Hear What It Sounds Like Under Antarctica... Live

PALAOA, the Perennial Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean, listens to the waters below Antarctica for the sounds of whales and other marine mammals amidst a soundscape of constantly shifting ice. Here's what they're hearing, right now.

PALAOA's Livestream page has links to the audio stream in both MP3 and OGG-Vorbis.

If you're expecting to tune in and instantly hear glorious, crystal-clear whale song, you might be disappointed. As the page explains:

Please note, this transmission is not optimised for easy listening, but for scientific research. It is highly compressed...so sound quality is far from perfect. Additionally, animal voices may be very faint. Amplifier settings are a compromise between picking up distant animals and not overdriving the system by nearby calving icebergs...A constant hiss pervading the signal is partly due to electronic noise as we push the hydrophone amplifiers to their limits, but also the natural ocean background noise made audible here through the use of ultra sensitive hydrophones. Additional broad band noise caused by wind, waves and currents adds to it on occasion. There a three sources of click-like interference: switching relais, electrostatic discharges caused by snow drift, and sferics produced by thunderstorms ten thousands of kilometers away.

Still, the idea is undeniably cool and there is some impressive technology that makes it all happen.

Two hydrophones capture the underwater audio outside a wind and solar powered observatory on the Ekström ice shelf. The data is transmitted wirelessly to another base in Germany and then beamed to listeners worldwide via satellite.

If you're looking for some ambient noise to listen to while you do some work or drift to sleep, it's hard to think of anything more amazing than this. [PALOAO]

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