By: Nick Gambino

The bottom of the ocean is a vast, mysterious “landscape” that is still as unknown to us as some yet unexplored planet. Sure, a handful of people have been down to what they think is the ocean floor (James Cameron) and have emerged with photos, but with 70% of Earth being water, there is still so much more to learn.

Well, if this kind of thing interests you (and why wouldn’t it?), we now have the opportunity to listen to what’s going on 4,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. Researchers from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) set up highly sensitive microphones off the coast of California to listen in on marine life.

These microphones, called hydrophones, are picking up sounds which are then processed and streamed out via YouTube. Now it’s not technically “live” as described in the stream. “The stream is delayed approximately 20 minutes from the current time to allow for processing,” it states. “Sound files are recorded in 10 minute segments, so every 10 minutes you will hear the beginning of a new sound file.”

So, it’s as live as we’ll get to hear from 4,000 feet deep. So far the hydrophones have picked up the sounds and speak of numerous whales (humpback, sperm, blue, etc.), dolphins, earthquakes and rain.

It’s more than likely most curious souls won’t have the time or inclination to listen to the stream endlessly in the hopes that they’ll hear one of these exotic mammals send out a call. Often when you check in you’ll hear it broadcasting silence, but if you’re lucky you’ll hear some activity. If you don’t have the patience, simply head on over to the Soundscape Listening Room on MBARI’s site.

There you’ll hear recordings with their identifying tag and the ability to skip around on a soundwave file. Because some of these sounds are pretty low-pitched (I’m looking at you whales), they recommend employing a subwoofer or high-quality headphones so you can hear everything.

I’ve been playing the audio stream in the background while I work in the hopes that I’ll pick up on something incredible. I can tell you though, if I hear a human voice whisper into those mic’s I’m going to peace out.


Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.