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What Caused These Strange Ocean Sounds?

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What Caused These Strange Ocean Sounds?
Over the past decades, various ocean sounds have been recorded that don’t have any known explanation and have left scientists baffled.

Many people speculate the source of these sounds. Some point to the fact that 95% of the world’s oceans haven’t been thoroughly explored. It isn’t unreasonable to speculate that an unknown animal or ancient lore creature may be lurking beneath the vast seas (1).

The Bloop

In 1997, hydrophones attached to an autonomous underwater hydrophone mooring recorded very strange and unexplained sounds. There were multiple hydrophones that captured the same sounds. Some of the hydrophones were more than 5,000 miles apart.

The sounds were later determined by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to have originated some 3,000 miles away in the South Pacific Ocean. In fact, NOAA pinpointed the origin of the sounds to be 650 miles off the coast of South America.

In a YouTube video by Top5s, the original recording is provided. The commentator states that many of the versions found on YouTube are accelerated instead of featuring the original track. The first track is the accelerated version that is 16 times faster than the original. This is followed by the original sound that is superbly better and offers the true strange nature of the sounds. The sounds on the original recording have a musical almost technological tone and toward the end, a mechanical sound.

Explanations for the Bloop

One explanation offered is that the sound was caused by an ice quake, but there is no evidence to back up this explanation. Another possible explanation given was that of a blue whale, but there’s never been any known similar sound made by a blue whale.

NOAA’s Dr. Christopher Fox told New Scientist writer, David Wolman that the sound resembled that of a living creature instead of a mechanical or geological source (2).

Motherboard of quotes NOAA’s acoustics program Manager, Bob Dziak saying:

“I hesitate to say these things because I don’t think it’s very helpful in the science discussion, but it was considered possibly of animal origin and one idea that was floated out there was the idea that it was a giant squid.”

According to Motherboard, it was years later that the NOAA Vents Program identified the sound as a “large icequake”. Even with this official explanation, there are still many people who speculate what the sound might be.

Other Strange Ocean Sounds Recorded

There are several other unidentified sounds that have been recorded in the ocean. There have been many possible explanations offered (3).

The Slow Down

Another 1997 recording is known as “The Slow Down” was picked up by hydrophones some 3,000 miles away. The name was given since the sound descends in its frequency over a period of seven minutes. NOAA located the origin as just off the Antarctic Peninsula. The location of the sound caused scientists to speculate it was the result of a downward drifting iceberg that hit the seafloor.


Like the Bloop, the sound dubbed Julia was picked up by the whole Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array. Identifying the location of the sound proved uncertain with the possible origin being somewhere between Cape Adare and Bransfield Strait. The 15-second recording sounds to be an animal wailing.

The Upsweep

Another strange and unidentified sound picked up by the hydrophone array was dubbed the Upsweep because of the upsweeping sounds. Recorded in the Pacific, the sounds have been recorded during spring and autumn seasonal peaks. It is considered a seasonal sound, although no real determination has been made to explain the how and why of the sounds.

The source coordinates are approximately, 54°S 140°W. This places the origin near “inferred volcanic seismicity”. Even with this information what is causing the sounds is still unknown. Despite the explanation that the cause may be natural, many people believe it sounds like a chorus of wails.

The Whistle

The sound known as “The Whistle” was recorded by one hydrophone from an unknown location in 1977. NOAA states that the sound is “similar to volcanogenic sounds previously recorded in the Mariana volcanic arc of the Pacific Ocean.” Since NOAA requires three separate recordings of a sound so the location can be triangulated, The Whistle is listed as unidentified.

The Train

The Train sound recorded in 1997 by NOAA’s Equatorial Pacific Ocean autonomous hydrophone array rises to what is known as a quasi-steady frequency. This means that the frequency resembles a steady frequency. NOAA explained the sound was “most likely generated by a very large iceberg grounded in the Ross Sea, near Cape Adare.”

The Boing

The Boing is an excellent example of animal generated sounds. Until 2002, the 1950s sounds heard by US Navy submarines just off the coast of California near San Diego coastline were cloaked in mystery and speculation. The sound was named “The Boing” since it very much sounds like a boing reverberation (4).

In 1982, scientists tracked multiple boing sounds offshore of Oahu, Hawaii. The boing sounds were tracked seasonally ranging from November to March.

In 2002, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center acoustics team, “located the source of a series of boing sounds and directed the ship and visual team to this location.” The scientists identified the minke whale as the originator of “The Boing” sounds.

Creature or Natural Ocean Sounds?

The ocean is still a very mysterious and vast part of the world that largely remains unexplored. These unusual sounds clearly demonstrate there are still many ocean mysteries yet to be explored to validate or disprove possible causes.

References & Image Credits:
(1) Oceans of Water Inside Earth
(2) The Bloop
(3) List of Unexplained Sounds
(4) Coastal Marine Mammals

Originally published on


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Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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