Scientists listen to the sounds of ‘silence’ in Monterey Bay

MOSS LANDING – From the deck of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, miles of glistening water extend through patches of fog. Other than the gentle sound of the waves lapping up against the rocky shoreline, the deep, dark ocean seems silent. But beneath the ocean’s calm surface is a cacophony of sounds waiting to be heard.

Until a few years ago, marine scientists studied the ocean mostly through sight. Now, with MBARI’s deployment of an underwater microphone called a hydrophone, scientists are studying the ocean through sound.

For the past three years, MBARI scientists have been collecting the music of Monterey Bay through the device, located 18 miles offshore and 3,000 feet deep. It’s designed to better understand marine life within a 500-mile radius.

The researchers are now working to translate the mosaic of sounds into data to help marine biologists and conservationists better understand the languages of whales. The data will also help scientists comprehend the earth’s movements and the impact of sound pollution from humans.

“If you listen long enough, you can hear rain, humpbacks singing, earthquakes, landslides,” said Danelle Cline, a senior software engineer at MBARI.

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