’s a map of our journey, beginning at Kyle of Lochalsh, Isle of Skye:
Below is an excerpt that explains the HWDT’s survey protocol. If you’d like to learn more about species ID visit this fantastic page: https://hwdt.org/species-index
Acoustic Network Gateway buoY (ANGY)
USMART is a collaborative project between Newcastle University, Heriot-Watt University and the University of York to develop affordable technology for large scale, smart wireless sensing networks to be deployed in the oceans.
ANGY is a data-buoy which provides the hub for an underwater acoustic communications network with two NM3 modems suspended beneath it. The addition of two hydrophones and a wifi link back to shore provides a high quality audio stream to support acoustic communications experiments in the sea, as well as recordings of local wildlife such as the visiting bottle nose dolphins.
Newcastle University’s Jeff Neasham, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering, and Dr. Ben Sherlock, Research Associate in Marine Engineering, have been pivotal in helping me get this project off the ground (no pun intended!) providing some excellent audio recordings, particularly of dolphin whistles and echolocation calls.
A Video That Took 17 Years To Capture
This incredible video footage was shot by Dr Ben Burville, a researcher in Marine Biology at Newcastle University.
The full article from earlier this year can be read here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2020/02/conversationsealsclapping/
I’m also sharing an informative journal PDF by David Hocking (Monash University) called “Percussive underwater signaling in wild gray seals” which will help to explain the behaviour in the video. Well worth checking out.
(Hocking DP, Burville B, Parker WMG, Evans AR, Park T, Marx FG. Percussive underwater signaling in wild gray seals. Mar Mam Sci. 2020;36:728 –732).
Grey Seals: A Quiz!
One particular night at anchor has stuck in my mind – and probably that of my impossibly patient cabin mate, Bruce! Each evening i would run a pair of hydrophones out of our cabin hatch and listen to the sounds occurring beneath Silurian. Usually there would be snapping shrimp and the elongated creaks of the vessel as the sounds diffuse through the seas. But one night all i heard, for hours, were grey seals and the occasional dolphin, including the claps documented above. I actually jumped out of bed to listen up on deck as i couldn’t believe all these sounds were coming from below. But out beneath the glorious stars, only the eerie howling of a distant harem of seals on shore filled the moonlit bay.
You can hear the claps in great definition on track 5 below.
But can any marine mammal experts out there help me identify the other vocalisations?
Put your comments on the timeline!
DONATE & SHARE
Growing up on an island, it was impossible for me not to have such a strong connection with the sea. This is truly an inspiring campaign and an attempt to safeguard one of our most precious ecosystems. Please donate if you can, by either visiting my Bandcamp site below (where you will also be supporting music artists) or by searching one of the many ways to support World Ocean Day 2020 online.
You can hear some older excerpts from my Silurian trip here: https://daviddelahaye.bandcamp.com/album/silurian-a-work-in-progress
The Acoustic Network Gateway Buoy (ANGY) has a 24hr live stream on YouTube (unfortunately, a few weeks ago there were technical difficulties and due to the pandemic, engineers have not been able to fix this yet. But do subscribe – there have been some very exciting moments, like this extract below)
I’d like to say thanks to Mel Whewell, Richard Talbot, Mel Robson, Alison Lomax, Ben Sherlock, David Hocking, Ben Burville, Becky Dudley, Morven Summers, Olivia Cameron and Jeff Neasham.