The Mysterious “Bloop” That Perplexed Scientists for Years

This noise perplexed scientists for over a decade.

That noise was heard by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1997 and it bewildered researchers for years. The sound was heard in a very remote portion of the Pacific ocean near the southern tip of South America and was detected by several hydrophone arrays.

Hydrophones are essentially underwater microphones and the NOAA had several series of them set up autonomously to capture mysterious sounds just like this. The first autonomous array was used in the cold war to detect Soviet submarines.

Usually, researchers would use the sounds recorded to learn about seismic activity and marine animals, but the mysterious bloop was something different.

The NOAA described the noise as rising rapidly in frequency over about one minute and was of sufficient amplitude to be heard at a range of over 5,000 kilometers or 3,000 miles from its origin. If it originated from the central united states, you would be able to hear it at the northern tip of Canada or all the way down in Columbia. This was a massive noise.

NOAA’s chief researcher, Dr. Christopher Fox, didn’t believe that the origin of the Bloop was man-made, nor that it was a result of a volcano or an earthquake. Fox believed that the audio profile of the bloop resembles a large living creature. A creature that made a deafening bloop sound.

Even with this assumption and the gathered data, Fox stated that the source would remain a mystery primarily because the amplitude of the noise far exceeded the capabilities of any known animal on Earth.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Researchers began speculating that the noise may have been a result of ice calving in Antartica, but many still held onto the idea that it was made by some creature, including the NOAA’s lead researcher, Dr. Fox. This lingering hypothesis led to years of speculation by the public and even led to the animal theory coming to a scientific consensus in 2002.

Still, researchers continued to question the noise.

As scientists continued analyzing the spectrogram of the Bloop, they started to match up key points with similar spectrograms of icequakes recorded elsewhere in the world. The idea that the bloop came from animal origin slowly crumbled as researchers matched up much of its spectrographic variability with observances in other ice calving events. Oceanographer Dr. Yunbo Xie noted that the waveforms of the sound’s origin could have easily been influenced by “angular frequency dependent radiation patterns associated with antisymmetric mode motion of ice cover.” In plain English, the bloop sound could be a result of the original noise being distorted as it propagated through ice cover.

By 2012, the idea of an animal that would’ve created such a sound faded and the scientific community decided that the Bloop was made by ice calving near Antartica. This ultimate conclusion wasn’t accepted by many around the world and continues to be the center of many pop culture conspiracy theories such as the existence of mermaids or top secret nuclear explosions.

What do you think made the bloop?

Trevor is a civil engineer by trade and an accomplished internet blogger with a passion for inspiring everyone with new and exciting technologies. He is also a published children’s book author whose most recent book, ZOOM Go the Vehicles, is aimed at inspiring young kids to have an interest in engineering.


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