Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Bloop and Other Noises

The Bloop and Other Noises

bloop noises The Bloop and Other Noises

In 1997 a titanic sound was detected emanating from a remote corner of the South Pacific Ocean. Known as the ‘Bloop’ it was picked up by underwater sensors over 5,000 km apart; meaning whatever made it had to be either very loud, or very big. Still, no biggie. The ocean is full of huge noisy things thrashing around like creatures in a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequel; it was probably the Kraken, right? Well, that’s the terrifying thing: for a long time the answer was ‘maybe’.

To understand, you need to first complete a super-basic crash course in reading a soundprint. Basically, certain noises occur in certain frequencies. We can study a print of something we’ve never heard before and say ‘this matches what we’d expect from a blue whale’, or ‘this looks suspiciously like an iceberg running aground’. What was weird about the Bloop was that it matched certain organic patterns, but was much, much louder than anything we’d encountered before. This meant either a creature capable of producing low frequency sounds on an unprecedented scale; or something bigger than we’d ever encountered. Much bigger.

It’s not hard to guess which of those options fired public imagination. Given the choice between finding the whale equivalent of Brian Blessed or discovering a previously unknown monster of the deep, which would you rather see happen? A period of feverish speculation began: was it a supersized whale that had somehow remained undetected; final proof of the much-rumoured giant squid; or was Cthulhu finally awaking from his slumber at R’lyeh? Sadly, the answer is ‘none of these’.

bloop noises1 The Bloop and Other Noises

Despite having much in common with an organic noise, NOAA (the guys who first measured it) recently announced the Bloop was nothing more than an icequake occurring somewhere around the Ross Sea. I know, what a tease, eh? Before you get all disappointed though, bear in mind the Bloop is only the most-famous of (until recently) unidentified sounds detected over the years. The following still remain scientifically unaccounted for:


While the Bloop was a creepy one-off, Upsweep occurs seasonally; peaking during spring and autumn. Despite knowing roughly where it is, and despite having kept track of it since 1991, we still don’t know for certain what causes it. We have our guesses: the region it’s located in is probably volcanically active, and Upsweep is likely related to said volcanic activity. However, NOAA still lists its origin as unresolved, so hey: might be Cthulhu.

The Hum

The hum is, well, a humming sound that some people may or may not hear, that may or may not be related to other humming sounds around the globe. If that sounds like science-speak for ‘dunno lol’, it’s probably because it is. The hum has been reported across the globe, from Bristol to Taos via Auckland. It appears inland, near oceans, in cities and in the middle of nowhere. So what is it? One suggestion is that there is no ‘one hum’; but a collection of various low-frequency disturbances that people have grouped together. So what may be distant machinery in one place gets lumped in with sounds of colliding ocean waves heard elsewhere. Another is that it’s just tinnitus. Whatever the cause it’s undeniably irritating.

The WOW Signal

bloop noises2 The Bloop and Other Noises

Was it a distant alien signal; emission from a pulsar; or something stranger still? The WOW Signal was a 72 second burst of noise heard coming from a distant, empty region of space in 1977 and never repeated. What was notable was the sheer power behind it. Roughly 30 times greater than ordinary ambient noise in space, the signal was also narrowly focused and very similar to the frequency of hydrogen. Why hydrogen? Well, the signal was picked up by SETI, a government group monitoring the skies for alien broadcasts. Figuring that aliens looking for other aliens (i.e.: us) would look to send a recognisable signal, they reasoned it might mimic that of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. Which is exactly what they found; once. As aliens would probably keep trying, there must be some other explanation. What is it? We’ll probably never know.

Do you buy their explanation? At Chessington Holidays we’re still hoping it’s Cthulhu because Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn (just kidding)…

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