In 1997, NOAA scientists recorded a strange, haunting sound in the depths of the South Pacific Ocean.
Theories about the origins of the sound include an undiscovered sea creature.
By 2011, NOAA scientists concluded that the sound was ice shelf cracking during an ice quake.
In the summer of 1997, scientists recorded a loud, strange noise emanating from an area west of the southern coast of Chile. They called it “The Knockout”.
While searching for underwater volcanoes, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded the infamous high-frequency, extremely low sound on the water. These underwater microphones originally developed by the US Navy were 2,000 miles away in the Pacific Ocean.
The sound, which lasted about one minute, was one of the loudest underwater sounds ever recorded. Below, you can listen to the accelerated bloop 16 times:
Paola Alexandra Rosa · Bloop, a mysterious sound coming from the depths of the ocean
Over the years, theories abounded about the origin of the mysterious ocean sound.
Some suspect it is the sound of military exercises, ships, giant squid, blue whales or a new sea creature. After all, no more than 80% of the world’s oceans have been explored by humans.
“We considered every possibility, including animal origin,” Christopher Fox, chief scientist for the acoustic monitoring project at NOAA’s Pacific Environmental Laboratory, told The Atlantic in 2017.
What caused the booming noise has baffled scientists for years.
It wasn’t until 2005, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) embarked on an Antarctic acoustic survey off South America, that scientists began to understand the origins of the bloop.
Robert Dziak, of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Laboratory, told the insider via email that by 2011 — after all the data had been collected — the agency was able to definitively explain what the point was.
The official verdict: It was the sound of an ice quake caused by the cracking of an ice shelf as it broke away from a glacier in Antarctica.
“The sounds of ice breaking and collapsing are a dominant source of natural sound in the Southern Ocean,” Dziak told Wired in 2012. “Every year there are tens of thousands of what we call ‘ice quakes’ caused by the breaking and melting of sea ice and ice shifting from glaciers into the ocean, and these signals are very similar in nature to blob.”
The icebergs that generated the bubble were likely between Antarctica’s Bransfield Strait and the Ross Sea, or Cape Adair, according to NOAA.
Ice quakes occur when glaciers break off into the ocean, fracturing the ice. The sudden crack produces a loud pop or bang. With climate change, NOAA warns that ice quakes are becoming more common.
Rising global temperatures are causing glacial ice to melt, causing water to freeze again causing an ice quake.
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