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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

LIVE! From the Ocean Floor

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Whether you’re a professional oceanographer, or just curious about underwater life, or simply can’t sleep, you can now listen to the live sounds of the deep sea whenever you want. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute hosts an audio live stream of ocean activity from its Soundscape Listening Room.

Researchers at the aquarium installed an underwater microphone – called a hydrophone -- 3,000 feet below the water’s surface, and about 18 miles offshore -- just outside Monterey Bay, California. The hydrophone, installed in 2015, has been listening in on the sounds of marine life, earth movement, and human activity on the ocean surface above, 24/7.

Tune in anytime and you’ll pick up the calls of sea lions, dolphins, and other near-surface animals, as well as the sounds of rain, waves, passing ships, and wind blowing over the sea surface.

Listen to the Live Stream:

High-pitched sounds, such as dolphin clicks, do not travel very far through the water, so if these sounds show up in the stream they are probably being generated within a few kilometers of the hydrophone. Low sounds, such as those produced by some whales, are also captured. Listeners can hear those low sounds if they have good headphones or subwoofer speakers.

For over eight years, MBARI researchers have been fascinated by the variety of sounds captured by the hydrophone. “When we first listened to these recordings, we thought they were wonderful,” lead scientist John Ryan commented on in 2018, “and we wanted to share them with the public. I’m excited that we’ll finally have a chance to do this.”

Ryan added that sounds in the bay can vary dramatically. “It can be quiet at times, and then go from quiet to cacophony in minutes. So, if people don’t hear much at one point in time, they should definitely check in again later.”

In addition to hearing sounds from the hydrophone, listeners can also "see" the sounds in the form of a spectrogram that scrolls across the screen of the official YouTube video stream. There is a 10-minute delay for computer processing and archiving between the time when the sounds are captured by the hydrophone and the time that they show up on the audio stream.

Photo: Christopher Michel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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