The world is full of unexplained things. For example, to this day we do not know exactly what Stonehenge was built for. But today we are not going to talk about megastructures, but about a sound. A mysterious sound that was detected at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean a handful of years ago and whose history is the most interesting.
We are talking about Bloop, an underwater ultrasound that was detected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States (aka NOAA) and that raised all kinds of speculation. It’s a sound that hadn’t been heard before, and it kept investigators on their toes for no short time. After all, 95% of the ocean is yet to be explored. Was it a monster? Some kind of giant jellyfish? Maybe it was a feast of the Atlanteans? Not quite.
What is that sound?
Let’s start at the beginning. In 1997, researchers listening to underwater volcanic activity in the South Pacific recorded, in NOAA’s words, a “strange, powerful and extremely loud sound.” Using hydrophones (underwater microphones) separated by about 3,219 kilometers several instances of the sound were recorded that “was unlike anything they had heard before.” According to NOAA, “It was not only loud, the sound had a unique characteristic that came to be known as the Bloop.”
Let’s imagine calico: an underwater sound of unknown origin that we have never heard before. The speculations were not made to beg. Christopher Fox, who in 2002 headed the NOAA Acoustic Monitoring Project at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Newport, Oregon, said in an interview that he had a hunch that it was of animal originBut there was a problem with this theory: what animal?
The sensors that detected the Bloop were thousands and thousands of miles apart, so the animal would have to make a huge noise. What kind of beast can make such a noise? The idea of a giant squid was toyed with, but cephalopods don’t have a gas-filled sac, so they can’t make that noise. It couldn’t be a whale eitherAccording to Phil Lobel, a marine biologist at Boston University, who in the same interview claimed to have heard whale songs at these distances and that the Bloop was louder. A mystery.
Another and much more absurd conspiracy theory is that Bloop’s origin was 1,760 kilometers from the sunken (and fictitious) city of R’yleh, the city where HP Lovecraft said Cthulhu was imprisoned. And let’s see, it is true that Cthulhu could fit the description of a huge animal, but unfortunately Cthulhu is a fictional beast that only exists in our imagination, in novels, video games and movies.
So we discard huge animals and Cthulhu. What was the origin of Bloop, then? NOAA ended up finding the clue, and unfortunately a giant squid is less exciting than the idea. In 2012, NOAA said that the sound had a fairly common origin: the cracking of an ice shelf as it broke from Antarctica. According to NOAA:
“The Bloop was the sound of an ice earthquake, an iceberg breaking and breaking off an Antarctic glacier. With global warming, more and more earthquakes occur annually, breaking glaciers, cracking and eventually melting into the ocean”.
Robert Dziak, a seismologist at Oregon State University, explained to Wired that “the frequency and duration characteristics of the Bloop signal are consistent, and essentially identical, to the earthquake signals we have recorded in Antarctica.” In addition, he pointed out something interesting, and that is the Bloop sound that used to be played was at 16 times its normal speed, which could imply that it is a biological sound. The original sound is more like that of an earthquake.
According to NOAA, the wide-spectrum sounds recorded in 1997 are “consistent with ice earthquakes generated by large icebergs when they crack and fracture.” These earthquakes are large enough to be detected by multiple sensors at a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers. In the words of NOAA, “it is most likely that the iceberg or icebergs that generated the Bloop were between the Bransfield Sound and the Ross Sea, or possibly Cape Adare, a well-known source of cryogenic signals. “
This article is part of a weekly section by Jose García dedicated to approaching technology from a more relaxed, personal and informal point of view that we publish in Xataka every Saturday.