During college, I spent a couple of sun-blistered summers as a camp counselor in eastern Iowa. One of my all-time favorite things to do while leading hikes was to tell my charge of campers to cozy up to a cave and listen carefully. As they snuggled with the limestone, looking expectantly, I'd say, "Hear that?" They usually burrowed a bit deeper, with me standing by, encouraging. Just as a confused and defeated expression shadowed their faces, I'd explain: "Nothing! It's the sound of nothing!"
Though the gimmick generally garnered nothing more than eye rolls and groans from my troop of hikers, the concept was rooted in something inherently special: Out there in the middle of nowhere, you really could appreciate the sounds of nature—which, more often than not, meant a blissful lack of noise. And I swear I can still remember the particular strain of white noise that emanated from those caves.
Scientists at the Perennial Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean understand this concept, and have bottled the sounds of the Antarctic for the world to appreciate with "an acoustic live stream of the Antarctic underwater soundscape."
This "live stream" is recorded via hydrophones attached to "an autonomous, wind and solar powered observatory located on the Ekström ice shelf." ...its purpose is "to record the underwater soundscape in the vicinity of the shelf ice edge over the duration of several years."
As BLDGBLOG points out, the Institute strangely reminds listeners that the live stream is not intended for entertainment, but rather for scientific research. Even so, the Antarctic's white noise beats the keyboard tap-tap-tapping from neighboring cubicles any day.
Photo: Dave Walsh