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Home » Kate Stafford: How Climate Change is Altering the Underwater Soundscape (Transcript)

Kate Stafford: How Climate Change is Altering the Underwater Soundscape (Transcript)

Kate Stafford

Here is the full transcript of oceanographer Kate Stafford’s TEDx Talk: How Climate Change is Altering the Underwater Soundscape at TEDxCERN conference. This event occurred on November 5, 2016.

Kate Stafford – Oceanographer 

In 1956, a documentary by Jacques Cousteau won both the Palme d’Or and an Oscar award. This film was called “Le monde du silence,” or “The silent world”.

The premise of the title was the underwater world was a quiet world. We now know, 60 years later, that the underwater world is anything but silent. Although the sounds are inaudible above water, depending upon where you are and the time of year, the underwater soundscape can be as noisy as any jungle or rain forest. Invertebrates, like snapping shrimp, fish, and marine mammals all use sound. They use sound to study their habitat, to keep in communication with each other, to navigate, to detect predators and prey.

They also use sound by listening to know something about their environment. Take, for an example, the Arctic. It’s considered a vast, inhospitable place, sometimes described as a desert, because it is so cold, and so remote, and ice-covered for much of the year. Despite this, there is no place on earth that I would rather be than the Arctic. Especially as days lengthen and spring comes.

To me, the Arctic really embodies this disconnect between what we see on the surface, and what’s going on underwater. You can look out across the ice – all white, and blue, and cold – and see nothing. But if you could hear underwater, the sounds you would hear would at first amaze and then delight you. While your eyes are seeing nothing for kilometers but ice, your ears are telling you that out there are bowhead and beluga whales, walruses, and bearded seals. The ice too make sounds.

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