"December 7, 1992: Whidbey Island, Puget Sound. The World Wars were over. The
other wars were over: Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf. The Cold War was
finally over, too. The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station remained. So did the
Pacific, its waters vast and fathomless beyond an airfield named for an airman
whose body was never found: William Ault, who died in the Battle of the Coral
Sea. This is how it goes: The ocean swallows human bodies whole and makes them
immortal. William Ault became a runway that sends other men into the sky.
But at that Naval Air Station, on that day in December, the infinite Pacific
appeared as something finite: audio data gathered by a network of hydrophones
spread along the ocean floor. These hydrophones had turned the formless it
the ocean and its noises into something measurable: pages of printed graphs
rolling out of a spectrograph machine. These hydrophones had been used to
monitor Soviet subs until the Cold War ended; after their declassification, the
Navy started listening for other noises—other kinds of it
On December 7, the it
was a strange sound. The acoustic technicians thought
they knew what it was, but then they realized they didn’t. Petty officer second
class Velma Ronquille stretched it out on a different spectrogram so she could
see it better. She couldn’t quite believe it. It was coming in at 52 hertz.
She beckoned one of the technicians. He needed to come back, she said. He
needed to take another look.
The technician came back. He took another look. His name was Joe George.
Second Petty Officer Ronquille told him, “I think this is a whale.”
Joe thought, Holy cow
. It hardly seemed possible. For a blue whale, which is
what this one seemed to be, a frequency of 52 hertz was basically off the
charts. Blue whales usually came in somewhere between 15 and 20—on the
periphery of what the human ear can hear, an almost imperceptible rumble. But
here it was, right in front of them, the audio signature of a creature moving
through Pacific waters with a singularly high-pitched song."
Via Future Crunch
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics