Under the Ice, Sounds of Whales and Seals

Delightful soundscape under the ice in the Arctic created by the sounds of whales and seals, captured by oceanographer Kate Stanfford using a hydrophone.

You can look across a vast expanse of ice, all white and blue and cold, and see nothing. The lead is choked with pack ice or sealed over with newly formed ice, and there is no movement or sound. With few birds, no whales and no bears, one might mistake the Arctic for a desert. But if you go down to the ice edge, pick a hole in the new ice deep enough to reach water and drop in a hydrophone (an underwater microphone), the cacophony is astonishing.

Most of my research involves listening to the oceans, especially in the Arctic. While I am still excited to hear animals underwater, the din no longer takes me by surprise. What I have come to enjoy just as much as listening is passing the headphones to someone who has never heard springtime in the Arctic. It is a rite of spring that would stun even Stravinsky.

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Via musicofsound