What Made ‘The Bloop’?
In the summer of 1997, the Pacific Ocean was bombarded by the Bloop, an ultra-low frequency sound that was detected by two U.S.-placed autonomous hydrophone arrays at a range of nearly 5,000 kilometers (roughly 3,100 miles). The sound lasted for a few minutes, originating from an unknown source off the western coast of South America, and then disappeared. In the years since this sound was recorded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), no one has been able to pinpoint that source—both the location and the action responsible.
There has, of course, been more than enough speculation.
The obvious choice would be some man-made activity, such as a bomb or a submarine crawling the ocean deep. Another plausible explanation would be geological in origin—volcanoes or earthquakes both produce large amounts of energy, which radiates from the source like a tsunami wave. But Dr. Christopher Fox, the NOAA’s director, thinks neither of these options are particularly suited for the Bloop. He thinks it’s more similar to sounds made by marine life, which suggests the likes of blue whales. The only problem? The Bloop was several times louder than a blue whale’s call, which has been heavily documented and studied. There are, perhaps, some blue whale calls that scientists have not yet heard, but none are likely possible at both this amplitude and frequency.
This has lead many to speculate that the Bloop was created by a much larger creature, or one that is capable of making deeper and louder sounds than a blue whale through some yet-unknown sound-making physiology. The mysterious giant squid has often been blamed for the sound, but Phil Lobel, a marine biologist at Boston University, thinks otherwise. He said, “Cephalopods have no gas-filled sac, so they have no way to make that type of noise.” He agrees with the NOAA’s Fox, however—the source was likely biological.
The NOAA has found a number of other mysterious sounds from the same general area of the Pacific Ocean, but these have generally been identified as geological events, particularly the movement of ice off the coast of Antarctica. When large sheets of ice are sloughed off of glaciers—a process called calving—a great deal of sound is produced. But friction has its own distinct waveform, which doesn’t comply with the Bloop. It alone has remained a total mystery. Ruling out man-made or geological events, we simply aren’t aware of a creature capable of such noise.
Speaking of noise, here is “The Bloop” played at 16 times its recorded speed, for added emphasis:
And at its real speed, for comparison’s sake:
It leaves quite a mystery for what might lie at the bottom of the ocean, doesn’t it? If it’s not a giant squid, the Bloop means that some other massive creature is in the ocean deep, having gone unseen in all of mankind’s explorations, and unheard in more than a decade. Elusive, to say the least. Until researchers at the NOAA hear a repeat “call,” it will be impossible to determine just what caused the Bloop.
For now, it will only serve to reinforce my fears of the deep ocean.
Update: November 19, 2012
A bad day for the conspiracy theorists out there, or those who believed the Bloop was the result of some yet-unseen sea monster.
On November 17, 2012, the VENTS Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their final findings on the Bloop. Scientists with VENTS say they finally recorded the sounds of “icequakes,” massive icebergs fracturing, using hydrophones in the Scotia Sea. These sounds were similar enough to that of the Bloop to make a conclusive decision on its origin.
The location of the Bloop’s origin remains somewhat of a mystery. In light of that, I’ve decided to not move the marker for the Bloop’s location. The VENTS Programs suggests that the Bloop likely originated from Bransfield Straits or Cape Adare, both of which are on the coast of Antarctica.