Lonely Planet Writer

Study of glaciers uncovers underwater cacophony

Glacier tours in Alaska could be under threat from global warming. Image by Dawn Ellner / CC BY 2.0
Glacier in Alaska. Image by Dawn Ellner / CC BY 2.0

A glaciologist in Alaska hoping to discover what humpback whales heard when a glacier falls into the sea discovered a lot more when she dropped microphones into Alaska’s Icy Bay. Erin Pettit’s research project uncovered an array of underwater noise caused by glaciers floating in the nearby waters. According to her research, the glaciers contain pressurized air bubbles that, when released into the water, create a constant fizz, making glacial bays and fjords some of the noisiest places in the ocean. In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers speculate this is why harbor seals tend to congregate in fjords containing glaciers: the fizz masks the seals’ noise, protecting them from killer whales, who hunt by sound. Read more: nytimes.com