The Sounds Generated by Hydrothermal Vents

Though it was once thought that seafloor black smoker hydrothermal vents make no sound, recent measurements show that these vents are quite loud, and have interesting acoustic signatures that could help scientists study fluid flow within these systems. It might also be possible that organisms such as fish and crustaceans use vent sounds as behavioral or navigational cues. The results of this work are now available in the online journal PLoS ONE. The full text of the article is here, and a PDF version is available here.

This research was funded by the W. M. Keck Foundation and the University of Washington's Royalty Research Fund.

Below you can find supplementary information, some of which is included in the published paper, and some of which is only available on this site.


The tones that are present in vent sound signals are really cool. These tones were unexpected, but make sense under the given conditions. Because vents produce significant broadband acoustic energy, they have the capacity to excite resonators that are present within the system. Structural oscillators, Helmholtz resonators, or any other type of resonator can be excited by these forcings and produce relatively narrowband tones. Below we provide filtered examples of these tones, which are otherwise difficult to discern in the raw sound data. These are 16-bit WAV files with a sample rate of 8 kHz.

1 45-51 Hz (320 kB wav)

2 78-85 Hz (320 kB wav)

3 89-94 Hz (320 kB wav)

4 94-99 Hz (320 kB wav)

Additional Files

Below we provide direct links to the supplementary movie and sound files included in the paper, plus some additional files that might be of interest. If you'd like to obtain sound files that are in a different format, please let me know and I will try to make them available.

Movie S1 (10 MB mov) Movie showing the hydrophone system deployed at Sully in 2004, with inserted audio from later in the deployment. A broadcast-quality version of this movie is available. Inquire via e-mail if you'd like to obtain a copy.

Audio S1 (1 MB wav) Audio clip of the sound of the Puffer vent in 2005.

Movie S2 (3 MB wav) Animation showing the evolution of Puffer's acoustic power spectrum over the course of the five-day deployment in 2005. The starting spectrum remains visible in gray.

Raw Data (13 MB mat) Matlab data file containing ten minutes of nearly-raw audio data from both Sully and Puffer. I discuss the details of the minimal processing in a README contained within.

Sully 8 kHz (2 MB wav) One minute of Sully audio sampled at 8 kHz in WAV format.

Sully 8 kHz (2 MB mp3) One minute of Sully audio in MP3 format. Take it with you on your iPod!

Sully 44.1 kHz (11 MB wav) Two minutes of Sully audio in 16-bit 44.1 kHz single-channel WAV format.

Sully 44.1 kHz Big Mono (21 MB wav) Two minutes of Sully audio in 16-bit 44.1 kHz "big mono" WAV format. This "faux stereo" track was mixed down by audio engineer Dan Milam on his Akai DPS16 digital audio workstation. It has a 5 ms delay between channels to simulate stereo sound.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. That's right -- you can mash it, remix it, or use it in your next song or movie. If using any of these sound files in your own work, please cite this PLoS ONE Paper, including the DOI.


Here are some links to stories about this work:

UW News
Oceanography Magazine (pdf)
Deep Sea News
Speaking of Science
Science (pdf)
CBC Radio Interview (streaming RealMedia) also (11 MB mp3)
Seattle Times also (jpg scan)
The Oregonian (jpg scan)
King5 TV News
National Geographic
NPR's Living On Earth also (mp3)
UW Daily also (pdf)
Dallas Morning News
MetBlogs Seattle
Discovery Channel Canada (10 MB mov)