Hydrophones — underwater microphones that work similarly to Skype — are helping researchers at different institutions learn more about the world’s oceans by capturing, for example, “everything from thrumming boat motors to the wild sounds of transient killer whales” at one location off the coast of British Columbia. Even better, live audio is available round-the-clock at multiple Web sites, including the one for the PALAOA autonomous observatory located in Antarctica. According to the site, two hydrophones transmit data over 15,000 kilometers to the Alfred-Wegener-Institut in Germany. The result “is not optimized for easy listening, but for scientific research…You might need to pump up the volume — but beware of sudden extremely loud events.“
What’s the Big Idea?
The hydrophones represent one of several sound-based technologies scientists are using to fill in many of the blanks that still exist concerning the oceans and the life within them. Some of these tools have uncovered “fish shoals stretching 25 miles long, invisible whale migrations, and entire ecosystems revealed in the echoes of the bodies of squid, herring, and billions of other organisms.”