We tend to think of the ocean as a place of silence, but in fact it can be quite a noisy environment. Through recent years, marine noise pollution has gone from being relatively undiscussed to becoming an environmental problem gaining a lot of attention. The speed of sound under water is more than 4 times faster than through air and since the other senses are limited, many sea mammals use sound as their most important form of communication to find mates, seek food, avoid predators and to navigate. Human activities on the oceans that involve noise can affect these functions.
A lot of marine activities creates underwater noise; low frequency sounds from ships, intensive impuls sounds like the building of offshore windmills, and high frequencies in the ultra-sonic area from sonar systems on smaller boats. These sounds can potentially disturb biologically relevant signals, like communication between sea mammals, and studies have shown that some species are quite sensitive to sound and their hearing spans a broad frequency spectrum.
The sounds used in this installation were recorded with underwater microphones on approximately 8 meters depth, about 900 meters out from the coast of Hirtshals on April 19th 2018.
To our ears, the sound in this installation is comparable to brown noise; a certain type of noise that has a large proportion of high frequencies removed, resulting in a deeper sound that is similar to natural environments like high wind or waves on a beach.
The underwater sound recordings are played through structure-borne speakers on pallets resembling those found on the Hirtshals harbour with acoustic noise dampening plates on top. As the noisy sound travels through the dampening material, a contrast is created, just like the effect of the surface of the water. The sound installation suggests shifting our attention away from viewing and onto hearing, sensing and experiencing the room, as bodily enveloping as being underwater. We can choose to enter and leave this noisy environment as we wish, while sea animals have no choice but to live in it.