We can soon hear the “ocean’s memory” through aquatic soundscape recordings made possible by a team of scientists, an artist, and underwater microphones.
Scattered beneath various depth levels in the ocean of Greenland are underwater microphones, also known as hydrophones, that are recording ocean life and activity happening under the surface. This expedition is spearheaded by 21 expert scientists across the globe and Irish artist, Siobhán McDonald, who aim to record and archive the sound of acoustic pollution brought by rising sea levels.
The microphones are attached to five moorings each and are deployed under the Davis Strait, the Arctic gateway between Greenland and Canada.
For two years now, the underwater microphones dropped under the ocean are recording sounds such as earthquakes, landslides, wildlife, pollution, meltwater, and melting icebergs. On the side of scientists, the sounds are collected and harvested for data while McDonald will turn the recording into an acoustic composition — thus, creating an archive of the “ocean’s memory”.
Knowing the power and capabilities of microphones to capture sound, McDonald acknowledges how these devices can help in recording a snapshot of time.
“It’s like a time capsule”, she says and adds, “I’m interested in hearing the acoustic pollution. The sea levels are rising and that will have an impact I’d imagine on the sound range and on all the biodiversity. Sound is fundamental in the ocean and Arctic animals. Hearing is fundamental to communication, breeding, feeding, and ultimately survival. It speaks of the necessity of paying attention to the pollution we are causing to the ecosystems around us.”.
Aside from creating an acoustic installation of the sound recordings captured by the microphones, McDonald also plans on creating paintings, sculptures, and other works that will explore how humans and our activities have made an impact on the ocean.
With the help of microphones, the 21-team of scientists and researchers from Europe, the US, and Canada has also been able to study sea salinity, whale migrations, and other ocean phenomena that can all be used in analyzing Climate Change and Greenland’s melting ice caps. However, due to the strong weather conditions and calving of the Nuup Kangerlua glacier, the team is set to return soon.
Whether the results be hopeful or devastating, may this expedition serve as a loud message on how humans and our activities can differently affect ecosystems. Perhaps more similar expeditions like this one and experiments such as the Whale-Ship Collision Prevention happening in the Pacific Ocean can be done to shed more light on this matter.